Yesterday was the last day of the 2014 Row by Row Experience – Sew a Season. What an event! Looking back it is hard to imagine what transpired from July 1 through September 2, 2014. I have NEVER worked so hard in my entire adult life! FabricPlates™ took on a life of their own. It is incredible how a shop owner in NY and a designer in Baltimore made such a HUGE impact on 1250+ quilt shops in North America with a simple idea and a silly replica of a common license plate. Both Janet Lutz and I have gotten emails, texts, calls and notes from shops coast to coast how the program boosted their sales to record levels. They expressed how they had customers from all over and how locals who have not been in their shop for years returned. That is amazing! How did this all happen? It was done with a simple pure intention and the power of social media.
The intention was simple. Janet’s original intention three years ago was to get customers back in the brick and mortar shops. My intention of the Fabric Plates™ was to provide a FUN affordable novelty item. How did the word get out? Facebook. The power of social media is daunting. As the 2014 Row by Row closes I have to say WOW!
Janet and I have the theme for 2015 firmly in place. It is top secret and will be announced at Houston Market at the end of October. I just finished up the fabric line for 2015 RxR. I have to say I am very excited about the fabric. Last year’s fabric was good but it was a take off of the logo at the very last minute. This year the fabric is really my creative voice! Very exciting! Also the Fabric Plates™ for next year have a new twist! All fun things to look forward too!
Boy has Zebra Patterns grown and learned this summer! Most shops are totally fabulous but like with any group there were always a few that made our lives miserable! Most shops knew this whole FabricPlate™ craze was an enigma. Who knew? If shops knew they would have ordered more plates from the get go. No one knew. As I said most shops were amazing! Do you know we produced over 1,000 CUSTOM pieces of art, had them custom printed, hand cut and packaged in 4-5 months? My husband has worked in the custom packaging industry for over 30 years and said that his huge shopping bag company could not have put out that amount of CUSTOM orders with a huge staff! Imagine 34 states and Ontario with different plates. Each of the plates has a unique phrase. It was nuts! We have systems in place for orders – but we did not have the sophisticated systems in place for that volume and for reorders and reorders and more reorders! Some of the unforeseen hazards were shop names and customer errors. Do you know how many shops have similar names? Let me tell you there are a lot of Front Porch Quilts and The Quilted Crow across the country! Also not only were many shop names repeated – the phrases were duplicated across state lines and were similar within the state. Here is examples of just the letter “S” – SEW SIMPLE. SEW EZ, SEW FUN, SEW FABULOUS, SEW WHAT, SEW AND SEW, and SEW ON! LOL. Put the names of shops and the plate phrases together and you get SEW CRAZY! We also did not anticipate the 5-10% of people who have NO IDEA how to place orders on line! We spent a lot of time hand holding through that process. We were shocked. We thought the check writing, phone orders and manual entry ship had sailed a few years ago! Apparently there are still a few shops out there that are just not computerized. That took and incredible amount of time and ate into our production time. That became the source of several errors. Some shops once they entered their order changed their minds! Or worse yet swore they did not submit the order as written! REALLY? So all that taken into consideration we are responding at Zebra Patterns to be even better in 2015.
What will be different? First we hired more people! Zebra Patterns is a BIG GIRL company! LOL! Secondly we have invested in a sophisticated ordering program. Third we have the experience of this year to better set start and cut off dates. As mentioned earlier – we had hundreds of positive responses. Most shops fully understood as they were dealing with the same situation in their own store! Yesterday we had a call that a shop in MD has estimated she has handed out and kitted over 1,500 rows! YES! That means over the summer she had OVER 1500 people in her shop in 10 weeks! DANG! So next year the turn around times for plates to shops will still be 28 days. That will never change with a custom product. Each one is 100% different, and hand packaged. However with better tracking through our in-house order entry we can better track and order that may come through. We will have a division of labor. Once we have more people the jobs necessary can be divided and be more efficient. Overall – I know Zebra had a huge amount of happy customers. I also know that many of our customers had and overwhelming amount of happy endusers. Our intentions were met. The Row by Row program brought in lots of business to quilt shops in North America and we all had to do a lot of hard work but it paid off in record breaking shop profits and record breaking amounts of happy endusers!
Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the water – WHAM – Post Card Party is here! Wha hoo! More fun! Another door opens! This is a real chance for quilters to go to some of the great shops they visited over the summer and take mini workshops and then SWAP their postcards with quilters across America! Shops sign up for Post Card Party on September 21, 2014. Ask your shop if they are in?
Oh and I am sure you are hoping for a hint about next years theme…… you really want to know right?…… just a hint….. a small nugget….. something to ponder….
Well…. okay…. – Ugh – can’t do it! LOL! October 2014 at Houston – the theme will be announced! Now go start quilting something!