Anna Hardy Evans is a character.
She’s also an artist, woodworker, welder, and an uber-do-it-yourselfer. Evans owns In-Home, a retail store in Exeter, NH, that features unusual home furnishings and gifts. Her store is filled with one-of-a-kind pieces she’s discovered at flea markets, barn sales, salvage yards or on the side of the road (and in occasional trash bins). She has a knack for “repurposing” her finds: creating a mirror out of bicycle parts, say, or welding twig-shaped legs together and topping them with a round pane of glass to create a table.
Evans’ creativity extends to her marketing. She has a website (full disclosure: I helped write it), a Facebook page and emails store news to customers via Constant Contact. Her real talent is building her customer base via word-of-mouth. Local designers stop by In-Home to shop for clients, who in turn visit on their own. Her shop interior and windows change weekly depending on what’s she found, created or sold.
Her best idea to-date is hosting monthly in-store design workshops. These include wine, munchies, and an opportunity to learn about, for example, painting furniture or decorating for the holidays. The most recent evening, co-hosted by PK Surroundings, an Exeter-based kitchen and bath design firm, featured a discussion about about kitchen and bathroom remodeling. After designer Janice Page spoke to our small but attentive group, Evans talked about lighting, pulling out several lamps that she sells in the store. Each guest received a 10% off In-Home gift card and at least half the group used theirs before leaving that night.
Evans is smart: she used the design event to cross-market her store and a local design business. She’s reaching out to a small but select audience that wants unique items for their homes and appreciates repurposed furnishings. Two other home furnishing and gift stores are within 500 feet of In-Home yet Evans has managed to make her store stand apart. The store opened last summer, in the midst of the economic downturn, and is holding its own.
By the way, Evans notes that it’s easy to rewire a lamp. This is someone who also makes her own paint. Really.
What about in your town? Who are the retailers trying creative ways to pull in customers?