A day at Plum Bottom is never boring, and it’s never the same twice. As a small, women owned and run business celebrating our 46th Anniversary this month, we are juggling everything from picking and ordering the shoes, handbags and clothes to cleaning the bathrooms. In between running back and forth from the stockroom, we are fulfilling online orders, taking pictures and adding products to the website, working on marketing like emails and social media posts, responding to customer messages and occasionally getting time to quickly eat lunch—on a good day. Here's a sneak peek into some of the many activities that keep the stores and website running.
Shoe Show: Buying Trips to Atlanta and New York
We’ve already told you all about our buying excursions to Atlanta and New York in an earlier blog, which you can read here. Andrea and Jenna work at the New York clothing and accessory shows, while Lauren and Carla go to Atlanta for the shoe show. But that’s just the start of the “buying” experience.
Lauren reviews Eric Michael to find boots for fall.
Only a few orders get “written” during the show; that’s when we actually commit to the pairs of shoes that we are buying from a particular vendor. Many other styles get “detailed”. That means that we take pictures and write up a list of the shoes that we are considering buying. We do that so that we can review everything we’ve seen before writing the orders. Generally, we start by writing the orders for our most popular brands first. Naot, Pikolinios, ARA, Rieker & Remonte get chosen, then we can fill-in with other brands and styles for the season.
Lauren is our head shoe buyer, and Carla works closely with her to complete our shoe orders. Of course, Andrea contributes her thoughts, and often gets called in as a tie breaker when Lauren and Carla are at an impasse while at the show. Andrea and Jenna team up to do the same with clothing and accessories. All in all, it’s a team effort. Many days get put into the process so that we can find the coolest, most comfortable and fashionable shoes for YOU!
Our Stockroom: the Most Important Part of the Store
While the front of the store is filled with colorful shoes that are calling to be tried on, the stockroom is where the real action happens. At the beginning of the season, for every pair you see on display there are between 8-12 pairs of shoes in the stockroom. If we have one style of shoe in three colors, that means there could be 24-36 pairs waiting in the back. At any given time, each store has between 5,000-6,000 pairs of shoes in the stockroom. Each year we receive tens of thousands of pairs of shoes. Imagine that the next time you say that you’ve already got too many shoes in your closet!
Every pair that arrives must be checked in against an order that we placed, received into the system, a ticket must be printed for the box and the display, and the shoes then need to be shelved. This is physically intense work!
Occasionally we are asked when new items will arrive - as if they ever stop! Most sandals and summer shoes arrive between mid-January and early March. Fall shoes and boots arrive primarily between mid-August and early October. That said, there is never a week that goes by without us receiving new shoes, clothes or handbags. We like to have a trickle of new items arriving regularly, as well as fill-ins on popular items, so that there is always a reason to browse our website or stop by the stores. Read this blog to find out the best times to shop for your favorite styles.
A Never-Ending Story: Social Media and Marketing
Once items have been received, it’s time to stage them for the website. We take pictures of each and every shoe that arrives, “push” the item from our retail software onto our website where we then write a fun and insightful description for each product as well as “tag” the product. By tagging, we tell the website the quality of the product. For instance, we might tag this new sandal as being bunion friendly, wide, sporty, and green. Tagging places that item in each of those categories on our website. It also informs Google of these qualities, so that when someone searches our products they can (hopefully) be found based on those words. Our goal is to help you find things more easily on our website, and to help new customers find us online by following the best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.
We try to post something new to social media every day. It’s one of the more fun things that we do, and a place where we get to show our creativity. Andrea, Sophie and Jenna make a great team at creating reels. If you haven’t checked out their funny and informative videos yet, you are in for a treat. We emphasize pictures of staff or customers wearing our shoes, clothing and accessories. But sometimes we run short on time, or the creative juices aren’t quite flowing, so we’ll quickly pull a product picture that we’ve taken to put on the website.
Nothing tickles us more than when customers tag us in their own posts. It’s incredibly gratifying and we consider it the highest compliment! The next time you’re feeling cute in your Plum Bottom clothes or shoes, please tag us @theplumbottom and use #plumbottomshoes, so we can see our shoes in the wild!
It seems that night owls and insomniacs enjoy shoe shopping, so our mornings almost always start with fulfilling online orders we receive overnight. While many of our online customers also know us in person, some may have “met” us via social media or a visit to our website. No matter how you have come to find us, we want to put a personal touch on every item that leaves the store. So, when we are fulfilling online orders, we often write a little message of thanks. We package each box carefully and get them ready to ship as soon as possible. When more than one item is purchased, we occasionally need to transfer items between the stores.
Pro tip: it’s a limitation of Shopify (who hosts our website) that all items appear to be stocked in Harrisburg, and that is not the case. If you are planning on making a trip to either store based on a specific item you saw online, give us a call or email to make sure the item you want to buy is in the store you plan on visiting. Similarly, if you choose in store pickup as your delivery option, it will default to Harrisburg as the pickup location. Please contact us if you’d rather pick it up in Camp Hill. Once the shoe is in the store of your preference, you’ll receive a notification that the shoe is ready for you (though the pickup location will always say Harrisburg in the automated email).
Our Most Important Part of the Day: Helping YOU
On our list of things to do, customers always come first. No matter how many cartons have arrived that need to be unpacked, no matter how many orders our vendors are waiting for us to write, when we have customers in the stores, we drop everything to make sure that you are receiving the attention that you deserve. Buying shoes can take a lot of time, as first we need to select which shoes we have based on your needs and desires. The first round of shoes that we bring out for a customer, we use to gauge what’s fitting properly, what styles are working, and how you (the customer) respond. The second round of shoes allows us to use what we’ve learned to home in on, which are the most likely candidates. And each successive round of shoes that we bring out brings us closer and closer to the perfect pair. Our goal is never to “sell” a pair of shoes, but to help you find the perfect pair of shoes for your needs.
Helping customers find shoes that are comfortable, fashionable and meet their needs is the most gratifying part of our jobs!
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
If it weren’t for our loyal staff, it would be impossible for us to get all of this done. On any given day we have Lauren writing orders; Jenna receiving stock; Vicki shopping for store supplies; Carmela doing displays; Lesla assisting with transfers between stores; Sophie creating a reel; Lena shifting stock; Dave paying invoices; Everett and Gavin ringing sales; Bonnie, Micki, Danielle, Lynne and Nicole assisting customers or modeling shoes and clothes for pictures. Most people do many of those activities ever day—we realize how lucky we are to be supported by such an amazing and talented group of people. That leaves just enough time in the day for Andrea and Carla to dream about the future of the store, always looking forward to the next exciting chapter! And for Carla to write this blog ;)