Building the LTD 7 Puzzle: Teen to Young Adult

How did I come to love retail and start my own business? It is truly a series of puzzle pieces that have formed this career.  Let’s start with my history. As a baby boomer, I have to dig deep, 39 years ago (ouch, that hurts) I was 16 years old, living in Staunton…..It was time for me to get a job……I just wanted to have “my own money”.  My very first job?  The Visulite Theatre.  I was ‘the popcorn girl”. Mr. Spade, owner/manager of both the Dixie and the Visulite hired me and I also worked with a wonderful soul, Peggy, the ticket lady wearing her red and white striped smock. Anyone remember them?  Peggy was so special and we remained in contact through the years until her death.  I have always prided myself with my work ethic and I honestly think this is where the love of working  grew deeper in my heart. I have not stopped since this first job and still prefer to be busy.

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I kept this job, as well as babysitting, until I left Staunton for College. I was a A/B student but Academics was not my favorite.  I knew I had to go to college and I was blessed that my parents were open to allowing me to go out of state as long as I “just went” to college.  I applied to Old Dominion and UNCW and chose the latter. Why UNCW?  Well for those that know me well or as a Facebook Follower, you know the beach is in my heart, so why not study near the beach?  As a Navy Brat, NC stole my heart years before plus my older sister was in Emerald Isle, NC.  To this day North Carolina is still one of my favorite states.

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 12.37.31 PM ~ Apr-4I lived in the dorms for ½ a semester and then got my own place, got a dog, went to school in the morning and worked in the afternoon. I have always worked hard but don’t get me Wrong, I like my down time.  I had 3 different jobs in college, a summer job……you won’t believe this……are you ready?….I was the drive thru girl serving early morning coffee and biscuits at Hardees in Wrightsville Beach (laughing).  In the summer, I would get up at 4 am!  I guess those early mornings got to me and they did not work with my school schedule during the year. “The Plant Place” in Wilmington worked better with my schedule.  This was my very first taste of a privately owned small business.  Until now, I did not realize the impact this job had on my life.  I loved this job. I learned so much about plants, retail gifts and customer service.  I admired Bobby and Bill.  I loved them and what they created.  I worked for them, in 1982  and now looking back, they were exactly where I am with LTD 7, about 5/6 years into their business. We  did not stay in contact but I was so glad to look them up and see they are still VERY successful. An inspiring retail story for sure.

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Love for fashion started at a young age……..my family always joked with me saying I never wore anything twice to school. My last job in College was corporate retail working for Casual Corner in our mall.  In all of my retail jobs, I moved up very quickly and knew that serving the public came naturally for me. I started in sales and by the end of graduation was promoted to Asst. Manager.  As a young college grad, I listened to the naysayers and was thinking…..I got a four year degree to work retail? Is this where I want to be?  I let them put doubt in my mind with something I truly enjoyed. I was actually a Criminal Justice Major. I did my senior internship in a halfway home for trouble youth.  Although I loved them dearly, I quickly found that my heart could not handle the emotional rips I felt with each child. Taking them back to their abusive environment for weekend visits was heart wrenching.  I wanted to “adopt” them all and provide the love and security I had when I was growing up.

I also applied for other positions in Criminal Justice, with interviews as a juvenile Probation officer and also with the FBI.  None of these panned out.  As a young adult, making my own money was important to me and I was making more as a retail asst. manager than what they were offering me as a college graduate entering the field of Criminal Justice. I knew I did not want more school….so Casual Corner is where I stayed for another year after college until I figured out the right path for me.

I researched Management/Buying programs in bigger cities and in 1986, I received an offer to move to Atlanta with hopes of entering the Management Training Program for Lord and Taylor@Phipps Plaza.  Atlanta was a big place for a small town girl but I jumped at the opportunity. While living in Atlanta, I met up with a highschool friend, Rebecca, we became roommates and and we explored the ups and downs of young adulthood together.

 

Lord and Taylor was fun, I quickly became a department manager in the junior dept. it was perfect fit or so I thought. I quickly found I preferred a smaller store atmosphere rather than the large department store……another piece of the puzzle. Funny as it seems, I still prefer to shop independent shops rather than department stores.

I applied and became an Asst. Manager  at The Limited/Perimeter Mall and learned  a great deal with this company. They also owned other popular stores such as Bath and Body Works and Limited Express.  At that time they were doing everything right…..a top rated company and looking back, the one I learned the most from as far as standards and practices in the retail industry.  Enjoying this position and mentoring under my Manger Sonya, I was soon promoted and transferred to Gainesville GA as a Manager of my own Limited Store.  Scared me to death to be the Manager at the ripe age of 23-24 but I was ready and loved it!  As a young adult in corporate retail, getting your own store was an honor and I had to “fake it until I make it” with this one.  I knew customer service like the back of my hand but hiring and firing, payroll, figures and reports at that young age were a bit daunting to me. Remember, I did not study business or finance in college. I grew to love it but I could not have done it without my Assistant manager, Donna, who soon became a lifelong friend.

After more downs than ups in GA, many lessons and more experience to add to my resume, I decided I needed to return to my roots in Virginia. I ended up in Charlottesville back at Casual Corner, Fashion Square Mall. I still was not where I wanted to be emotionally and personally. I was impatient and I was like any other girl in her mid twenties, My friends were all getting married and I was still in a female dominated industry….how would I ever meet the man of my dreams? I know you are laughing but I am keeping it real.  Majority of girls, at that age are searching for Love, if they have not already found it.  I was still searching… I started asking myself questions,  Is retail what I really want to do with my life?  Is Retail a “real” career? Maybe I should try something like Banking! Yep that’s it……I will enter the banking industry!  I am sure my parents were scratching their heads at my job hopping but they let me be, guided me and let me stand tall or let me fall when needed.  In 1988, I was hired by Jefferson National Bank, I started as a Teller and quickly moved into the Marketing Dept…………  where I was asked to fill-in for a co-worker and teach the week long Teller school.  Enter Duane Breeden into my life….. the handsome, born and bred, Charlottesville Management Trainee that was assigned to my class. I am not saying change your career to find a man, this is just the path my life led me on.

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It was frowned upon for Employees to date, so you guessed it, I went back to Casual Corner……..and continued dating Duane.  Its now a family joke that I taught him to count money.  If I had only known how intelligent he was as a UVA Business School graduate in Finance! I would have been very intimidated! But it all worked out and we are now 28 years into our marriage.

At that point in my christian life, I knew about God but I did not “know” God. Although, I asked for him to come into my life as a teen, I strayed and only called upon him when discouraged or in trouble…But he stayed with me and guided me. I listened to that tiny voice within, followed my heart and yes, as crazy as it seems, I did find the man of my dreams but…..there is one change in our family…….. Now Duane controls the money. 😉

As you can see, in my early days of working, I explored, took chances and followed my gut. Its very much like dating….You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.  I remained open and allowed myself to learn from each and every job keeping a mental log of what worked and what did not.

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Advice for my younger self

Don’t be afraid to try new things, be open and allow yourself to grow
Follow your heart, be you and have confidence in your decisions
Each rise and fall is a puzzle piece in your life…. keep building your puzzle
Money is not everything and does not always bring happiness
Pray, listen & let God guide you.
Relax, have fun & be patient, everything is going to be ok.
You are capable & you are worthy
Retail is a career

Stay tuned, for the next ten years, on our next blog.

Living the dream,

Lynne 🙂

We’re back!

Where do I start? I have been asked to restart the LTD 7 blog again.  It’s been about a week since I was asked to bring it back, and here I am staring at my computer. I decided I would write about dreams…..my life, not giving up, avoiding naysayers, my back story and what led me to open LTD 7.

This is where my heart is and where my expertise lies. I am not a writer, I am a real person who followed her dreams many years ago. It will be full of truth, transparency and not much fluff.  I hope you enjoy reading and I pray it will inspire young people to chase their dreams!  I did not realize this 39 years ago, but your path is full of building blocks, each one builds on each other…….  I call these puzzle pieces. I know “now” at 55 years old, every step and every season was meant to be, and was guided by my God.  This series will be a cumulative blog where each post will build on each other to form my story as a small business owner.  Once my story is told, I will provide stories about Our name, my vendors, my incredible team and why we choose the products we carry in LTD7. If you ever have a topic you would like me to write about as a seasoned retailer please share with me.  I would love to hear from you.

I invite you to follow along and invite any young adults who dream of opening a shop or  may be searching for their perfect fit in life to never give up….just keep placing one foot in front of the other. Each step is a puzzle piece to your life.

Living the Dream

Lynne

We’ve Flipped our Lids!

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Have you ever walked into your favorite grocery store, looked around and recognized very little? What happened to the beach umbrellas and flowers? Where is the coffee? And why can’t I find the specials they usually have in the large bins up front? Why in the world does Kroger’s or Food Lion or Piggly Wiggly think it necessary to rearrange their store, just when we knew where everything was located?

There is a reason for this change in the location of our favorite products. There is much thought given to whether or not we should find the hamburger buns near the ketchup and mustard. Scores of studies are done on a regular basis that attempt to assess our moods when we shop, our tendency to pick up this-n-that in the market-when all we went in to get was bananas. Consumer psychology definitely does influence our buying decisions. Retailers recognize, thanks to these studies, that merchandising tactics, signage and packaging, along with product selection, all play into shopper’s purchasing.

Natural Foods Merchandiser, Melaina Juntti, interviewed Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Marketing Nutrition (University of Illinois Press, 2007) and director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Wansink has made a career out of studying how consumer psychology influences buying. I thought you might find some of his thoughts interesting. (At least now we know why we see chocolate near the strawberries.)

NFM: How can retailers use psychology to promote a specific product?

Brian Wansink: One way is to increase its accessibility. There’s a reason why end-aisle displays increase sales by 30 percent even if you don’t change a product’s price—the items are more visible. You’ll also increase accessibility by placing an item in the first two aisles of your store. Shoppers tend to walk slowly through the first two aisles, but after that they start moving more quickly or skip aisles altogether.

Secondly, pair the item with a product that complements it. For instance, if you want to sell a specific tortilla chip, put it next to salsa. Grocery stores in Denmark frequently use displays to promote two items—a primary and a secondary, such as salmon and a food that complements the fish. We don’t see this enough in the U.S., but there are some great opportunities there.

NFM: How can a retailer best use signage to lure shoppers to check out new products?

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BW: You want to try to increase the sensory appeal of an item shoppers are not familiar with. This isn’t done by simply saying, “Here’s a new product. It’s 79 cents.” Rather, you want to describe its attributes and potential uses. Have a sign that reads something like, “Goes great with fish,” or, “tastes like X.”

NFM: What about items that aren’t new, groundbreaking or flashy, but just plain good?

BW: Not every item has to look incredibly indulgent, but you want to put enough indulgent products next to non-indulgent items to provide contrast and create a halo for the less-indulgent things. If a tofu is packaged in a heinously ugly way, well, then make sure the complementary products look nicer. This can increase sales of both the primary and secondary items.

Daniel Lohman, CPSA, (a Canadian association that studies consumers and sellers in the retail industry) writes about effective merchandising strategies that win customers. He believes it should be easy for customers to shop in stores. In his opinion, “Proper item placement can be the difference between success and failure for any brand, item and even retailer. Consumers want stores that are easy to shop and sections that are well merchandised.

Busy customers hate scavenger hunts. They appreciate retailers with clean, well-organized and easy to shop stores.”

Like with like

Lohman believes that one way to achieve this is to merchandise like items together with a similar theme or function. These categories appeal to very specific consumers who are typically committed, loyal shoppers, willing to spend more than the average consumer to buy quality products that meet a specific need.

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Eye Level Strategy

Merchandising is also how a retailer commits to specific customer needs. A retailer might merchandise certified organic items at eye level and items that are less “clean” above and below.

Segmenting

Most categories allow you to group items into different segments. The different segments make it easier for customers to shop the category. One good strategy is to merchandise items into quality segments: super-premium, premium and economy. Placing super premium items at eye level and economy items on the bottom shelf is a great way to trade a consumer up. Customers want good value for their money and that frequently includes super-premium products.

Grouping complementary categories

Another important strategy of merchandising is to group complementary categories together (spices with baking needs, pasta with sauces, etc.). Not only does this make it easy for consumers to shop your store, it makes it easy for them to purchase all of the items needed to make a cake or a meal.

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Okay. Okay. That’s enough! I know…sometimes I get carried away. I am stopping!

Just. One. Last. Note.

We flipped LTD 7. Call us crazy, but we did! It might look a little teeny tiny bit different to you the next time you come in. We would love to know what you think of the flip. And join us Monday and Thursday on our Facebook Sales to get first dibs on the many items we flipped. All items not sold on Facebook will go to Market on Saturday.

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See you at LTD 7’s Outdoor Market next Saturday! It is going to be fantastic!

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Living the Dream,

Lynne