This has been a surreal week for shop owners and small businesses around the world. As more people stay home and shops, bars and restaurants either cut capacity or are mandated to close completely these small businesses struggle to survive. I’m looking for ways, however small, to support our community of shopkeepers. Remember these are the shops we love to shop and visit when life gets back to normal. We want them to still be there on the other side of this pandemic.
As we social distance now is the time to use all the virtual tools that we have access to. Instagram is a wonderful visual platform and the social media platform I, like many shopkeepers, am the most comfortable with. I am really impressed how Kathleen Sorbara of Chickee’s Vintage uses Instagram Stories to successfully sell her vintage womenswear and accessories. Check out Chickee’s Vintage Instagram here. And I know she’s successful by the number of items that are marked “SOLD”. Chickee’s Vintage specializes in art tees, cheeky sweaters, Gucci loafers, and good Leviʼs. She skips the lengthy process of uploading items to the website and just posts directly on Instagram Stories. This is an effective process as Chickee’s Vintage sells vintage and only has one of each item. Often when an item is sold – such as Gucci loafers – I see requests for availability in different sizes and colors. This week Kathleen instituted a “by appointment only” policy for her shop and she is ramping up her posts on Instagram Stories. I asked Kathleen to share her tips and advice that may help other shopkeepers.
How Chickee’s Vintage sells on Instagram Stories
How long have you being selling on Instagram stories? What kind of growth have you seen. We are a fairly new business, we’ve been open for about a year now. We started taking our instagram sales more seriously towards the beginning of winter. We were worried about what sales might be like during the winter in regards to weather/less people walking around/etc. We started posting more and we definitely gained traction not only financially but socially as well! We definitely saw an uptick in followers as well as sales— we actually did better in our winter months than some of our busy months in the fall.
What virtual platforms do you use for selling beyond in shop sales? We use our instagram grid and instagram stories.
What percentage of your sales are via Instagram Stories? I would say 10-15% of our sales come from instagram. (editor note: this may grow under current conditions)
What is your approach? (ie. new items in shop, themes such as bags, shoes, t-shirt series) I try to pick items that are cohesive. It’s kind of a creative process— usually certain color schemes that flow together or silhouettes that work well together.
What works better – garments shown on hanger or modeled? I would say modeled. People want to see what things look like if they were to wear a dress or a blouse. I will say that t-shirts are the easiest item for us to sell whether they are on a hanger or a model.
What is the optimum number of items you post per day? Everyday? A few times a week? Now that we are closed because of coronavirus we are trying to post 10-20 items a day. Before the coronavirus craziness we’d post more frequently if sales in the shop were slow, and that helped us drastically. It also was helpful to post instagram stories to draw in local customers who probably wouldn’t be coming in otherwise, if they weren’t interested in items on the instagram stories.
How do you manage sale? When someone want item they DM you with CC number? Thankfully we use square and they have an invoice option on their point of sale system, so we can invoice customers directly through that to their email.
Do you find you have repeat customers buying through stories. Yes! It’s wonderful because we have a reach to people in other cities and other countries through instagram sales.
What are your learnings to sell effectively? We try to respond as quickly as possible. I’ll be in bed late night on instagram DMs answering questions. Ideally it would be good to set up a proper website but I find that instagram has been faster paced.
Does quality of image effect sales? What else may effect sales? Time of day? I find that posting a batch of instagram stories once in the afternoon is good, and then once at night around 7PM to bring attention back to our stories that we posted earlier on in the day. People are definitely on their phones as they are getting home from work, and I definitely am making more invoices in the evening after hours, as opposed to mid-day. (editor’s note: as many people are working from home I imagine time of day could be a moving target)
Do you sell more from Instagram grid or stories? Definitely stories! can post more there without overwhelming the grid.
How quickly – or slowly – do items take to sell? The Thelonious Monk tee sold in about 10 minutes, Picasso tee sold in 12 hours, Monet sold in three hours and the flower sweater sold in 12 hours.