Well, what to say. I’ve always refered to “BabyBuzz” as a “we” because it kinda did become it’s own entity, but now I’m going to write this one as an “I” because it’s back to just me again.
I thought about opening this store when my daughter was 9 months old. I had a bit of a case of “mommy-brain”, but that is not a legitimate excuse. I opened it a few months before the recession hit. in May 2008, despite many (rather annoying) people telling me not to do it. My original idea was to open a baby-friendly cafe (an idea, I think, quite common to new moms). I wanted to create a place specifically meant for moms, because I had recently discovered being a mom wasn’t easy. What I quickly realized was that to rent a space and run a business, you actually needed to make money, and selling coffee to moms, even tho brilliant in it’s own way, wasn’t quite enough, so I decided to sell other stuff they might (keyword: might) want instead, and to have a few couches, and a few classes, just for them. Besides, I knew more about baby gear than coffee. I decided to sell stuff that I thought was cool (based on no market research): retro wooden toys, nothing battery operated, different, unique kinda stuff. I quickly learned about stuff that was safe, BPA free, modern, cool, ridiculously cute, made locally, a little pricier than your average Target merchandise, but of infinitely more value, or so I thought. It turned out that the best customers of these products ended up being grandmothers, and not the mothers they were originally intended for. As for the couches – they became man-couches. Those were the first sign the business plan wasn’t working out as intended.
Incidentally, just so you know, the gift shows I went to had stuff that was even (much) cooler than the stuff BabyBuzz ever ended up carrying, but many of the pricepoints were too high. I knew, that despite how cool these things were, they wouldn’t sell. They’d be better for a baby museum (or a blog) than a baby store. There was always a little battle between what I wanted for the store, and what would actually sell, given spending habits. These days, BabyBuzz feels more like a baby museum than a store. People come, admire, think, and leave. Perhaps I should have been charging admission.
Long story short, after four years of a both incredibly rewarding and yet a somewhat frustrating experience, I have made the decision to close the store. The decision is much easier now than it would have been before. Times have changed since I opened it, and I’ve changed too. People are standing in incredibly long lines ready to fork out their money for an iPhone 5, but people are not standing in line at your local baby gear retailer. I happen to have had a previous life as a computer programmer. I create (rather cool) apps & websites. And that is exactly where everything has gone, and I think it’s actually a great thing. I can’t tell you the number of times people have mentioned Amazon while walking thru my store of personally selected merchandise, despite the fact that the prices here are exactly the manufacturers suggested retail price. I feel very sad for the brick and mortars, as they’re competing with something they’re not equipped to handle. Amazon WILL sell you the same product for less, because, DUH, they’re selling more of it. Amazon will NOT bring you the cutest stuff, directly to your neighborhood, in the most uniquely, passionately thought out way, with brightly colored couches and art work, free coffee and tea, a diaper changing area, a bathroom (which we know many of you have appreciated!) but, I’ve realized that the average person, unfortunatly, really doesn’t care (enough).
This experience has not all gone to waste. I have learned a lot about human behavior, and consumer behavior in particular, that I never would have otherwise known. Seriously, I could write a book. I know exactly which direction people will turn when they enter the store (right), and which direction they’ll circle it (counter-clockwise in Willow Glen, clockwise in Los Gatos), I know that the amount of times you say how cute everything is actually inversely proportional to whether you’ll buy or not, I know the speed with which you walk thru the store is also a good predictor of whether you’ll buy, I know the sex of your baby before you do (ok, not really on that one ;) ), I know that there are too many women who feel they need their husband’s “permission” to buy despite the fact that they’re working twice as hard as their husband (yes, I’m generalizing), and I know people are simply much more price-conscious than they were four years ago, even in apparently affluent communities.
I have also met SO many amazing people that have become friends. Customers. Competitors. Employees. And people that have taught classes here. Cathy, Lori, Amy, Linda, Kristen, Anna, Audrey, Toni, Paige, Bernie, Robin, 2 Robins actually, Janelle, Lauren, Mari, Henry, Suzie, Heather, Julie, Anel, and many others whose names I don’t even know. Shoot, I should throw a party. It is very unfortunate that there are not enough of them to make this store truly successful, like an Apple store ;). I completely embrace where things are going and I’m excited about it, and I have bigger plans. I’m not even going to ask you to shop local and not let this happen again, because it is really really sad, because I know it’s a lost cause. Just get that iPhone, download more apps, shop from your couches in your pajamas, and do what you’re already doing. It’s like evolution, for business. Just expect a little less whimsical-ness and personal-ness in the non-virtual world.
Oh, our online store will remain and will probably undergo some sort of a makeover :). As for the brick and mortar, let’s start the SALE, so we can close the doors. Up to 50% off, starting Tuesday. Take that, Amazon.