Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s
Like most of us in the art supply business, John Kittle wears many hats. He is the owner, manager, lead art teacher, and lead framer at Kittles Art Supply in Show Low, Arizona, nestled in the White Mountains in a tightly knit rural community. Like many mom and pop shops, moms, pops and other family members help the business survive and thrive. Running a business in a sparsely populated area presents its own set of challenges; John points out his three core business strategies: selling art supplies, offering classes (including a summer camp) and running a custom frame shop. Catering to a small community means seizing every opportunity– and creating your own opportunities. Here is where the Art Bar comes in.
MacPherson’s Account Manager Kim Cichy clued us in to an innovative try-table that John designed, built and recently installed in the shop. The experience table—or Art Bar—acts as a bridge; an overlap between the customers who frequent classes and those who spend more time in the store, a connection between the products on the shelves and the experience of creating art in your own home. The station has also increased foot traffic and positively impacted sales.
John, who is an artist and designer in his own right, designed the Art Bar on his computer with a CAD program and then collaborated with a “builder-friend,” bringing the concept to life. The bar has been designed with both the customers’ and the staff’s needs in mind. For staff, it hasa repository for replacing the product, and items can’t fall off of it and make necessary mess. Angled like a drafting table for a comfortable drawing or painting position with a catchment to prevent pens, bushes or markers from rolling away, the bar has cubbies below that stock a wide variety of surfaces for customers to select from. The flat surface at the top of the bar features holes that house various containers of brushes, markers, gel pens and more.
Curating The Menu
Staff members become Art Bar-istas of sorts—they tidy the bar, notice what works and what doesn’t. The incorporation of a Buddha Board was key. The board reacts to water, allowing customers to experiment with different brushes allowing them the opportunity to make an informed decision on their purchase. Testing brushes and experiencing synthetic vs. natural hair, different shapes, and handle lengths- with no messy clean up, paint stains or dirty tools makes the buying experience fun and educational.
A sample menu of the most popular products for testing out at the Art Bar include:
- Pentel pen sets
- Art Alternatives illustration markers
- Prismacolor colored pencils
- Koh-i-Nor Progresso woodless colored pencils
- Marabu art crayons
- Princeton Brushes
- Jacquard Pinata alcohol Ink (upon request and with supervision)
- Sakura Gelly Roll pen sets
- POSCA Markers
- Strathmore paper pads
- Yupo paper
- Ampersand boards
- Buddha Boards
- Johanna Basford coloring canvases
As customers use items at the Art Bar staff maintain the supplies and switch out materials as needed. The little shelves underneath with extra materials serve as a repository for staff to pull from. If the Art Bar inspires someone to ask to try a specific product that isn’t there, John pulls the item from the shelf, no problem. This “go for it” attitude results in positive experiences and translates to sales.
Who frequents the bar?
“The coloring trend is still big here—so we get groups of older women who love to color coming in and they beeline for the station. I put out differents sets for them to try on Johanna Basford coloring canvases and other surfaces. The station has made a positive impact on sales because people can get to know new sets and bring them home.”
While the crafty retirees are in and out almost daily, the Art Bar is just as popular with teens. On Fridays in their community, schools are either a half day or not in session at all. John has used this as an opportunity to host after-school art classes; after class is over, the “adolescent types” congregate around the table to continue creating and socializing. The low-stakes concept of an experience station invites people to relax and get to know products outside of a structured class environment and without the pressure or confusion of standing in an aisle trying to make a decision.
The key motivation for creating the Art Bar was allowing customers to explore different surfaces including mixed media paper, Ampersand boards and various sketchbooks. As you can see by the menu, it has turned into much more.
Do you have something like an Art Bar in your store? A kids area? Other innovative sales tools? Share your story with our community. Email us at artdogblog (@) MacPhersonArt.com