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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-08-11 - 10:21 a.m.

Tarika (continued)

Tarika is an old Persian word that means "the way" or "little girl star."

At the end of each season, manufacturers have to quickly unload any leftovers caused by stores' credit problems, returns, and/or overcutting. Having to pay their factor from whom they borrowed month for the season, they are often eager to give a good markdown for ready cash. The retailer can often fill in their stock at reduced prices, giving them additional profit if they are able to sell at full retail. Tricks of the trade, you might say.

I also learned to shop the street (jobbers) in Los Angeles for off-price merchandise, designed to help my bottom line. (N. Y. Park Designers on Santee for applique, wearable art, and oppulent looks, N. Y. Surprise for Maggie London, and Western Pacific for a host of other lines.)

Gail Steinberg and Ingrid Robinson of San Anselmo/Larkspur, organized a group buy for small specialty shops to give us the same buying power (well, not the same, but expanded) as the major department stores. Each season they sponsored a two-day buying meeting where they showed items that would be produced just for us, labeled privately if we sent our labels, and at group buy prices. Again, an opportunity to increase our profit margin. But also, again, we were never sure the things would ever be shipped...or shipped complete. The greatest benefit of the Group Buy for me was all the friends I made through them: wonderfully fun Mike Richardson of Seattle; Sandy Rouse from Brava in Redondo Beach; Carrie Gasch and Kaye Simonton of Cody, Wyoming, who invariably headed home with some expensive cowboy boots to wear with their long denim skirts, saying "The Devil made me do it!", Patsy Medea of Liza Doolittle in Evanson, Wy., and most importantly, Mimi Lawrence of Mimi's on Union in S. F., who became my good friend.

Mimi and I roomed together at the Figueroa Hotel where Uno Thomasson, the concierge, always made us feel most welcome by giving us the same large room on the 2nd floor, when he heard about my fear of fire. We found it especially convenient because we nevr had to wait for the slow elevator, often loaded with Japanese guests. Johnnie Circado, a waiter at the hotel restaurant, knew me by name each time I came and always supplied a little waiter magic for me with an appetizer or a piece of apple pie and coffee while I worked on my orders.

As it turned out, it was not difficult to find people to work in the store. Marge Davis, a friend from the Lucky Seven days at the medical school, was among the first. Tell-it-like-it-is Marge delighted us with her wry sense of humor and her direct ways. She could always get the student employees to "hop to" as she straighted things up and did deeper cleaning. I could always count on Marge to go above and beyond the call of duty for whatever needed to be done.

Janis continued to artistically display the jewelry and accessories in both stores. Dixie Bleasdell, Janie Mircetich, Sandy Uhrhammer, Marion Sulsona, Janet O'Brien, Linda Troy, and Pat Lawrence were not only valued and excellent salespeople, they were among my best customers, always using their 20% discount to good advantage - theirs and mine!

Pauline Worth, a color consultant, brought her expertise to the store several days a week. She analyzed colors and helped her clients find clothing to update their wardrobes in complimentary colors and styles. Pauline was among the first to analyze my colors. I learned a great deal from her and from Irene Kennedy, who also worked part time in the store. Irene introduced me to Suzanne Caygill, the grand dame of color analysis in San Francisco, from whom she had taken classes after her color analysis.

I became enthralled with the concept as I noticed how some styles of clothing seemed to sell more quickly in one color than another. What I was learning about the seasonal color harmony seemed relevant to both selling to the customer and buying at market. I began writing a training manual for my staff with input from Pauline and Irene, as well as from classes I took from Suzanne Caygill. I had my colors analyzed by a total of eight people over the next few months. I put into practice my newfound knowledge as I bought for the store. I developed a color/style/harmony coding system for my purchase orders, so that I would have clothing suitable for all of the "seasonal types" each season. The training manual evolved into somewhat more than an outline for what I was encouraged to turn into a full book, The Color Connection: From a Retailer's Perspective.

to be continued

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