Thursday, 19 September 2013

A few is enough?

In this world of plenty options sometimes cause the biggest amount of trouble. Perhaps a wardrobe filled with clothes results in "I have nothing to wear". Maybe a fridge full of groceries results in you not eating at all because there's so many things you can't decide what to eat. What happens at our place usually is a book case full of CDs (or Spotify for that matter) results in "there's nothing to listen to". A pageful of things on your to-do list may result in you sipping your cup of tea and doing nothing because it's simply too much to be thinking about what to choose and how to choose.

Running a little dancewear shop means the world is open and full of choices. There are companies offering dozens of different types of shoes and leotards and tights and bags and everything money can buy, and to a little person like myself that is plain overwhelming. There's the everything new that's on offer plus the extra baggage of the stuff and belongings from the history, from the previous owner. Even if I had all the money in the world (which I luckily don't), the job of choosing would not be any easier.

About a year ago I grew tired of the skating tights of the shop. The collection was the heritage of the previous owner of Tanssiina, and to my eyes it was a mish mash of styles and sizes and colours that I could not deal with. There were about 9 different styles of tights for figure skaters alone, two colours of each style and seven different sizes to each colour and style. A plentyful of tights, which, when ordered, had to be ordered in packs of three. A quick calculation later I realised I'd need a fortune just to keep up the collection, which hardly anyone needed anyway. We are a dancewear shop after all, and are serving the local figure skaters, but with a fairly smallish and basic selection. The choice for the collection had been made without me, so at first I thought I was going to have to live with it and sustain whatever the previous owner had thought to be good. And I tried it for a good year and al half until I came to a halt.

As I sat down with my calculation of nine times two times seven times three times about 20-25€ (equalling plenty), I figured something HAD to be done. My shop and it's wee collection of skaters' tights would need someone to take responsibility for it and that someone needed (unfortunately) to be me. So I sat down with the collection and the knowledge I had of the local skaters and figured a scary and drastic change that I had no idea if anyone would be happy with. I figured I needed tights for rehearsals (thick ones), tights for competitions (thinner and shinier) and maybe, just maybe, something extra special (to make up for the loss of six extra models, to be honest). Not nine different models but essentially two, perhaps, and at it's most, three. I decided the tights that *deserved* a place in the shop's collection needed to be durable, well made, made in a place where I would know for certain how the workers are treated and paid, and made with the best possible materials. They would also have to be models that were not only needed by skaters, but would have to fit other moving people too (like the aerobics girls who use the shiny tights for their competitions). The cost would most definitely be more than the cheapest possible models', but I would KNOW what I'm serving and would only need to sell the best.

The collection of tights was reduced from that day on. I put all the old models on sale (and cried a little for I had bought them for full price), stocked up on the newly decided ones (and prayed the money that would come from the sales of the old models would pay for at least some of the newly acquired models) and have been sticking to the well decided models ever since. Only one of the nine models made it through to the new collection, and two new ones were chosen to cover up the loss of the rest. Now, almost a year later there's ten pairs of the old models left on sale, and the new collection is slowly finding it's place in the world. It looks like I'm the only one in the whole country to offer bamboo fiber tights for rehearsals, and our extra special shimmer tights are one of a kind too. The importer wonders about my choice of tights, for no-one else orders them and she has to specifically order my batch of tights all the way from Canada and they take time to order, but the collection makes me a happy shop owner. There are people, for whom the quality of the tights and the working conditions and environmental issues are important, there are people who care about the skins of their little girls who go skating with their tights right next to their sensitive skins. The collection is small, and it's early days for it, but the year has shown many times, that the direction is good and valid.

And the small skating tight selection has resulted in plenty of other choices for the shop too. One of my favourites is as simple as a pen. I've reduced the amount of ball point pens at the shop to one. There are two or three black felt tips for writing bigger stuff, but only one ball point left. And now that I put my hand into the drawer with the pens in it, my fingers find the one and only ball point in an instant. It is never lost. And every time I find the pen, the simplicity of it all makes me smile. I don't need ten pens. I don't need ten different types of tights. If I choose wisely, it might be enough to choose (and maintain) one, or perhaps two.

There's still work to be done, and the skating tights are definitely not the only area that needs careful thought and deep culling, but I'm seeing the good results in choosing one (or few) rather than ten in a lot of different areas of the shop. There's one type of gymnastics balls (six colours, but one type), one type of menstrual cups (three colours, but one type), one type of glittery tapes for the gymnastics hoops and clubs (12 colours, but one type), and they all have resulted in people finding the products more easily, because something in this world of plenty has already been chosen for them. And because the thought process behind the products have been thorough enough.

So even if the process of ending up with just a few is sometimes hard and takes up a mountain of thought, and the resulting few need all the care and attention you can give them, living with the few does make the world a little easier place to live in. It reduces stress for there's less to maintain and choose from, it gives you the possibility to be on top of the things you've chosen rather than letting all your stuff take control over you, and it makes you wiser because you have to think things through before making decisions. You'll know that with each desicion your collection of stuff becomes more and more toned to your needs and your priorities.

My next "fewing" for the shop will deal with the social media.
What's yours going to be?



Sharon said...

How wonderful! I live in North America and often find the choice overwhelming.Many times I have gone looking for something and come away empty handed, because I can't find what I'm looking for, or I simply don't want to wade through all the choices. Thank you for caring about the working conditions of the people who make your merchandise.

Tanssiinan Anne said...

Thanks for your words Sharon!
They say Finland (where I live) is more American than America itself, so the concept of plenty lives a strong life here too. I have also received good feedback on the few choices (where there are a few), and am trying my best to learn what's enough for people, so they'd feel like they can make a genuine choice, but so there's not too many things going on. And when it comes to the working conditions, I would love to be able to help people in different parts of the world to live a sustainable life by choosing products for my shop that are sustainably made. It's not always easy, but I try to make a clear choice where I can :)

prolificate said...

Congratulations on taking control of your business, and not letting your business take control of you. Just reading your post, I feel a sense of calm, order, and purpose. You know what you are offering, you know why you are offering it, and best of all, your customers SUPPORT you. Thanks for the refreshing read!

Tanssiinan Anne said...

Thank you for your feedback and kind words, Prolificate!
It's a long (and interesting) journey, this, and I'm slowly learning more and more about myself and about this shop as time goes by. If the words calm, order and purpose spring to your mind, then I'm very happy, because that's exactly what is needed here :)