Peggy Davis, owner of Sew On & Sew North in Langdon, has sought out and implemented new ways to use social media and technology to sustain her business throughout the past year. The store voluntarily closed for a short while last March when many other places shut down.
“When we were closed, I did a lot of Facebook Messenger video chats with customers who contacted me looking for something in particular,” said Davis. “It was easiest to just video chat and walk around the store showing them what I had.” To purchase items, customers could go on the website, or Davis handled it by phone.
Then the point of sale company that hosts and integrates her website with her shop’s computer developed curbside pickup, a welcome feature that was not available pre-pandemic. The company also developed a subscription service which customers can join to receive automatic shipments from Sew On & Sew North every month.
Davis started Facebook Live Selling. She is able to post items, live videos, and feature products on the Sew On & Sew North Facebook page. Using the Comment-Sold app to handle the transactions, customers can comment “register” to create an account. If they see an item they want, they comment “sold” with the item’s number or letter code, and it is put in their shopping cart. When ready, they checkout using their PayPal account or as a PayPal guest - no account necessary.
Early last year Davis’ fabric representative, Emilee Masson, came up with the idea of “Quilting Across the Dakotas,” a virtual Shop Hop that customers could watch and shop from home. Each participating shop did a live presentation on their own Facebook page at a scheduled date and time. Masson created many images for the shops and the www.quiltdakota.com website for advertising. She also created email templates for the shops to send to their customers.
Each shop had prizes to share with watchers and shoppers who could use the shop code given during each store’s presentation to enter for a grand prize. People did not have to sign up or register to enter, just tune in for the Shop Hop videos. They could enter for the grand prize as many times as they wanted but had to use a new code for each entry. The first virtual Shop Hop in October of 2020 included 22 shops across ND and SD with around 10,000 entries for the grand prize. The Shop Hop held in February 2021 had 24 participating shops with around 14,000 entries for the grand prize. Davis is still shipping orders two weeks later.
Sometime at the end of March Davis will be participating in a Quilt Dakota book club. Each participating shop chooses and registers a specific quilting book that they will feature so that there is no duplication. Everything they show in their video will be from that book, such as the pattern book itself, related notions, tools, and kits. They will do shop codes again for registering for prizes.
Davis belongs to several Retailer Only groups on Facebook. One shop owner taught a class on doing a Virtual Quilting Retreat.
“I signed up for the class,” said Davis, “and then partnered with Mary Bath Engelke, a good friend of mine who owns Mary’s Quilt Market in Arthur, ND, and we planned a virtual retreat.” They put together retreat bags - totes filled with goodies, a pattern book, fat quarters, chocolate, a schedule of events, recipes, Facebook tips, etc. The retreat was held the weekend of February 26-27, 2021.
“For $25.00 you bought the retreat bag and then we invited you into the private Facebook group,” said Davis. “We had 29 out of 30 spots filled. We had chat rooms in the Facebook group and encouraged people to post pictures, share tips, request help, and just visit.” The class was not online constantly but rather tuned in at scheduled times.
One of the items in the retreat bag was a small unicorn mascot and quilters were asked to post pictures of the unicorn in fun, silly ways. Tatiana Davis agreed to judge the funny pictures for a first and second place, and the contest really took off, kind of like Bernie Sander’s mittens at the inauguration. The unicorn was seen perched on the edge of a DQ cup, with a NDSU Bison, on a floaty with a rubber ducky in a sink, and atop a pile of tax returns.
Quilters were encouraged to have taco night on Friday and make the soup mix that was included in the retreat bag so they were all eating the same thing just like an in-person retreat. Other items in the retreat bags were paddle balls for exercise breaks and door hangers that said “I’m quilting, leave me alone.”
“The success of the virtual retreat was because it gave ladies a reason to lock the door and sew without distractions or guilt,” said Davis. There were quilters from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. The private Facebook group is still active and will remain active.
“It is a good place to show the other group members the projects they do without making it public,” said Davis. “The virtual world is really helping keep us all together.”
Current store hours for Sew On & Sew North are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. If you come in the store, please were a mask. Hand sanitizer is readily available in the store, and surfaces are sanitized on a regular basis throughout the day. If you would rather shop or window shop from home, Sew On & Sew North is able to serve you.
“For people who are on Facebook - you can help a business without actually buying from them,” said Davis. “If you Like, Comment or Share, you have just helped that business without spending a penny.”