Sept. 15, 2021


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For those of you who have asked “Exactly what does Michelle do?” This is the episode that is a deep dive into exactly what Michelle does for each client and the role she plays in each of their businesses. She’ll go into detail about Stephen Young, retailers and gift show setups. Informative, inspiring and educational! 

 Show links

MC Design Collaboration

Instagram: @mcdesigncollaboration

Bristol Farms

Instagram: @bristolfarms

 Stephen Young

Instagram: @stephenyoungshowroom

Peking Handicraft

Instagram: @pekinghandicraft

Grand Canyon West

Instagram: @grandcanyonwest

Muse House Retreat

Instagram: @musehouseretreat


Instagram: @serendipity

Sales Producers

Instagram: @salesproducersinc

 Litt Concept House

Instagram: @littconcepthouse

 Burt’s Pharmacy

Burt’s Pharmacy

 Rock Paradise

Instagram: @rockparadisethestore


ep-11-The Solocast #2

Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier and this is the Retail whore Podcast, The Stories and Lessons from the life and retail. Hello. Hello, hello. Welcome to Wednesday. Today's episode is number 11, if you're counting. And for those of you who have asked for another solo episode and those of you who have asked and have mentioned, we're not quite sure what you do. You seem like you're kind of all over the board. Can you give us some more information? Today's episode is kind of a deep dive into what I do, as well as what I do for each client and the role that I play within their businesses. So you get to hear a little bit about Stephen Young and about my retailers and gift show setups, etc.. So without further ado, welcome to number 11, the solo cast with me. Hey, guys. I am having a for the first time issue with this where recording that we did with Damon van Schweikert. The audio was horrible. And while I could probably have put it out in, most of you may not have even noticed. Damon's brand, Van Schweikert audio is one of the top audio lines in the world and it would be ironic having a shitty audio quality. So I am here recording a brand new episode, a solo episode. So I was going to do this anyway. And what happened was what made me think about it was Kathryn, who does my editing for the retail horror podcast, had said to me when she listened to Samantha's episode from The Life After Anthropology, she said, You know, I knew you did a lot of things.

Michelle: I just I didn't really know exactly what you did. And it gave her a better idea of my job. And it dawned on me there's probably a lot of people, you know, some follow me on MC Design Collaboration, some don't. But it dawned on me that you probably don't know what I do. And a lot of times people don't even know what a merchandiser does. So I figured, what what better time to dig in on this? So I have a brand, MC Design Collaboration. I started it after I left Anthropology and I decided that I wanted to do what I did there for other people. So I kind of take the lessons that I learned at both Fred Segal and Anthropology and some from the gallery. And I apply them to all my retailers. And I, I want to say about five years into it, I started doing wholesale showrooms as well. So my job now I vacillate back and forth between retail and wholesale part of the year, January and July used to be the normal timeline for shows. A lot's changed because of COVID and the show dates are kind of all over the board now, but once upon a time it was January and July.

Michelle: So you're set up, start in December. And coincidentally with retail we do all the setups, so you're ready by Black Friday and then for the most part, you really don't do a lot of big shifts. So because it's really at that point, it's all about selling. So I am able to step away from retail and go into wholesale, do my thing there, step back in January for a little bit, get people because now in January you're going to sell. So again, you're not going to have big changes. So I'm able to kind of walk away, do a little help there in the retail end of it, go back to wholesale, get the show ready, and then I'm change hats and I turn into a buyer. So that's kind of how the scheduling goes and why I'm able to be lucky enough to do both of these worlds. On the retail level, I do everything from facilitating facilitating the job of a buyer. So Bert's Pharmacy is a five store location. We have five stores and I do the buying. And then I also do the training and development of their team, the gift department. When I came on board, there was only two locations and the gift department was still doing business, but they weren't running on reports. They weren't. There was a lot of parts of the business that weren't happening as far as running the gift business as its own separate entity.

Michelle: So training and development, we put systems in place, we started using the system so we could generate reports and take a look at what's selling what's not. Because as you've heard me say before, your reports are literally the Bible and they will be able to tell you not only what's selling you will they will tell you where you are in the business from this year to last year. It will kind of be able to guide you on what's driving your business and that kind of it will tell you how what's driving your business. So we put those in place and then train the girls on merchandising. And I will say I'm extremely proud of my team at Bert's Pharmacy. They are all such incredibly good merchandisers. And Erin, who's the gift manager, has an incredible way of training. Now, her team and the beautiful part about it is the standards and the overall style of merchandising has not really changed from when I was brought in and I would do the turns with them. So it's it's that's the idea for anybody I work for is that if it's not just me always doing the merchandising, that I am training people how to at least maintain it while I'm gone so they can move merchandise in. When stuff's sold down, they can kind of go in and tweak it so they are comfortable in the store still has that standard.

Michelle: So that's we're starting to see we work for Bristol Farms. We do all of their holiday decor, which is starting up very soon here. We go in at one and three in the morning. I know it's a super ugly hour, especially when you're my age, which I'll be 56 in December. And let me tell you, trying to go to bed at 5:00 at night so you can at least get like 6 hours of sleep and then your alarm goes off at 11 and you're drinking coffee like it's six in the morning, and then you go to a store and you're on a store floor at one in the morning. It's insane. And, you know, thankfully, it's only two weeks because I literally at that point this time of year, I literally will be running on about 3 to 5 at the max hour sleep. So by the time everything's set and done, I'm a fucking wreck. So that's coming up. And that's only once a year with them. I work for the new client I just picked up is the Grand Canyon, which I am extremely honored and grateful to have picked up the account. I was referred to them and my first trip is actually this coming Wednesday. So when this comes out, I will be either on a plane or in a rental car on my way to the Grand Canyon to take a look.

Michelle: It's my first meeting with the team. I'm going to walk both of the stores. I will be on the south rim. There is a I guess it skywalk has a gift store and then there is another gift store that's on the property called Pavilion. So I will be looking at both of those meeting with their team, looking at the warehouse, because part of my job is to make sure that all the merchandise is represented. So I'll go through that. And the second day will be planning our workshop that we're going to have in November, where we'll have a chance to work with the team. And we're going to change up the floor plan and we're going to kind of tighten up the way they merchandise. So that's that I work for Roc Paradise Design their store. I go in and merchandise. Right now we are just shy of opening the Paradise Intention Center, which is going to be gorgeous. I must say. This will be a project where I design it and then I'm done. I walk away and it's somebody else's baby because it's not going to be a retail space where it will need me to come in and out to do merchandising. I work for Serendipity and Muse House, who is probably one of my most favorite clients. Ashlan is this beautiful soul who has this amazing little jewel box of a gift store on Tujunga.

Michelle: And with her, I'll go in and we turn her inventory and change her windows out. And I have pushed the envelope with her. You know, you've all heard me say I cannot stand plastic risers when I first came to Ashland and she's going to kill me for telling this story. But when I first came to Serendipity, Ashland loved her plastic risers and little pieces of mirror for display, and I quickly do did away with all of that. She was so horrified and so freaked out because she was so much like anybody who has anything that you use and you believe really helps your displays. It's very hard to let go of. And I literally it was like we're getting rid of them and I'd come back and some had snuck back onto the floor. But I'm very proud to say now I think I've been with Ash six years now. There are no plastic risers. Even in the back room, they've all been thrown away. So I work with local fare in the OC mix. That's a brand new one for me. We're working 100 floor plan and kind of expanding what she does. I work with Litt Concept, which was formerly Michael Mitchell Litt. Kevin's father is Mitchell Litt. He had a business for 40 years selling antiques in Sherman Oaks. Very, very well known.

Michelle: I'm sure a lot of people know this name. Kevin and his wife Dina have taken over the business. And here's a really weird like talk about full circle story. Dina When I first was referred to them, I always give people a call, kind of give them my background, tell them what I do, etc. And Dina saying to me, you know, you had this Fred Segal, was it the store that sold skateboard stuff and like, yeah, that was Fred Segal Comfort. And she said, you were married to this guy with long hair. That was my then husband. Yeah. And she's like, I you were my first boss and I literally about fell off my chair. So full circle, I am working with this beautiful woman, Dina, who was I was her first boss. And you know, it's very weird how that works, but I, we it's so lovely to go into their store because Mitchell's way was truly stack at high and watch a fly where you stacked up antiques. There was no vignetting. There was no life styling. So when I came on board with them, that was kind of what we started to do is develop these vignettes and re merchandise and kind of rethink how that family brand was and how it is now becoming DNA and Kevin's business. And then I do my wholesale showroom. So I work with Stephen Young and I work with sales producers and I work with Peking Handicraft.

Michelle: And twice a year it's the big revamp of the stores. You know, the reason why there's a revamp is for people who are not in the wholesale end of it. And on retail, gift products come out twice a year. Some are released in the middle of the year, but by far and large, brand new merchandise is released twice a year. So they have shows based on this apparel. It's a faster sew apparel, I believe it's four shows, four shows a year plus throw in some other little pop ups. And my job is to go in and tear down last year's display and then rebuild, redesign, reinvent, reimagine a whole brand new display. And with the brand new releases, that is what is front forward, that is what is focal, and that's what the display nine times out of ten ends up being focal. And I just remembered, God, I'm getting so old I just miss on a is my my account of north I actually interviewed Andrea. She'll be with us in a few weeks. You'll have a chance to hear her. She is also her main hustle is an HR department, so this will be a very good one to listen to. So long story short, the showrooms that I work for, we go in and we tear down last year's display and reinvent. And I'm it makes my husband crazy because he's my contractor.

Michelle: When we go to say Atlanta, you know, I have a very I have a good idea of what I'm going to do when we're redesigning something. And I will have photos from picking for what are the new releases. And that's where the creative process starts. So I'll take a look at the new releases and they always kind of have a vibe and a look that, you know, you're able to kind of play off of. And then we get there. And that's really I hate to I mean, there is some display pre planned, but by far and large, when you start getting there and you start seeing the space and you start tearing things away and you start rebuilding things and you actually see the product in person. Some of those changes, some of those those things you planned on change as well as the space isn't working, there's not enough room, there's more product sent in that we didn't know about, that we need to make room, which meant your space shrinks and you kind of have to think on your feet. And it makes my husband insane because he's a planner, like most contractors. And I get there and it's like, Oh, we should do this and let's go to Home Depot and and all of a sudden, he is now having to do his job, which is usually pre planned in advance, all on the fly as well.

Michelle: Personally, I think it's good for him and I know he's listening to this, but keeps you on your feet, babe. So, you know, it's each show, it's different. Stephen Young, when I work with them, Lisa is Stephen's wife. She has a very good plan already and I just kind of take the ball and run with it. From there, we do the architecture together. It's always. What I love about working with Stephen's wife, Lisa, is that we've been together for I want to say I've been with Stephen for almost 12 years and it's gone from me not being very confident in my job there. And also my job is to emulate what is already being done for for Stephen, there's a very distinct style of Stephen Young and I, you know, you want to emulate that and you would like it to be hopefully that when you merchandise it, it looks seamless. So in the beginning it wasn't and I'll be honest, I didn't understand. And for those of you who've been in Stephen Young showroom, there's a very distinct pattern that Lisa merchandises within the personal care area. And I don't know what it is still to this day, I can't really mimic it and I can mimic a lot. But there's something about Lisa's pattern and scale that she works on that I just can't wrap my head around.

Michelle: So I found my footing in departments and lines where it's more lifestyle. So I merchandise Rock Paradise's wholesale line there. I do Fringe. And then on the other side of the the showroom, I do Elegant Baby Milk Barn, Jelly Cat, Roseanne and 180 degrees and the holiday 180 degrees. And then the every day, 180 degrees. So I've kind of found my footing that way. And it's funny because Stephen's showroom hasn't always been lifestyle, and especially with the addition of 180 a few years ago, it's is very in my wheelhouse. It's a little bit out of their wheelhouse. So it's been a beautiful marriage of watching our two styles kind of blend. And Lisa, though, I always believe it's always best to set a floor, a set, a space, at least your architecture with the second person having a second set of eyes is, I always believe so incredibly important. And I have to let go of any ego I have when it comes to that. Because really, especially with Lisa, if you know her, her talent is massive. She had a store herself. She understands scale and balance, and her eye is one of the best eyes I've had a chance to work with. So it's both an honor to be able to work with her, but it's also to be side by side with her and collaborate with her on, say, architecture for Jelly Cat or architecture for Milk Barn.

Michelle: In the Last Milk Barn was so much fun to set with her, and we thought so out of the box and pulled out like these giant deers with the kids and the kid mannequins. It was just it's just such an amazing collaboration. And I'm so lucky that I have a chance to work with her. Sales producers is a different scenario. I Bonnie is one of those people says you your talent you know what you're doing. I don't want to put any stipulations on you for fear of I don't want to like stop your creative process. So with Bonnie showroom sales producers, I have full reign and I don't merchandise every line in there. There's some lines that bring in their own designer or they do it themselves. But I am able to and it's been a slow process because this is only my second, third show set up we did with them last. So I'm still finding finding my footing on how much I can push the envelope because they haven't been a showroom that has had big giant over the scale display like a Stephen Young. It's been very clean. It's been very well merchandised, but pretty clean. And now I'm starting to stretch my display strength and starting to think and push the envelope a little bit more with them as far as, you know, a little bit bigger display and a little bit more a little bit adding a little bit more props and doing things that they haven't done before.

Michelle: Because honestly, like I love nothing more than to hear the customers reactions, Bonnie's reactions, everyone to see how the showroom is being reimagined. So that's been an incredibly fun process. I work for Art Floral Trading, who is a small line that's a pottery line that has a showroom in Atlanta. They had one in LA that closed. And I will tag team that Atlanta job with my Atlanta Peking handicraft job. I'll do a full day over at Peking and then I will transfer over and go up to the 18th floor where their showroom is and each day spend some time breaking it down. It's a much smaller footprint and there is nowhere near as many new intros that there are in any of the other lines that I work for. So it's it's relatively doable to be able to put both of them back together. But so each of these each of these places that I work, my job is to go in. Well, my goal is always to one up what you did last time, and my goal is always to reimagine it. So it is both interesting for the customer as well as changes the store for the owner because you spend every single day, most owners spend majority of their time on their sales floors and ideally when they come back to work, it's a brand new store.

Michelle: And that's always my goal, is to make big changes, not just little ones. And to me, big changes, equal big sales. And your customers come in and it's like not only the space is reimagined, but the display. And part of my job is taking the same merchandise and reimagining that. So, you know, some people have what I call bread and butter lines of Louis was a bread and butter line, jelly carts and bread and butter line lines that you sell day in, day out the drive your business and you know, we don't have like here's our plush section. Here is our candle section. I lifestyle merchandise, which means I cross merchandise with products that either tell a story or products that the whole. We're creating basically a lifestyle vignette of a kitchen vignette or this is our pantry vignette or I merchandise by color. But ideally you are taking some of the brand, some of the brands that your customers see day in, day out and re-imagine them and putting them in a totally different not only place in the store, but also how what we're changing it with. So Valuspa is a good example for Bert's pharmacy blue spot has been everything from fall with lots of gold accents and vases and bowls and more decorative look. And now Valuspa have the scent split.

Michelle: They put out new scents. This year I have the new ones separated out, but the original core collection of spa I have mixed in with our faith section and a little back story. So yes, we sell faith. It's a pharmacy. People are coming in who are sick or just somebody that wants something that says Blessed. I don't go completely Jesus, but I do. There are crosses, but they're more on the home decorative side than they are crucifixes and bibles. Oddly, which I'll tell you the story right now. Everyone knows Twisted Wares the F bomb is on half of it. And honestly, in the industry the F bomb for a long time has been out there on everything from dish towels to stationery to pens to t shirts, you name it. The word fuck is everywhere. And I, I'll admit, like I bought into it. Twisted Wares dish towels started with we could not keep them in stock. Then I went to Chronicle's beautiful stationery that has the cursive writing on it with the word fuck somewhere in there. And, you know, we just kind of built it and it was kind of sprinkled about and there are always going to be people that complain about it. But by far and large, the sales were outselling the complaint. So I, you know, being a buyer, chasing sales kept going down that road. And there is a point that they're there.

Michelle: The customer's voice is louder than the sales. And we hit our mark with a gentleman that came in on a weekend and decided to stand in the middle of the store saying this is why people or kids are shooting each other because of this f bomb. And so long story short is that was the end of the F bombs because, you know, at the end of the day, we can't as a pharmacy, you can't lose pharmacy customers over gift items. So as much as it drove the business and is, I am still dealing with reports and departments that were driven by F bomb merchandise. I'm still dealing with being down in those departments because that merchandise isn't there anymore. But so I went the opposite way. So I went, Jesus loves you. And I did it in a sense where my decision was to still keep that snark. So I love Jesus and I cuss a lot. Mugs, that's kind of a good example. So it's still snarky and it, it's still we can still have a faith area where there is crosses, there is blessed grateful pillows and stationery and mugs, and then there's a little bit of snark. So that's a little side, side story and I have no idea where I'm going with this now. But so you kind of get an idea of like what I do as a merchandiser. I also do the gift shows I'm going to start doing for design collaboration.

Michelle: I'm going to start doing gift trends and starting to kind of guide people on how I do my buying and what trends are out there and what how I create concepts. Because when I buy for people, I don't buy departmental, I buy the same way I merchandise in concept. So I'll build a concept based on what I see at the show and I will cherry pick it and pull together this vignettes. So that's that's coming up. But I figured today was a good day to kind of explain to you what I do and how my job varies from place to place, and that's about it. So I hope you enjoyed today's episode. If you have any questions, you're free to email me or DM me over at Mc Design Collaboration, and we're going to link all of these stores and all of these showrooms. So you can kind of go take a look at them for yourself. And that's it. Have a great day, everybody and I will see all my stories. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the