By Bill Lauterbach
Annette Crawford was going back and forth between her Smartphone and her desktop computer when The Exponent walked into Closet Overload. “I’ve got to pull a purse for this lady;” she said. Crawford was getting an online order ready for processing and shipping. Like many of today’s business owners, she has had to adapt and add Internet sales to her brick and mortar store.
“Closet Overload” is an unusual name. How did Crawford come up with it? “Every woman has an overloaded closet. We love to shop. Men wear out their clothes. Women wear it a couple of times and then want something new.”
So what is in Annette’s overloaded closet? The majority of items in her store are of interest to women only. Crawford elaborates “Clothing, jewelry, purses, accessories, shoes. But they call me ‘the purse lady.’ And these (pointing above her) are the high end bags, designer purses they say. All authentic. Women love ‘em. It’s like driving a Cadillac.
“And boots! We sell so many boots in the wintertime, we can’t even put them all out. At one point we had to hang them in the back until we could get them lined up here up front.”
Yes, purses and boots are a big selling items. However, women’s clothing even more so. “We sell a lot of clothing. Cute stuff. It’s got to be cute. Cute and catchy. My whole thing is uniqueness. ‘Keeping women wanting’ is what I tell my girls. When they post pictures (online) or put up displays where they look at it and say ‘Ah! I’ve got to have that!’ Not just everyday stuff. We want to make it look… spectacular.”
But that’s not all. Designer jeans are also a hot item. Crawford says she has all the latest: Miss Me’s, Rockin’ Revival, Silver Buckle, just to name a few. And she also carries a lot of items from the Victoria’s Secret “Pink” label. Crawford also sells new items, plus girls and boys clothing. Crawford admits to being very good at marketing. “That (marketing) didn’t come easy, that came over the years, figuring it out by trial and error.” One of the additional marketing techniques that Closet Overload participates in is consignment sales. If you’ve got something you want to sell, she will cut a 50/50 deal with you. This simply means when the item sells, Crawford gets half and the consigner gets half. “We also offer resale, where we buy things outright. We don’t purchase everything. But we do buy things. We try to accommodate everybody.” Crawford admits that some people don’t have the patience to sell on consignment and want cash outright, which is not the most profitable way to go. “They don’t want to wait. Consignment always brings in more money for the customer.”
We started to delve into Closet Overload’s world of sales via Facebook: A customer sees an item they want on Closet Overload’s Facebook page, so they call the store and order, and can either pick it up at the store or have it shipped. Surprisingly, Crawford does a lot of local shipping. Adrian, Allen, Harrison, Holt, Tecumseh, Saline, Ypsilanti, Three Rivers and St. Johns, just to name a few. At this point, we ask Crawford if she realizes she’s in a “transitioning mode” with her business. “I am. I love it. It’s been about five years that we’ve done this. If I didn’t have this (Facebook), I wouldn’t be doing as well. You gotta do what you gotta do to make money.”
OK, but what about men? “Men, they hate shopping. When they need something, they go in and get it and they leave. Women don’t do that. They will take their time, check things out, look around… but not men. Men things do not sell. There’s not a market here for it. But we do have a men’s section. It’s not real big. And we have sold a few men’s things.” Crawford is really excited about her Facebook presence. “They have really changed things. Now, what’s cool about it is, they’re doing it to make it more beneficial for us where they’ve added things so we can ‘boost’ a post.” Boosting a post means it can cover a certain area and/or a certain number of people. “For instance, this purse will go to that customer’s Facebook live feed that they look at all day. It will say ‘Closet Overload’ and it will show that purse. And that’s how we get calls.”
Crawford has a passion for marketing. “After Christmas you have to make them want.” However, “when it comes time to purge our racks, after items have been here for over 90 days, we donate to St. Vincent de Paul in Jackson. And a percentage of those proceeds are earmarked for donation to St Rita’s food pantry.” Yes, Annette Crawford likes to make money at her business, as all entrepreneurs strive to do. However, her secondary love is marketing and her primary love is charity. Closet Overload is located downtown, 146 N. Main St. in Brooklyn. They take all major credit cards and, of course, cash, but no personal checks. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Their telephone number is 592-8686.
Potential customers can take a look at some of their items ahead of time by simply searching Closet Overload on Facebook.