That “Ship” has Sailed. . . (or did it?)

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

-Louisa May Alcott

I spent the first 42 year of my life living in Chicago. Many of you know that already, some do not. I moved to my current home here in rural Nova Scotia over 15 years ago. It was quite the change, to say the least.

Coming from a large metropolitan area meant that everything was at our fingertips. Stores and restaurants were open all night in many cases. There were many choices for every type of item/service/convenience we could desire. We rarely had to wait for anything we needed. It is like that in most cites, I realize, but I think even more so in places like Chicago. We took a great deal for granted.

When I first arrived in Nova Scotia, there was a policy that nearly all businesses and services were closed on Sunday. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, it was one of the most profound differences that I had noticed when I moved here. It seemed I always ran out of something on Saturday night or Sunday. Be it when I was making a project for my magazine article or making dinner. It took a bit of adjustment for me to retrain myself to plan ahead and think of what I would need on Sunday to do what I needed to do. It was many months or even years before I got the hang of it.

Eventually, laws were passed and things began to remain open all seven days of the week. By that time, it seemed like a novelty to go shopping at all on Sunday and I rather regretted the change. I had become used to not having to go out on Sunday and spending the day making due with what I had. In a way, it made my life more relaxing and I began to look forward to Sundays for the reason of not having to run around. It was quite the life-lesson for learning to unwind and relax a bit.

But that was years ago and here in my little rural community, things have pretty much caught up with the rest of the world. There is a kind of joke among some of the locals that “if the world were to end, it would take 20 years for us to find out.” But I don’t think that is really as applicable as it used to be, as we seem right behind them in many aspects lately. In some ways it is good, but others, it leaves us looking back and longing for those simpler times. Maybe that is just me . . .

So why the trip for me down memory lane?

These thoughts came to me this week when I was thinking about the current situation that many in North America are experiencing regarding ‘shipping’.

This past week it was announced that the shipping times in the USA would be “considerably longer” beginning October 1st. With the holidays quickly approaching and the already crippled delivery system(s) because of the last year and a half of COVID issues, it doesn’t look too promising that things will be moving along very quickly.

That isn’t great news for many, but it is even worse news for those who own small businesses, as well a consumers who depend on these businesses for goods that they need. It is going to be quite the holiday the next few months I am afraid, and I am bracing myself for the worse.

A good portion of my business is selling wood surfaces for creators and crafters to use as supplies. My Tole Painting Designs website has done really well over the years, and has grown during this time of the pandemic for a number of reasons. I believe one of the reasons I am doing so well is that many are sticking closer to home and doing more ‘hobby-type’ activities. Another reason is that many of the other suppliers have not be able to sustain their businesses over the pandemic. Either they have trouble getting their supplies that they resell from overseas, or they are unable to support their employees and businesses which have physical stores during these times of isolation and quarantine. The third (and what I hope is the most important) reason that I think that I am doing so well is because I have the best products that I can create (by HAND – NOT laser-cut! πŸ˜‰ ) and while I may not be the least expensive on the block, I offer the best pieces around and great customer service. That is my hope, anyway. I work really hard to go above and beyond for my customers and get their orders out quickly, using the best quality materials and workmanship available. I like to look at it as helping them create “future heirlooms.” (</end shameless promotion>)

So what will this change in shipping mean to me and my business?

A lot.

It means I no longer will have the confidence that when I ship items to my customers – no matter how much I pay or which method of shipping I use – that things will arrive in a timely manner. It means that there will be lots of future frustration for both my customers AND myself, worrying about whether things will get there on time, or even eventually. It will make this already stressed-out holiday season even more stressful for many, as most areas are still under many restrictions and supply chains are rather sparse to say the least. It will certainly not be “business as usual.” It will make a difficult year even harder for many.

But does it have to be all negative? I don’t think so.

Most of us aren’t really comfortable with change. Especially when something that has come easy to us changes and is not a bit more difficult. We get used to not having to think about these things and become rather complacent regarding them. We take them for granted. When things change and we actually have to think and work harder to get what came to us so easily, we get irritated and anxious. Some act like a petulant child – not having their way and throwing a tantrum.

It doesn’t have to be that way. This situation in particular made me think back to when I first came to Nova Scotia all those years ago. Yes. It was sometimes ‘inconvenient’ to not have those stores and services open when I needed them on a Sunday. Yes. It took getting used to. But when I really looked at the situation a bit more objectively, I realized that most of these things that I sought were wants instead of needs. They were minor things that (with a little planning) could wait a day without my life crashing and burning. As I mentioned at the beginning, I eventually came to embrace these changes and appreciate them as something that taught me not only to plan a little better, but also patience.

Here we are in the beginning of October. There is still quite a bit of time for our holiday planning. This year, instead of counting on “Amazon Two-Day Shipping”, perhaps it would be better to think about our gifts and the things we want to purchase (or use to craft our gifts) NOW. That way if and when the shipments are delayed either by the supply chain or courier, we will be ready for it. We may even go one more step and use a back-up “Plan B” and have that waiting in the wings – just in case.

Wouldn’t that remove a great deal of needless stress? Think how freeing it would be and how much more you will enjoy the holiday season. It may not be exactly what you want, but I think it is a good alternative. If we learned anything in these past two years, it should be that sometimes the best thing to do is compromise. This could be the start of something great. πŸ˜‰

For myself, I began sending notices with all of my orders in September, explaining that I would not be shipping at all in December and not resume shipping orders until probably the second week in January. Not only will this allow me a much-needed break, but it will also alleviate the stress for both myself and my customers of hoping that things will get to them in time for the holidays. I will still be taking orders at this time, and doing some cutting over the month, but it is unrealistic for me to think that I can cut, sand, pack, and ship orders in time for them to paint the pieces for gifts after a certain time.

Last year I had a customer order something on the 21st of December. I had already ‘shut down’ my shipping as of December 14th, but she apparently didn’t read that. She notified me on Christmas Eve and said I “ruined her Christmas” because what she ordered was supposed to be for a friend or family members’ gift. As unreasonable as that seemed, I still felt a bit bad about it, even though it was out of my control.

I think that people are used to Amazon, who ships in two days or even hours for some customers. While that is great for those who partake in that program, I think it raises the expectations of customers to think that ALL companies should offer similar options and time frames. It just doesn’t happen.

It may not be the best ‘business model’ to shut down for the month of December, when most retail companies do their highest volume, but for me, it isn’t worth it to put both myself and my customers through the amount of stress I see on the horizon. I would rather have less sales and happy clients who will be eager to come back to my site and Etsy store (The Stitching Kitty, which I plan to shut that down as well) in the new year rather than try to keep things open and have hard feelings and deteriorated confidence in me. I think that is the best.

I will still have all of my patterns available as PDF files, and they will get them immediately when they order. That will stay the same on both the Tole Painting Designs website as well as the Sheila Landry Designs scroll saw and laser pattern site. But the physical wood items from the painting site and the Etsy store will all be on hold for the duration.

Another residual effect of doing this is that I will not only be able to spend some time enjoying my own holidays, but I will also have time to take some online classes and enjoy some designing time. I will certainly be here blogging and writing about my many planned projects and will have lots of fun things to share. I am actually looking forward to it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this plan of action. I hope that some of my colleagues decide to follow suit and do similar. I do know that some have closed their doors between Christmas and New Year in the past, but adding some time before the holidays will not only be prudent from a shipping point of view, but also a practical one, as they will also be able to enjoy the holidays that we work so hard for a little bit more. That is my thought, anyway.

In order to make this post a little more interesting and not consist totally of text, I thought I would show you some of what I accomplished the other day.

I finished this weeks’ orders a little early and took the time to mat and frame my two recent pastel paintings. This is not only important because the pastel is a bit volatile, but it allows me to enjoy them in my home. Here is the wonderful vulture painting:

He will live in the corner of my studio throughout the autumn season:

And the cat and moon I painted that was a version of a pattern by Peggy Harris (last week’s blog focused on that.)

I really think that framing and matting these pastel paintings makes them look lovely and professional. I have a mat cutter by LOGAN that is a ‘mid-range’ one and does a fabulous job. If you want me to write a blog on my matting process I will be happy to do that. Please put a note in the comments.

Well, that should be about it for this afternoon’s post. I will be working on a new watercolor painting today and have several other projects planned for the upcoming weeks. You can join my “Let’s Paint (and CREATE!) with Sheila Landry” Facebook page to get more frequent updates. I check in a few times a week at least and look every day to see what you are all posting. I would love to see you there.

I hope you all have a great week ahead. It is lovely and cool and very autumn-like in my little corner of the world. It is my favorite time of year. Thank you for reading.

Until next time . . .

10 Comments Add yours

  1. rlkeeney says:

    I’ve been thinking about closing early this year too. I haven’t been experiencing much in the way of shipping delays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t so far, but things are going to get much worse – especially in the United States. That is where most of my customers are located, unfortunately. :/

      Like

  2. I think it’s a great plan and you should get a break. The trick is making sure your customers understand it. Of course, there will always be one or two who don’t get the message.

    Here in Reno I’ve noticed stores with empty shelves from time to time. Personally I don’t ship things and most of what I order online gets here fast. Part of that is that the Reno area is a big warehouse and transportation hub for the west coast so a lot what I order on Amazon is in the local fulfillment center.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes. on both accounts. You will in all probability be tired of reading of my ‘down time’. I will be mentioning it with each post and as I said, I printed a letter on neon coloured paper that will go in each order for existing customers. Keith will also put a notice on the site. But some will still miss it. That is unfortunate. We put directions on ordering particular items and noticed all the time and we feel few read things – even when we use block, red lettering, or larger print. So I am trying to let people know early and often.

    Here too there are holes in the shelves. I am pretty good at ‘getting by’ with what I have. And improvising. I grew up with little and we just learn to make use of what is available to us. Seeing all the notices from both sides of the borders regarding holiday shipping was rather alarming. In the US, it was already bad and they are going through some things now with all USPS shipping.

    The bottom line (that I have used in the past) is that “I am not delivering kidneys to transplant patients. It is CRAFT SUPPLIES”. While I do my best to get things done quickly, and so do most postal workers and shippers, it isn’t the end of the world or a life and death thing.

    Truth be told, I will look forward to the slower month. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Like

    1. Molliann Stocks says:

      It’s a great idea for you to close – most of your”Holiday” business I would think would already be ordered, and shipped, in order for us painters to get them finished in time. You may need to put that neon notice on the first page of your website, as well! lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You may be correct there, Molliann. Keith has to look into the limitations of the site. But I try to get word out early. πŸ™‚ Thanks for understanding. ❀

        Like

  4. I think your plan is a really good one Sheila. Not only are you thinking about your customers but you are giving yourself some well deserved down time. Your service has always been excellent so I’m sure your customers who appreciate not only your service but your great products will understand your thinking. Of course there will always be those who will complain πŸ™„.
    Enjoy your down time Sheila.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Anna – I am sorry I didn’t see this. Thank you for stopping by. I always appreciate your thoughts, as I know you go through some of the same things as me. I hope you and Jim are enjoying the autumn and getting some nice time. When I get to Instagram, it is always such a treat to see your beautiful photos. πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

      Like

  5. DEBYWELTY says:

    Wonderful post, read it to hubby and we whole heartedly agree!
    Well thought out and well said!
    Bless you for speaking up

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deby. I would rather do this than lose the confidence of those who shop with me. πŸ™‚ I am glad that people have been so supportive. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

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