Decorating With Character
Decorating With Character

Wood block and paper mache letters are all the rage. Here's how your store can get a word in edgewise with customers.

If crafters are searching for the right word, they can bypass the dictionary and go straight to the nearest craft store, where you now have the ability to help them, letter by letter.

Fueled by word of mouth in the social media sphere, wood block and paper mache letters have become an increasingly popular decorating option. Their versatility - coupled with an eye for decorating detail - make them ideal accent pieces for a child's room, a living-room shelf or the rec room.

"They have taken off incredibly, and sites like Pinterest have been really helping to drive the growth," says Judy DeFrancesco, a business analyst and project manager with Darice. "As a result, we're seeing letters emerging as a trend for home decor."

The letters are produced in a variety of typefaces and sizes, and most stores are carrying at least one serif typeface, one sanserif and one script. Letter sizes range from 1.5 inches to 23.5 inches in height.

Maximizing your sales

Although there are going to be obvious discrepancies in sales of certain letters - "A" will far outpace "X," for example - DeFrancesco says stores need to make sure they carry an adequate stock of all letters, because if a customer can't buy enough letters for their project, they're not buying any letters at all.

"For example, if I'm going to spell my name, I'm not going to buy the J, U and D, and come back later when you get the Y in. You have to carry everything, but at the same time, you have to remember that letters won't sell at the same rate. Three A's might be a 10-minute supply, and three Z's might be a month's supply."

It's critical to monitor your inventory, take note of which letters, typefaces and sizes sell the fastest, and adjust your purchasing practices to maintain the stock that best suits your particular store. But there are some basic rules of thumb.

Vowels - particularly A, E and O - are almost always top sellers. Among consonants, L, M, N and S usually sell at the fastest pace. The three slowest sellers are Q, X and Z. However, in the event that you do find a customer looking for a Q, the sale almost certainly won’t happen if you have no U's in stock.

Several nonletter characters are on the upswing in sales, as well. In particular, DeFrancesco says the ampersand, or "&" sign, is becoming popular as a space- and cost-saving option for crafters who want to join two words as part of their project.

"The "@" sign also has some validity as a sellable item, but we're really seeing the ampersand sales increase to the point where it's enough to justify carrying it at all times," DeFrancesco says.

The same variety doesn't hold true for numbers. The "1" character often far outpaces the other nine digits in sales.

Displaying and marketing

With the option of carrying wood block letter or paper mache letters - or both - you need to be aware what kinds of projects your customers are working on. Wood block letters are solid pieces of wood, suitable for varnishing, painting and mounting on a wall. Paper mache letters find more use as part of a tabletop display.

"Paper mache letters work better with paper wrapping and garland, and you can also poke holes in them for things like flower stems," says Robin Krantz, a member of Darice's product development team. "You probably wouldn't want to wrap a wood block letter in a paper covering."

With that in mind, the way you market the letters, particularly when it comes to in-store displays, will vary.

Finished projects are often the most effective way to demonstrate the ways in which a product can be implemented. A completed project with wood block letters might feature the letters in a children's room setting, painted in bright colors and either anchored on a wall or a high shelf. A wedding-themed display might feature wrapped paper-mache letters adorned with lace, garlands or ribbons, and displayed on a coffee table.

"Get your employees involved in developing your display ideas," DeFrancesco says. "Ask them about their project ideas, things they might have done if they've ever worked with letters."

Another effective marketing tool is in-store demonstrations, which can even include customer participation. Holding a letter-painting class for kids is a great way to get them interested in crafting and to potentially drive sales from their parents. Painting and decorating wood-block letters also allows children to help decorate their own rooms.

"The letters are a very personal way of decorating, and kids love it when they can personalize their rooms," DeFrancesco says. "It's a very good way to introduce kids to arts and crafts."


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