Transforming the Artisans Center | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | November 9, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 8, 2017 at 10:07 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
The South Carolina Artisans Center has started putting the recommendations of its recently completed strategic marketing and branding plan to work.
A new website, containing a new logo and the center’s new tagline, “hand crafted art and hand picked artists” have already been put to work.
The tagline, board member Chris Bickley said, reflects “who we are and what we do.” The website, he added, “is new and different and we have updated and freshened our logo.” The website will be undergoing more changes in the near future.
Visits to the website will be altered to provide more focus on the artisans’ who have their wares for sale at the artisan center. “Sure we here in downtown Walterboro, but the center is a place where South Carolina artists are showcased,” Bickley said. “We want to re-emphasize that by putting our artists out front” on the website.
An even more ambitious change to the website will be offering on-line sales of the items available at the Artisans Center. “Hopefully, it will grow to be a significant part of our business,” Bickley said.
“Overall we are going to be looking at ways of turning our inventory more quickly. That is good for us and it is good for our artists,” Bickley explained.
“It is always important to remember that one of main priorities, probably number one, is to help South Carolina artists make a living from their art,” he said. “From that standpoint, I have always tried to look at it as small scale art-based economic development. When an artist can make a living from their art, that is a good thing for the artist and a good thing for the arts in South Carolina.”
The center is taking “a hard look, more organized look at what we have been selling — what works for us and how we can work with artists to generate more of the kinds of items that sell better,” Bickley explained.
The center’s staff has written a number of the artists who show their wares at the Artisans Center and asked them to freshen the inventory they have there.
They are also asking the artisans if they can offer items for sale at a discount — sale items after the artwork has been at the center for a certain amount of time.
To find new ways to improve sales, Artisans Center Director Gale Doggette hired Ashby Bonds, a recent marketing and arts graduate of the College of Charleston, as a marketing staff person.
Through the changes, Bickley said, “We think we will find ourselves having less inventory and faster moving inventory over time.”
Marketing of the artisans’ output and a freshened image are not the only changes in store. There will be physical changes in the offing.
Just inside the current front door of the Artisans Center will be the future home of The Back Door Café.
Bickley said, “We would like to have the Artisans Center become a place in downtown Walterboro where people could come have a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the afternoon.” It could progress, he added, to having light lunches for sale. Eventually, there may be some outdoor seating available for café customers.
“We would like the Artisans Center to become a gathering venue for local people,” Bickley said.
It would be called the Back Door Café because the Artisans Center will be getting a new entrance.
Plans call for adding “a larger, more conspicuous front porch” on the portion of the center closest to Wichman Street which will become the main entrance to the center.
The Artisans Center complex, Bickley explained, “has a very residential feel to it. We want it to be more obvious that this is a retail business, as opposed to a residence. We think we fit in well with the residences but we have to identify ourselves as a retail business that people will want to visit.”
To that end, new signage is planned for Wichman Street. Signage that visitors see as they approach the center. Bickley said, “That is something we lack now.”
Bickley pointed out that the driveway that leads visitors off Wichman to the parking area is more suited for a residence. “We want to enlarge it and make it more easily accessible for cars.
“We are working with the city and others to have bus and recreational vehicle parking for the center and the downtown as well,” Bickley said. “Providing parking for the large vehicles is an issue for every business downtown.”
The center’s board of directors earlier this year hired Printology, a Port Royal-based firm, to develop a strategic marketing and branding program for the Artisans Center.
The goal of that study was to determine the best way to use a one-time $500,000 allocation obtained by the Colleton County Legislative Delegation and some of the Artisans Center’s fans in the legislature.
Bickley explained previously that the members of the board saw the allocation as a good time to look to the future of the South Carolina Artisans Center.