The time comes in every person’s life when they must move. And sometimes businesses, too, must move. Maybe it’s for a good reason (your business is growing and you need more space) or maybe the move isn’t your choice (as when the landlord sells the building). Either way, you can make the move less stressful and disruptive by preparing in advance.
Ideally, you’ll want to plan your move as far in advance as possible, preferably at least three months ahead of the move date. The yarn shop Spun, located in Ann Arbor, MI, started planning even earlier than that. “We moved in May 2021 but started the planning process in January,” notes co-owner Pete Sickman-Garner. Set up a detailed week-by-week schedule to make sure you don’t forget something vital and give yourself extra lead time just in case there are unforeseen delays.
Plan your inventory wisely
Map out your inventory needs for the weeks before and after the move. Decide whether a pre-moving sale makes sense; everything you sell beforehand won’t have to be moved. Make sure to balance the desire to reduce inventory too much, though. Retail businesses will want to have well-stocked and inviting shelves of merchandise when they open the doors to their new space. Wholesale businesses won’t want to leave good customers hanging if they need to place an order around the time of the move. Inventory planning is especially important if you’re moving to a larger space.
Pete Sickman-Garner and his wife Carol set up a large whiteboard for planning their new digs. “[We] created a map of the new space using to-scale cutouts of all our fixtures (sort of like the Colorforms game). This gave Carol a very specific target for how much extra merchandise we’d need to purchase to fill a space that is 3.5x larger than our old space.”
Cull the herd
Whatever you can get rid of won’t have to be moved. Examine your fixtures and other display items and get rid of broken or rickety items. Do you have old samples that could be sold or donated? Sort through those junk drawers and boxes and get rid of random items that have accumulated.
Laura Greenfield, who recently moved her quilting studio, Creative Passions, likens the process to moving house.
“Touch EVERYTHING and decide what to keep, what to get rid of. In our case, we touched everything three times in that year, so we were able to know what extras we had, organize categories together, recycle duplicate catalogs, and return duplicate color cards to sales reps.”
Work your social media and advertising
Getting the word out to customers about the impending move is key, says Courtney Kelley, co-owner of yarn wholesaler Kelbourne Woolens. “Once a person can’t reach you [at the old location], they will give up and assume you closed.” When she and co-owner Kate Gagnon Osborne moved their warehouse, they created an entire marketing campaign around the move. “We told customers the story of the move, created special graphics, posted on social media and our blog, sent out newsletters, and did mailings,” Kelley recalls. Kelbourne Woolens capped off the move with an open house at their new location.
Kelley also cautions retail shop owners to remember clear signage that is visible from a car driving by. “People will drive by and if the shop is dark, they’ll keep on driving.” In addition to an easy-to-see “We’ve moved” sign at the old location, Kelley suggests using local ads and even posting flyers around the old neighborhood to reduce the chance of missing a regular customer. “You may reach some new customers who didn’t know you existed,” she points out. She also recommends arranging for the phone company to play a message at your old phone number, giving contact information for the new location for a year following the move.
Value your vendors
While some of the vendors you deal with are super tech-savvy, not all businesses are and new contact information can slip through the cracks. Make a special effort to reach suppliers, vendors and others with whom you do business regularly. Don’t forget accounts like shippers, the post office, and software companies.
Kelbourne Woolens figured out a creative solution for getting colleagues to update their records to show their new address, phone number and other contact information. “We mailed out postcards reminding our retailers of the move, listing our new contact information. We asked them to fill out the postcard and mail it back to show us that they had updated their records. We entered all the postcards we received back into a raffle and the winner won free shipping for a year.”
Create an overlap
Kelbourne Woolens benefited greatly from overlapping time at the old and new locations.
“We got the keys to our new space six weeks before we moved, so we could set up slowly,” recalls Kelley.
During this time, they moved personal items, kitchen supplies, and other items that they could temporarily do without at the old location. She urges fellow business owners to prepare certain things in advance. Kelley and Osborn set up the phone lines and internet at their new space – and discovered that certain offices weren’t wired correctly. They were able to have rewiring done before they had to rely solely on the new space for their internet needs.
Kelley suggests testing out all internet and phone functions, including features like forwarding calls from one office to another, just to make sure you don’t lose a week or two of sales waiting for repair personnel to schedule an appointment. Pete Sickman-Garner discovered that the lighting at the new location was a mishmash of incandescent, fluorescent, LED and other kinds – not up to snuff for a business where color is integral. By finding this out early, he was able to arrange to have new lighting installed before it was time to move in.
Keep in compliance
If you move to a different state or county, you’ll need to do some extra research. Roberta Sproul, owner of Three Bags Full, in Plainville, MA, notes, “If you are moving from one state to another, you may have to close your business in the one state and open a new business for your new location.” You may need to obtain a different business license or have an inspection done even if you don’t switch states. Sproul notes that this can often be done online. Localities like townships and counties may have very different requirements than neighboring ones – make sure you know what you need in advance.
Don’t neglect your business
All the business owners I spoke with emphasized the need for speed. Laura Greenfield advises,
“Make it happen quickly. Time is money and the longer you are closed, the more money you are losing.”
Greenfield’s quilting studio was closed for ten days; the Sickman-Garners took two weeks to move their yarn shop; and Kelbourne Woolens moved their wholesale business in a weekend (!). Greenfield’s quilting business includes both a retail and a retreat component, so making sure there was continuity of customer service was important. She and her husband set up their new office as the very first part of the move, allowing staff to work continuously through the physical move: “They left the old office on Friday at 5pm and came to the new one at 8am Monday morning with no downtime.”
While moving is a big and stressful job, taking time to plan it out in advance will help you remember everything you need and transition quickly into your fantastic new space.
Carol J. Sulcoski is an attorney by day and a knitting author, designer and dyer by night. Her latest book is “Yarn Substitution Made Easy” (Lark Crafts 2019). She lives outside Philadelphia with her three nearly grown-up children and a fluffy orange cat.