Brick and Mortar Stores and Their Potential Demise

Earlier this year, Business Insider reported almost 4,000 stores in the United States will close. Among those were giant corporate retailers — Toys R Us, Walgreens, and Gap. If the stores with the most competitive prices and widest spread are having trouble, imagine those with a smaller safety net. Imagine your local mom-and-pop shop.

Across the board, technology and e-shopping are often blamed for this decline in sales for physical stores. According to an infographic from Villanova University, Americans in the current day spend around 5 hours a day on their smartphones and compare prices and reviews for products while shopping in a store, sometimes only to buy them later from Amazon!

It’s no wonder people are more hesitant to become entrepreneurs now. But fear not, aspiring entrepreneurs! The story’s not over yet, and there are a few reasons to believe the physical shopping experience is still alive — and will continue to be that way. But you have to adapt to the changing world as well.

Oh, the Humanity!

According to multiple studies, the majority of shoppers still prefer physical, on-location shopping. This is largely due to the experience of it. People appreciate the experience, and guess what? Your customers are people. It’s different than going to a chain store in which people know what they’re going to get. A brick-and-mortar store has its own personality, typically representative of the owner’s personality, aka their personal brand.

People enjoy going out to shop because there’s an experience to be had with it. The atmosphere of the store, the aspect of leaving their home to travel somewhere, and of course (and this may be the biggest one), the opportunity to feel and touch the product in person. Activating a customer’s senses help them to build an emotional and personal relationship with your brand in this way. It’s this human connection which will get people shopping and keep them coming back.

The Millennial Conscience

Millennials surprised the world a few years ago by proving large amounts of them are not lazy and spoiled. Instead, we’ve learned many of them are very socially conscious and full of moral conviction. It’s this moral consciousness which has led droves of them against big business and extreme capitalism. As a small business owner, this puts you in a pretty good spot with them as potential customers.

From this angle, it’s a good idea to get involved in your local community and give back to people like you. If you plan on running a small business, plan on participating in Small Business Saturday. Think about binding together with some other local businesses as well. Hold events benefiting people and communities around you who need help, or that simply bring people together. Not only will you build brand loyalty, but you’ll be doing something worthwhile that moves far beyond you and your business.

Technology Is Compatible

There are ways to keep up with technology and run a physical storefront. First of all, we live in the app age. People own smartphones — portable computers that fit in their hands and have many functions. Owning an app which is compatible with your store location gives them a reason to shop with you consistently. Primarily, this app should bring customers to your business through special discounts, but it could also make them aware of new products you have.

To further indulge in this intersection of technology and physicality, having a physical storefront does not mean you should not have an online presence or your foot in the e-commerce game! You can have a website and an online store as well as a physical storefront. You can promote your brand through SEO and social media. Technology does not necessarily mean the demise of brick and mortar — it means the changing of it. Be proactive.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The acceptance and help of humans are important, but we can’t forget that entrepreneurs have kept hopeless industries alive for years by innovating on what was already there before. It requires intelligence, risk-taking, and drive, as well as the ability to adapt to the present time. The choices surrounding products stocked, inventory ordered, marketing methods, and purchasing or leasing commercial spaces have changed over time with new technology and a new economy. But brick and mortar stores have been around for a long time and they haven’t actually left us, despite losing prevalence in some cases. They are still relevant even with the game-changing.

See, there have always been threats to mom-and-pop shops. The Walmarts of the world moving into communities and taking sales from hard-working small businesses, thus destroying the strength of local communities, come to mind first. Legal restrictions and defamation from competitors have been known to happen in their own form of small business drama. But as long as entrepreneurs have the right resources available to them and there are small communities who care about what they’re doing, they will survive.

What has your experience been running a physical storefront in the internet age been like? What are your reservations about starting one? Let us know in the comments below!

Create Your Own Child Therapy Starter Kit

tumblr_mstk51YNXW1s3e1yro2_r1_500 Starting out as a new child therapist is difficult and putting together an office from scratch can be expensive.  Professional “starter kits” are overpriced, limited, and not much better than what you can put together own your own for a fraction of the price.  It is also common for new professions to share offices or travel to multiple locations so I have also included some tips for creating a “portable office.”

Cost-Saving Ideas

  • Once you get “the basics” you can start slowly adding to your toy collection.
  • Play dough is a must have item in your toy kit.  Kids love it and it can fill in the gaps of what you are missing.  If you are lacking something the child can simply mold it out of dough.
  • The best places for toys are dollar stores, yard sales, and thrift shops.  You can also ask friends and family to donate old toys their children have grown out of.
  • Many craft stores (ex. Michael’s Crafts, Hobby Lobby, Joanne’s Fabrics, etc.) have 40-50% off one item coupons weekly.  I pop in every time I am passing by to slowly build my arts and crafts supplies.
  • Pinterest.com is your best friend if you are looking for DIY toys and activities to do in sessions.

Portable Ideas

  • Rolling duffel bags make the perfect portable office.  It is easy to pack and transport and has lots of pockets to help keep you organized.
  • I keep my toys in mesh bags so that I can make the most of the space that I have.
  • Keep your art supplies in a soft insulated lunch box.  This will help prevent your crayons from melting if you leave your bag in a hot car.
  • I also have a “go bag” that I bring when I don’t need to set up a full office.  This is great for in-home sessions or the days when I work with teens and don’t need as much.

Sand Tray

  • Kinetic Sand: If you are creating a portable sand tray I encourage you to invest in kinetic sand.  It is pricey so I suggest printing a 50% off coupon from Michael’s or Aaron Brothers.  It is easy to clean up, won’t spill out the sides and is fun to play with.  It molds like wet sand but still keeps some of characteristics of dry sand.
  • The scrapbooking boxes at Michael’s crafts make good portable sand trays.  I have one that is ***inches, and another one that is only *** inches.  The small size isn’t a big issue as long as you get small miniatures to go along with it.
  • Decorate your office with small throw rugs.  Clients can dump bins of miniatures onto them and clean-up only takes a few seconds.

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Ending the Therapeutic Relationship: Creative Termination Activities

Amy Bucciarelli, MS ATR-BC, LMHC, Board Certified Art Therapist, helped Frank “Dylan” Dinkins make a painting for his parents. Bucciarelli works with pediatrics patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

Termination is a highly important part of every therapeutic relationship that should be addressed throughout each stage of the process. While many adult clients have the ability to easily think back to their experience in therapy, for youth this is often more difficult.  Because of this I like to provide clients with some sort of physical representation of their time in therapy that will help them reflect on their experiences, highlight their strengths, remind them of what they learned and provide them with tools they can use to help prevent regression, and even continue their progress on their own.

These activities let you both reflect on their time in therapy and transition out of services in an engaging way. I’ve also found that using metaphors often helps young clients to better understand termination and makes after-care instructions more salient.  Below are some ideas for creative termination activities that are easily adaptable to fit your clients’ needs. I am not sure of the origins of all of them, so please let me know if there is someone that I should be citing.

Session Trackers

counter

I recently spoke to an intern who was confused when a number of her clients seemed surprised when it came time to terminate, despite her verbal reminders.  It is sometimes helpful for young children to be able to have a visual representation of how many sessions are left, and it can help them better prepare for termination.  One way to do this is to create a session-tracking chart.  In the examples above clients color in one image, or choose a sticker, at the end of each session.  The activity is quick and also provides a good opportunity for therapists to check-in with clients and help process any feelings surrounding termination that come up throughout the process.

Ready to Set Sail: Termination Activity

By Jodi Smith, LCSW, RPT-S at “Play is Powerful”

Supplies: Toy boat, paper boat, paper mache boat, box with a boat drawn on it, etc.

Directions:

  • I’ve found that the use of metaphors increases the amount of information that clients retain and internalize so I use them frequently in termination.  Start by explaining to the client that because of the progress they have made they are ready to sail off on their own.
  • Reflect on what that feels like and process any anxiety, and transition into talking about all the things they will “take” with them to help with their journey.
  • Have the client answer each question and write their response on the back of the cards.  The boat will contain cards related to tools they will take with them (supports, coping skills, etc.), things that may get in their way and strengths (as identified by the client and therapist).  Along with my pre-made cards, I also give them blank ones.

Treasure Chest Termination Activity

Supplies: Treasure box (Michaels Crafts has wooden “treasure” boxes that are cheap and easy to decorate.  A link to directions on how to make a paper one can be found here; Stick-on plastic jewels (found at crafts stores, oriental trading co., etc.); Small note cards (cut to fit the box); Pen.

Directions: First, have your client decorate a treasure chest.  Then stick a jewel to each card as your client writes down the “task” that is assigned to that specific color (see below).  On the back of the card, they include a specific example of how what they identified has helped them in the past and/or how it will help them in the future.  Below are examples of possible color codes, but you should change them to meet your client’s specific age and needs.  In the end, the chest will be full with a stack of jeweled cards.

  • Blue: Strengths (Identified by both the client and therapist)
  • Red: Coping skills
  • Green: Supportive people in their life
  • Orange: Resources from therapist (ex. hotline numbers, therapist referrals or directions for reenrolling in services.)
  • Purple: Self-care activities
  • Pink: Inspiration (future goals, motivational quotes, etc.)
  • Yellow: Things they have learned in therapy

 Suitcase Termination Activity

At termination, your client is finally ready to continue their journey on their own.  Even though they will be leaving you behind, they can pack up everything that they have learned during their time with you to take with them.  This metaphor is easy for most people to identify with and it is a fun activity.

Supplies: Plastic or cardboard suitcase; Blank sticker labels; Paper luggage tag; String; Cards; Travel stickers.

Goals: Process termination; Provide transitional object; Help prevent regression; Identify accomplishments, goals, coping tools, etc.

Directions:

  • Have your client make and/or decorate their suitcase.
  • Then they write something they will “take with them” from their time in therapy on each card provided (I print cards with travel clip-art on the back).  These can be things they have learned, coping skills, supports, resources etc.
  • You can also integrate this with the after-care kit I posted.
  • On the labels, they write or draw goals they have accomplished.  (Like the old suitcases in movies that are covered with stickers of past travels).  I also provide additional travel stickers.
  • On the luggage tag, they write where they are going next.  This could be a new life stage (ex. my 8th graders usually write “high school”) or a goal they would like to accomplish that the contents of the box will help them achieve on their own.
  • Process feelings about termination throughout the activity.

Therapeutic Goodbye Cards

letter

This is such a simple, yet powerful termination activity.  I got this idea from a client who gave me a very touching thank you note during our last session.  It is something I have kept and reflect back on, and I realized that it could potentially play a similar role for a client.

  • The focus of the content is on the journey through therapy and what has been accomplished.  I highlight strengths, review coping tools and lessons learned, and express my thoughts about termination. In the end, I usually include instructions of what to do if they decide to enter therapy again.  You could also have the client write a letter to their future self that they can read when they are struggling.

Summer Bucket List

summer

I put a therapeutic twist on this summer craft.  Most school therapists are unable to see clients throughout the summer but may pick up treatment again during the following school year, which is not ideal.  This activity can help encourage adherence to after-care recommendations.

Directions: Have your client design a bucket that will help them to continue your work together on their own and prevent regression.  On the back of the paper bucket, they can write goals for the summer, self-care activities, etc.  For the 3D buckets, these can go on cards placed inside the bucket.  On the shovel, they write down “tools” that will help them to accomplish their goals (social supports, coping skills, resources, etc.)

You’ve Got Mail: Group Termination Activity

mailbox

Directions: First, have your clients create their own paper mailbox.  Then, each person, including the therapist, writes a short note to every other member of the group.  You can instruct them to write something that they have gained by knowing that person, a strength they can identify in that person, a motivating message, etc.  The notes are then placed in the mailboxes for the group members to take home.

Graduation 

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Certificates are very simple to create in programs like Word, Pages, etc., and are a good wrap-up for clients who have worked hard to meet their therapeutic goals.  In my example, I left space to write specifics about progress, accomplishments, reflection, etc.  One the last group session we have a “graduation party” where we have fun, reflect on our time together/progress made, and process termination.  They are then presented with their certificate.

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