The Unfortunate Truth About Small Shops

I recently stumbled upon a discussion regarding how some small shops are constantly offering sales. There was talk about the shops appearing desperate for sales or having a really high profit margin on purpose so that they could have sales and still make the same amount of money (sounds like what Kohl’s does).  And as I read each comment, I felt the need to speak out on behalf of many many small shop owners, especially many I know and love.


When you see small shops on Instagram and you see that they have a big following, most people assume that they are successful. Those shops have a feed full of customers wearing or holding their merchandise. It can be very deceiving.  At first glance, you may imagine that the owner of this small shop is lounging in their mansion, with a wine glass in hand, being waited on by their staff, counting his/her cash while the sales keep pouring in.  I hate to burst your thought bubble, but I’m about to give you the unfortunate truth about many small shops.


Let me begin by saying that this is NOT true about all small shops, but there are many shop owners that can relate.  Some of us opened a small shop so that we could stay home with our kids and not have to work for someone else. We did it as a way to support our family or help pay some bills.  Shop owners don’t have hours. We are pretty much working constantly.  From the moment I wake up, until the time I go to sleep (and sleep is not something I get much of), I am working.  Most of us don’t have employees, so we are customer service, we are designers, we are manufacturing, we are marketing, we are shipping, we are EVERYTHING (with the exception of our spouses or kids that help out when they are able to).   There is no one to step in when we get ill and there is no one to go to when funds get low. We are relying on ourselves and our families to make our dreams happen.


Some months may be amazing while others may leave us in a position where we aren’t sure where we are going to find the money to pay our rent, to fix our car or to put food on the table.  So… we post a sale… a sale that is probably cutting into our profits so deeply that we aren’t making anything, or in some cases, losing money, but it’s the only way to get people’s attention.  We put up that sale and then we pray that people will take advantage of the sale and we will be able to make enough money to pay our bills.  You see, when you are a small shop owner, there is no guarantee. Whether we work 2 hours a week or 100 hours a week, we could make the same amount of money and sometimes that number can be $0.  There is no one keeping track of how hard we work and paying us to reflect that. We work hard and we work a lot because we genuinely love our business and we want to succeed. We have a vision for our business and we are constantly chasing it, no matter how difficult.


The truth is, when we have sales, we aren’t trying to cheat people. We aren’t trying to come off as desperate. And we are definitely not doing it so that you can spread rumors about why we are doing git.  We are people that are trying to live out our dream and doing everything in our power to keep the lights on and food on our table and sometimes, that requires us to have a sale. Please remember when you are shopping small that you are helping to support the family behind the business.  Don’t assume anything except that most people have good intentions. Most people are not ignoring your messages or emails, but instead, working 18 hours straight to make sure that they get their orders out on time.  Will you come across shady shop owners? SURE. But you file a claim, get your money back and find a new + honest shop to support. And this last part is so important because without your support, small shops wouldn’t exist. On behalf of those shops that can relate, we thank you for loving and supporting our community.


Are you a small shop owner?  Can you relate? Comment below and share your thoughts.  Have a topic you want me to talk about? Email us! Make sure to follow our daily small shop fashion on Instagram @thesmallfashionista and on our new Facebook page.


Featured image: Shades: iBetterAccessorize (use code FALYNN), Bracelets: Bubble Chic Chick, Leo: Morgan + Mae Co., Shorts: HC Ut-Oh.


  • Tracy Shane

    This!!!! 🙌🙌🙌 All of this and more. Shops also have sales to deplete excess inventory or make room for new inventory.

    July 18, 2017 at 9:49 pm Reply
    • Tammara

      I was going to say the exact same thing! That’s usually why I have a sale.

      July 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm Reply
  • Carly Graham

    All of this 🙌🏻 @jaxhoo

    July 18, 2017 at 9:57 pm Reply
  • Livia

    Yes, Yes, Yes!

    July 18, 2017 at 9:58 pm Reply
  • Tara neil

    So can relate. Thank you for writing this! @charlotteandezra

    July 18, 2017 at 10:56 pm Reply
  • Kerynn Marie

    This is so so true! I work more now than ever! Xo – @tenthandpine

    July 18, 2017 at 11:08 pm Reply
  • jessicalugo83

    So well said! Having a small shop isn’t a gold mine for all owners but it is a passion they are Pursuing which doesn’t always work out to be financially beneficial. It’s a labor of love that brings in a fraction of what it puts out and for lots of us the $$ we bring in goes right back into our small shop community. A sale should be a WIN/WIN for all! – @audreymiahally

    July 18, 2017 at 11:31 pm Reply
  • Kari

    I’m a shop owner and I can definitely relate. It’s a never ending battle balancing life, parenting, and on top of that running a business. I keep telling myself that one day it will happen..I hope 😑

    July 18, 2017 at 11:32 pm Reply
  • Akeyla Virgin

    Definitely can relate! You hit it spot on! @amiyababycouture

    July 18, 2017 at 11:34 pm Reply
  • Cortnee Peterson

    Couldn’t agree more! From a part time working momma also running a full time small shop! Xo @brixton.phoenix

    July 19, 2017 at 12:11 am Reply
  • Always Grace

    Spot on, this really hit home for me. @shopalwaysgrace

    July 19, 2017 at 1:39 am Reply
  • Shannon

    As a handmade shop using fabrics, I can admit that I rarely go on sale because my profit margin it’s already low as is. I work more than I should for being a “Stay at home mom” and I wish I had the money for hello with my kids who are still not in school. The point was to help make ends meet without hurting the real income and as most small shop owners learn that isn’t always how it turns out in the beginning.

    July 19, 2017 at 3:31 am Reply
  • Jennifer

    Yep, this is 💯 spot on! And I agree with Tracy, sometimes sales are just to liquidate current inventory to make room for new items.

    July 19, 2017 at 4:00 am Reply
  • Melissa

    Absolutely !! I do some local markets and when I have left over inventory I do a sale @my_littlest_1

    July 19, 2017 at 5:50 am Reply
  • Julia Lengsfeld

    So, so true!

    July 19, 2017 at 6:24 am Reply
  • Tangela

    Yes, yes, and yes!!! I wish more people understood the small shop world ins and outs. Thank you for gracefully saying what I would have loved to say!!!!

    July 19, 2017 at 6:28 am Reply
  • Mary

    Definitely agree 100%! I do weekly sales sometimes to get rid of old inventory and to make room for new inventory or just to be able to buy new materials for new items. Plus i love seeing my customers happy that they got a great deal because i know a lot of them are on budgets since they rep for sometimes 30+ shops.
    @lilgracebabyboutique and @marysangelsatetsy
    Mary ❤️

    July 19, 2017 at 6:51 am Reply
  • Lora

    Love this so much!! ❤️❤️ Thank you for so clearly articulating the life of a small shop owner! We are big givers! We want to give to our families and our clients, often not giving to ourselves! We are creatives who want to share our love through our creations! We want to make the world better in our own small way! We are small, but mighty! XOXO – Lora @thehausofharry

    July 19, 2017 at 9:53 am Reply
  • Tiffany

    Yes!!! Definitely so so true! I haven’t had a sale in a long time, but when I did have to have them, this is exactly why in the past. @onetotmess

    July 19, 2017 at 10:06 am Reply
  • Rachel

    Definitely can relate!!! Thanks for writing it! @emmyanddove

    July 19, 2017 at 11:00 am Reply
  • Tricia Lee

    As a small shop owner I agree to the drive behind what we do and why we do it. In terms of sales, I understand that the underlying reasons mentioned are why we have them. There are a few big reasons why I stopped doing sales. 1) I never saw an increase in purchases made during the sale, so it proved to be fruitless for me in that respect. 2) as a handmade business, I believe it can devalue my work. Once people know you have sales, they learn to wait for them and hold off on their purchases until the sale happens. Americans especially are trained for this. Instead, i work hard to build my brand, my brand voice, and sell a lifestyle with my products and not just a commodity. It’s not easy for sure, and there are times where I have a breakdown and want to just do a sale, but I then remember looking back and seeing how little to nothing having sales have done for me.

    July 19, 2017 at 1:22 pm Reply
  • Tammara

    Very well said. Thank you 😊

    July 19, 2017 at 3:09 pm Reply
  • Elsie

    Absolutely! This happens my way. I have health issues at the moment and my sales are what help me stay afloat. Sadly I loose a lot but I am paying the bills. Thank you for this! Sharing!

    July 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm Reply
  • Holly Willis

    I have never worked so much in my whole life, and I have never once taken a paycheck in 6 years. My business is somewhat successful, but people need to know how hard it is to make all of the numbers work. Sales are a sacrifice and a service to our customers, usually accompanied by a wish and a prayer for enough money to pay bills to stay open. Your post is spot on!!

    July 20, 2017 at 12:52 am Reply
  • Erikka

    Omg YES! 🙌 You just said everything I was thinking lol @_hookitup

    July 21, 2017 at 12:50 am Reply
  • Dorie Kirk

    Speaking truth!!!

    August 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm Reply
  • Deserae Manning

    100% TRUE!! Thank you for putting this out there <3

    September 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm Reply
    • TheSmallFashionista

      Thank you for reading!

      September 8, 2017 at 2:41 pm Reply

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