Spokane Journal of Business

Following her nose for shops

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Attention female shoppers: Soon youll be able to get your hands on a guidebook that will provide the scoop on many of the locally owned stores and services in the Inland Northwest that cater specifically to women.

The book, Nosey Parker, is the brainchild of Liberty Lake resident Margaret Croom, a businesswoman with a background in information technology who says shes perpetually hunting for independent shops and eateries. Croom is seeking to share that passion with fellow shopaholics by creating a guide that highlights unique boutiques, eateries, and services in the Spokane-Coeur dAlene area.

There are places to shop here other than the mall, and my intent is to showcase that, she says. You cant have a relationship, other than through your money, with a department store, but you can with the proprietor of a small business.

Buyers of the guide also will have access to a Web site, www.noseyparkerguide.com, where they can sign up to receive news updates about businesses included in the book, Croom says. They will be able to get info about Nosey Parker Shopping Night events, which will be held at businesses listed in the guide and will include food and beverages and special sales for Nosey Parker e-mail list members, she says.

Croom, who is publishing the 200-page, softcover book through a company called Nosey Parker LLC, says she hopes to get the publication on the shelves of bookstores, hotels, and shops in the region in midsummer. It will be priced at $16.95.

Nosey Parker, named after a British term for someone who is overly curious, will include information about roughly 170 retailers. Croom says she selected businesses for inclusion based on the quality of their products and services, the viability of their operation, and whether they would be someone I would refer a girlfriend to.

Croom is self-financing the venture, and says she expects to turn a profit this year. She doesnt sell advertising space in the guidebook, but requires the shops listed in it to buy guidebooks at wholesale prices and carry them in their stores. She charges restaurants and cafes a fee to be listed in the book. She declines to disclose the prices she charges.

The book will divide the Spokane-Coeur dAlene area into 12 districts, each containing at least 10 businesses, Croom says. Those areas include downtown Spokane; the Davenport district; central Spokane; the Garland-Audubon Park district; the South Hill; Spokane Valley; the border corridor, which includes Liberty Lake and Post Falls; downtown Coeur dAlene; central Coeur dAlene; the Dalton Gardens-Hayden area; and Sandpoint. Croom says she also recently added a section devoted to other communities, including Green Bluff, Newport, and Rathdrum, due to popular request.

Along with maps of each shopping district, the book will contain brief descriptions of each store, written in a conversational style, as if I were telling my friend about it, Croom says. It also will have a section devoted to businesses based here that sell their products solely online.

Shoppers who spend more than $10 at each of those businesses can ask the storekeeper to sign that page. Once they fill all the slots with signatures, they can mail the page to Nosey Parker LLC and receive a gift bag that contains items from those shops, she says.

Women love freebies, she says.

The Nosey Parker guidebook also will contain up to 50 pages of profiles of local business owners, she says. Proprietors buy a page for their profile, and the money will go to a local nonprofit, chosen from a list Croom has compiled, that serves women and children, she says.


The books initial distribution network will include the retailers that are listed in it, as well as local bookstores and The Paradies Shops gift stores in the Spokane Sea-Tac, and Portland airports, she says. Additionally, the book will be sold in Barnes & Noble Inc. and Borders Group Inc. stores in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, and will be available on Amazon.com, she says. Croom says she also is negotiating with hotels here.

She plans to print 45,000 copies initially, and says shell issue a new edition of the book every two years. Croom declines to disclose the name of her printer for now, but says that its local.

Croom, who works out of her Liberty Lake home, is the businesss sole employee, although her sister-in-law, Kim Masterson, is helping her with research and marketing in North Idaho. Croom also is working with Spokane-based The Purple Turtle Inc., a full-service marketing firm thats helping design the book and providing original illustrations that will be featured in it.

While the Nosey Parker book is meant to serve as a resource to shoppers, it also provides a way for retailers to get advertisements in the hands of their target market, Croom says. In addition, the e-mail service will help retailers form relationships with their customers and keep customers abreast of new products and services, she asserts. She adds that retailers wont be able to contact consumers directly; they must go through Nosey Parkers Web site.

Deena Caruso, who owns the Finders Keepers store, at 112 S. Cedar, and Finders Keepers II shop, at 18 W. Main, says she decided to list her stores in the Nosey Parker book because shes always looking for new avenues to reach customers.

I see a lot of value in the book, Caruso says. It can be used as a coffee table conversation piece, and ladies can pick it up while theyre at the spa getting a pedicure.

She adds, Women shop more often than men and are very loyal clientele. Once you find them and get them, you keep them.

Caruso says she also decided to sign on with the book because she wants to help promote small businesses here.

Not everyone wants a mall; they want something different, she asserts. Its the small businesses that make up the fiber of fun, destination shopping.

Croom says she chose to focus specifically on women with Nosey Parker because they typically shop more frequently than men and are more likely to buy the unique items found in small boutiques, whereas men prefer big-ticket items.

Women run the economy, she quips. If we all stopped shopping, it would go downhill real quick.

Croom says that in addition to her personal affinity for independent shops, she drew her inspiration for Nosey Parker and its subscription-based e-mail service from marketing guru Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing and The Purple Cow. Godin advocates subscription-based marketing because he says that obtaining permission from consumers first before sending them advertisements makes them more likely to receive the message.

Croom, a native of Dallas, graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University. She has worked at IBM Corp. and Electronic Data Systems Corp., where she served as a systems engineer and consultant for Enron Corp. in Houston, during their heyday, not their downfall, she says. In 1994, she bought a business called Organizational Support Services, which provides administrative and planning services for large Ivy League alumni clubs. She sold that company in 1997 when her husband, Mike, was transferred to a job in Portland, Ore. While in Portland she worked as an account manager for Boston-based Momentix Inc. until Mike was transferred to southeast Texas in 2004.

After Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit that region, the Crooms, who have family members living in Coeur dAlene, decided to move to the Inland Northwest. Mike works for Honeywell Electronic Materials Inc. here, and Margaret is focusing solely on Nosey Parker. They have two teenage sons, Corbin and Aaron.

We chose to stay and set down roots here, Croom says.

Croom says her ultimate goal is to create a Nosey Parker series of guidebooks similar to Frommers Travel Guides, which are a popular collection of guidebooks for major metropolitan areas or countries, but focused on medium-sized markets instead.

Some of the areas shes considering for future Nosey Parker books include Boise and Oklahoma City.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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