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My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #406: Some Hope For Selling Our Woodwork Items

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-20-2011 01:52 PM 845 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 405: Time After Time Part 406 of My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer series Part 407: Blame It On the Heat »

It seems that even though we are going through some tough times with the economy, not everyone is suffering as much as they have been in the recent past. I look to this as a sign of hope that people will be able to make a little extra money by selling their hand crafted items and that perhaps things are looking up just a little bit.

There are many small businesses where I live. Most of Nova Scotia consists of small fishing and tourist towns where work and prosperity is seasonal. As time goes on the resources are depleted, the fishing industry has not been immune to the economic downturn. However, the larger processing plants have dealt with this by importing more fish from other areas, and the work remains quite steady and available.

The tourist industry is a different story. Last year, the government subsidiary ran out on the ferry which connected Yarmouth (which is at the southern tip of Nova Scotia) to the United States. Many saw this as a disaster, leaving the provinces’ already hurting tourist industry in further despair. Without the ferry to bring people, many businesses have suffered greatly.

But surprisingly, things may not be as bad as predicted. Since my partner and I have been looking for places to market his pens, we have spoken to many business owners and have discovered that many small businesses are doing fine. In fact, many are doing better than they have in the past several years.

This was a pleasant surprise to me. Although I have no hard and factual data, between hearing this from several places and also seeing first hand that things seem to be busier, it appears to be true. And that gives us some hope.

The other day Keith returned to the near by shop to recheck on selling his pens. This was not the shop in Yarmouth which took several of them last week, but one that he visited the week before. At the time we went in, the owner had said that she had a gentleman that made pens for her, but he hadn’t had any stock in there yet and to check back in a couple of weeks and she would find out what was going on with him. Apparently she had worked with him for a couple of years and didn’t want to edge him out. That was fine.

Friday, Keith went back to recheck with her and this time he brought a copy of our magazine, which his one plaque was on the cover. She still hadn’t been able to contact the pen man, but she was very interested in seeing what other items we had for sale. On Monday, he brought several of his finished prototypes for her to see and she wound up taking everything on the spot and asking for more. He said that she thought all the prices he asked were very fair and that they would sell well, even with her markup. He also said that she would be interested in just about anything we had to offer.

This was very good news. The store is not what you would call a ‘craft store’, it is more of an ‘art’ place. They also sold nice furniture and the owner had a business for building custom kitchens. Part of the store was dedicated to displaying some beautiful kitchen cabinets and counters. All in all it was a very pleasing shop and would be a nice place to have our things in.

Keith said that she was particularly interested in the candle trays too, as she sold many different types of candles. It would be something that I would like to think about later on too, as well as a possible place to sell my note cards and prints of my paintings. I think it is good to have options.

I read this morning on Steve Good’s list someone who had a show over the weekend and did extremely well making puzzles on the spot for customers. He had good sales at the show and was very happy. I have many woodworking ‘friends’ on Facebook too and for the most part, I have been reading good reports regarding them selling their items at shows. Again, I was surprised and happy. It certainly seems to be more than a few isolated incidents.

All these things are positive I believe. Perhaps that with times being what they are, people are reconsidering how they spend their money and don’t mind spending a bit more for hand made quality. I am not an economist and I don’t know the exact reasons that this is occurring, but hopefully it is a sign that things will be getting a little better for those who sell their finished items.

I often receive messages and emails from woodworkers who ask me my advice on selling their finished products. Unfortunately, I am probably one of the last people they should ask. I have so little experience with the outside world and retail sales that my guess would be as good as theirs in regards to pricing and so forth. I depend on my customers to report back to me as far as what sells and for how much, and I also need to consider which area they live in. My forest leaf plaques sold for up to $80 – $100 from one customer who lived in a very ‘touristy’ area and usually brought in about $25 – $40 on an average everywhere else. However some had trouble selling them for $20. I suppose it depends on where you live and the market at the time.

I am happy when reading stories of successes in marketing finished items. We all like to see others do well in our industry. The successes will also trickle down the economic ladder to me, as the creators do well, they will be looking for more marketable designs for items to sell. It is good for all of us.

Today I will be working on my next class, which I hope to post sometime tomorrow. I plan on including a short video in it, so it will take a bit more time to get together than previous versions. I am still learning to produce and edit the videos, as well as shoot them where they are pleasing to watch.

The box of ponds goes out today, too. They are all packaged and I put the pick up order in this morning. I am happy to be able to take a breath and sit back and see how they do. It is a good day already.

I hope that in your areas that you are experiencing some positive sales too. It will be a good thing if we begin to see some movement in a good direction, even if it is small. After the past couple of years, anything at all would be an improvement, I would imagine.

I wish you all a wonderful day.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"



5 comments so far

View rivergirl's profile

rivergirl

3198 posts in 1555 days


#1 posted 07-20-2011 02:35 PM

Well, glad you are selling some stuff. Basically here where I live things are dead- capital D. Etsy is also very very slow. I have observed that what is selling are things that are inexpensive- like 10 bucks- with only a couple of dollars shipping; AND the item must be functional as well as pleasing. As in form = function but the item must be a small indulgence also. For example a pretty bar of handmade soap. Small indulgence- looks pretty- smells great- very useful- costs under ten bucks including shipping. Handmade Lip balm= same deal. “Small indulgence” seems to be the ticket in this dire economy. Also, a legit 50 percent off clearance sale seems to help a tiny bit- but even then- it has to be ten bucks, have great form and a justifiable function. I need to make soap.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7825 posts in 1637 days


#2 posted 07-20-2011 02:48 PM

I hear what you are saying Kelly. I know when I had my stuff in places, I seemed to sell lots of note cards of my paintings. I sell them for $4 each or 6/$20. Each one is packaged with a protective sleeve and has a nice sticker with my information on it. I was really surprised at how many of them went, but I think you are right – people like small indulgences.

I think soap is a great venue. Special soaps are wonderful treats to ourselves. One of my own special indulgences is a bar of Chanel soap. It is costly – about $25 a bar – but it lasts me for probably six months. I keep it in a special plastic box and use it when I want to feel special. My kids often get me a bar for my birthday or Christmas and it is enough to last me the year. There are two of the scents that I really like and I usually have one of each on hand. I haven’t had to buy one for myself in years. Small things like that make us feel good even on the crummiest days.

I would love to see you succeed in your venture. It seems that you are very enterprising and once people find a product that they like, they will come back for more. (soap would be much easier to mail than furniture, of course)

Thanks for your insight on things. I know that everywhere things aren’t going well, but I just wanted to share some things that I have heard. It is good to hear from many areas how everyone is doing.

Take care, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View William's profile

William

9206 posts in 1559 days


#3 posted 07-20-2011 03:52 PM

You hit the nail on the head when you said it depends on where you live and market your wares. Well, that isn’t your exact words, but basically what you said.
I have a few people, like my brother and his boss man for example, that often come to my shop and comment that they are surprised I don’t get rich selling my work. I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded them of where we live. Then they always have the same suggestion, shipping it all over the country. That suggestion always gets answered with a question, have they checked the price of shipping large itens lately? They have all the answers though. At least they think they do.
I talk to people online all over the country. I know for a fact that in a different area that I could sell my work easily and at a very reasonable price. I don’t live in those areas though. Therefore, I can’t sell my projects. I do them anyway though for my own reasons. I won’t go into that. You already know most of those reasons anyway.
I am glad to hear though that you and Keith have found a new market for your work. We know you both do nice work. You know though as well as anyone, sometimes the difference between selling your work and making money or going broke, can be simply being at the right place, with the right wares, at the right time.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7825 posts in 1637 days


#4 posted 07-20-2011 03:58 PM

Thanks William:
The geographical location is really the key, I believe. The reason I am somewhat optimistic is because just a couple of years ago, things were pretty depressed around here. It seemed that everyone was saying that business was terrible and the future here looked very bleak. For whatever reason, lots of these little shops and places are doing better. Even if they aren’t breaking sales records of the past, just the fact that things are going in a better direction is making people happy. I hope it continues, as I realize it isn’t like this everywhere.

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View William's profile

William

9206 posts in 1559 days


#5 posted 07-20-2011 04:11 PM

Also Sheila, it is spotty at best.
Things here are bad and seem to be getting worse. The few people here who may have money are seem scared to death of letting go of any of it. Also, I live in what is considered a tourist town. A majority of the income for this town comes from tourism around all the antebellum homes and Civil War historical significant history here, and from the casinos that line the Mississippi River. The historical ventures though are cutting back left and right and raising entrance fees to try to keep their doors open. As for the casinos, the majority of their visitors come here to gamble and aren’t spending their money anywhere besides slot machines, poker, and black jack tables.
Still though, you would think that with the area and attractions here, that business would be booming. It isn’t. On the flipside of the coin though, I have talked to people who live in areas where there is nothing, who can’t make their craft type items fast enough to keep up with sales.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

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