It’s a busy day ahead. The things that occurred this past week have really slowed me down production-wise and I need to focus back on the tasks at hand and get ready for another site update.
I have been side tracked again as you can imagine by some of the issues of the past days, and while I don’t want to dwell on these negative things, they do require my attention in order to rectify them as quickly as possible.
Many have asked me to name the offending company, and I don’t feel the liberty to do that at this time. I am trying to be as fair as I can, and as people are coming to me with information on plans that they have purchased, they are figuring it out. I have received several emails where people have stated that scrollers are a close-knit group, and that is certainly true. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy the scrolling branch of woodworking so much. I find all woodworking in general to be a close knit family and besides a couple of bad instances, they are very much willing to help each other and do what they can to advance their craft – and look out for each other. If I have come to any conclusion at all in the past week, it is that you all certainly do ‘have my back.’ Both Keith and I thank you so much for that, as we do honestly spend most of our days trying to create good patterns for everyone to enjoy and to perpetuate the craft in general.
What I am having trouble understanding is why this was done in the first place. If I put aside the anger and try to look at it in a logical or businesslike way, I am finding it difficult to see the advantage of selling these pared down patterns and how it could help things. And in some cases at a higher cost. Not just because we had our items on sale, but higher than our typical retail prices. And for less pattern.
I like to have sales on my site and sell things at a discount for a limited time. We had a good sale in July and had one of our best months ever. Sales are a good thing for both the customers and for the sellers, as they encourage the consumer to try products that they may have otherwise passed up. By cutting prices for a short time, it is a good shot in the arm for the hosting company, as well as gives the customer a chance to either stock up or to try a product that they otherwise may not have tried. Our sales are not meant to undercut our distributors, only to offer our patterns to our customers at a better deal for a short time. To me, when distributors take our patterns and mark them up immediately from our retail price, they are they ones that are causing us to undercut them without our knowledge. So our own sales are a moot point as far as I am concerned.
But sales can’t last forever. At least not for me. Keith and I are doing this as a living, and we need the income we make on our designs to support us or we can’t continue. It is simple economics. We try to keep our prices reasonable, and for the type of patterns we sell – full instructions and many with step-by-step photos, etc. – we think we give a pretty good deal. Color printing is costly, but we have found answers to that issue and we are able to make quality, color copies without having to charge a lot extra to our customers. Our instructions may be “too detailed” for someone who has been doing woodworking and scrolling and painting for years, but my own personal philosophy has been to err on the side of the newcomer. I want just about anyone who wants to try one of my patterns to have the opportunity to complete the project successfully. There are times when I don’t have what the customer is looking for and I refer them to a fellow designer (Yes – a competitor!) People are surprised at this, but I feel that if I can help them find what they want, even if I don’t have it, then perhaps the next time I do have a design that they like, they will come back and buy it from me. That way our industry will grow and it is good for all involved. Many times in my instructions I refer customers to perhaps a video I made or an article that is available for free on our site, or other sites because I want them to learn and feel comfortable and happy when creating the project.
Those who have questions and have come to know me, know that I do my best to help. If I don’t have the answers for them, I refer them to someone who does (this is where the community comes into play again!) We have the ability on our site to ‘automate’ the downloads of people’s orders. We choose at this time not to do it. Sometimes people may have to wait an hour or so if I am at the store or gym for me to send their patterns this way, but I do type a little note of thank you to each and every order that is sent, offering assistance if it is needed. On the busy days this keeps me at the computer much of the time, and I realize that one day it may not be possible to do this, but I will continue to do this as long as I can because I want someone who purchases a pattern from us to know that good customer services comes with it. It is part of the deal.
These pared down patterns (I am trying not use the term “butchered”) don’t offer customers that chance. I have heard many times of customers who had questions about the designs and called the company, only to get vague answers from their staff – many who have never cut a project in their life – or the quote that I mentioned yesterday. I can only imagine how that would leave a bitter taste in their mouth – not from the company, who washed their hands of any designing responsibility, but for me, who is listed as the designer. I find it funny (odd funny) that my name was left, yet no contact information whatsoever. It is as if they wanted to keep my name there so they could pass the buck for the poor quality of their patterns to me and no other reason. Certainly they didn’t want to give me ‘credit’ for the designs, just use me as the scapegoat.
How is this to make the hobby grow, I wonder? If I were new to scrolling and had one of my patterns in this format, I would be very discouraged and in if I had any trouble at all, I would probably give up. I am sure that many have. While selling these cheapened copies may work for a while, in the long term they can’t be good for the industry as a whole. As I stated above, they probably contribute to its demise.
I did want to mention that not all distributors are like this. I am looking into some new sources to distribute my patterns and I am very encouraged at the prospect. The company I am working with has long been established and has an excellent reputation among customers, designers and in the woodworking industry in general. Reputation is an important thing that needs to be considered. Just like on Ebay when good or bad ratings from former customers, word of mouth reputation should weigh on the reputability of a certain company or organization. This new company that I am working with has been in business for many years and so far as I have been working with them, have put everything in writing and on the table as to what I am to expect from them and they from I. The major issues and many minor ones are all listed so that there is no ‘guessing’ and no games. This is the best way to do things, no matter what business you are in. It not only protects you legally, but it also gives you the confidence that both parties are thinking in the same direction and that everything is on the up and up.
I don’t want people to think that all distributors are bad. I have several good distributors for my patterns that are honest and do a good job at getting my products to many who I am not able to reach. After all, I am only one person (two with Keith! – but still!) As our company grows, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything (marketing, web site, customer service, designing) We need to choose what we will do and relinquish to trusted others some parts of the business as we become larger. There are trustworthy companies that offer a variety of patterns from many designers and are honest and fair. Shopping from them is good, as it saves on shipping costs of going to several different companies if you are looking for a great variety of designs. While I certainly want people to come to me directly, I realize that having these other outlets is both helpful to our company in expanding our customer base, as well as helping the industry as a whole. It can all work well if we all work together.
So those are my thoughts today on it. This is only my point of view. I never said I was a great business person, and perhaps my thoughts are not thinking in the lines of how a business would be the most prosperous. But that is OK. If that is what it takes to be a successful business, I think I will have to figure something else out.
Once again we both want to express our appreciation and thanks for your support. I had seriously considered throwing in the towel, but after seeing the massive support we are receiving from our customers, friends and business colleagues, I realize that it would not be the answer. There are better days ahead and I look forward to them very much.
Besides . . . these kitties need their kibble! :)
These are my kitties in a rare photo where they are all together. They are Coco, Pancakes in the middle and Richard in the back. What do they have to do with this post? Nothing other then they are cute!
Time for me to get back to work! Have a wonderful Saturday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"