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What Sells The Best?

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Forum topic by Mean_Dean posted 08-15-2012 09:10 PM 17743 views 3 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mean_Dean

1572 posts in 1832 days


08-15-2012 09:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey Guys!

I am wondering what woodworking products sell the best, in your experience. What in your experience are the most profitable items to sell?

I am thinking of building and selling adirondack chairs in the summer, and maybe smaller boxes for fall/Christmas season, but would greatly value your input on which items to work on. I’d like to launch my business soon, and get it off to a running start!

Thank you very much for any help you can give!

-- Dean


22 replies so far

View Doss's profile

Doss

779 posts in 950 days


#1 posted 08-15-2012 09:44 PM

Wooden boats sell great in the summer. The bigger the better. Decks too… offer free shipping.

In the fall and winter, I like to build firewood. I can sell truckloads of it.

Seriously though, what kind of question is this? I mean, you’re asking potential competitors (not that any of us really compete in our respective marketplaces even though there are thousands of us) what took them a while to learn and what may be their bread and butter… literally.

Build what makes you happy and what you is in your skillset and hope that the market wants to buy it.

Being that you build Adirondack chairs and boxes, I’m pretty certain both of those should sell well enough. Even the birdhouse you build should sell pretty easily. Maybe turn pens? Wooden toys? Tables? Chairs? Benches? Cabinets?

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

7715 posts in 2333 days


#2 posted 08-16-2012 03:53 AM

Well, gift items are not a bad niche to operate in. They tend
to be small, shippable and of course you can tweak your designs
to hit price points like under $50, $50-$100, $100-$200 and
so forth.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

14555 posts in 1023 days


#3 posted 08-16-2012 04:34 AM

It can vary so much from show to show. I have had items I was going to discontinue all of a sudden sell out at a show. If there is anything of mine you like I would be glad to give instructions. More than anything try to be practical & unique. Does no good to sell the same items as everyone else.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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Richforever

739 posts in 2405 days


#4 posted 08-16-2012 04:46 PM

My suggestion: know what a specific market wants to buy. It is usually a feeling. For example, lawn furniture that you build might be the feeling of sharing summer evenings with the family. Folks who value family time together would pay a lot of money to get that feeling. Make it known to that market in places where they buy that same feeling. For example, family theme parks or camp grounds would be good places to advertise the selling of “family time together”.

Hope this helps.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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Puzzleman

341 posts in 1629 days


#5 posted 08-16-2012 05:30 PM

I can tell you that I sell tons of puzzles. and I do. However, I have a passion for making puzzles, high quality work and a devoted customer base built through many years of shows, emails and websites.

What sells for me may not sell for you. Sell what you like and your passion will show through when you sell.
Another tip is to find where your customers are. Not every show will be right for you as not every show is right for me.

The best answer to your question lies inside of you.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler, http://www.hollowwoodworks.com

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Puzzleman

341 posts in 1629 days


#6 posted 08-16-2012 05:31 PM

I can tell you that I sell tons of puzzles. And I do. However, I have a passion for making puzzles, high quality work and a devoted customer base built through many years of shows, emails and websites.

What sells for me may not sell for you. Sell what you like and your passion will show through when you sell.
Another tip is to find where your customers are. Not every show will be right for you as not every show is right for me.

The best answer to your question lies inside of you.

-- Jim Beachler, Chief Puzzler, http://www.hollowwoodworks.com

View AKSteve's profile

AKSteve

441 posts in 988 days


#7 posted 08-16-2012 05:45 PM

If you just want volume then small boxes, Canes, things like that will probably put some food on the table quick, but that is the market you might end up getting stuck in, if that is what you like then go for it.

I am going to open my own business but I am going to make it high end, I am making furniture with nothing but hand tools and I am coming up with my own designs, and then I am going to put completely ridiculous prices on them and sell them to very rich people. that way I can work on one project for a very long time and still have money to back me up. :)
Yeah okay it’s crazy but that is the plan, I will probably fall on my face but it will be awesome to try.

-- Steve - Wasilla, Alaska

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richgreer

4524 posts in 1760 days


#8 posted 08-16-2012 07:53 PM

Let me preface this by saying that I no longer do woodworking for money. I did at one time when my wife owned a flower shop. Her shop gave me a good place to market my goods and I did reasonably well.

I think the key question is not just “what sells” but rather, “what sells at a price that gives you a reasonable profit”. In my experience, you need to be able to produce large quantities efficiently. I had good luck with pens. I made them in batches of 12. Once you get some skill you can make 12 pens in less than 3 hours. In general, I could use $6 – 12 in material, 10 – 20 minutes of labor and sell for $20 – 50. You eventually learn what sells and what does not.

I quickly learned that producing items on a mass production basis is something I don’t like to do and, so, I don’t do it any more.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Doss's profile

Doss

779 posts in 950 days


#9 posted 08-16-2012 08:00 PM

Rich, you bring up a great point. There are many parts of the process that you have to consider when planning a business around woodworking (or anything in general). A lot of people find that they can’t produce enough of a product to meet the expected prices of those products in today’s market place or they can’t find enough customers to pay for their higher priced (possibly higher quality), lower volume products.

An example: I asked a friend to produce a piece of furniture I designed. I wanted low volume (about 100 units) and his company already specializes in making similar items. When I told him what price point I wanted and how many I wanted to produce, he said it wasn’t possible because I wasn’t making enough of them to turn a profit for myself or his company even though the price of materials and labor was well below the selling point. He said the minimum quantity they’d start at just to make it worth our while would be 10,000.

Now, that highlights a common problem many of us face when building items: What the user is expecting to pay and what you can expect to charge. Will that even make enough money to do this for a living?

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View waho6o9's profile (online now)

waho6o9

5068 posts in 1262 days


#10 posted 08-16-2012 08:36 PM

“I am going to open my own business but I am going to make it high end, I am making furniture with nothing but hand tools and I am coming up with my own designs, and then I am going to put completely ridiculous prices on them and sell them to very rich people. that way I can work on one project for a very long time and still have money to back me up. :)
Yeah okay it’s crazy but that is the plan, I will probably fall on my face but it will be awesome to try.”

Very good Steve. May you have continued success and take any doubt you might have and
discard them.
Positive thoughts equal positive results.

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5386 posts in 1917 days


#11 posted 08-16-2012 08:47 PM

I need to clean my glasses. When I first read the title to this thread I thought it said…

“What Smells The Best?”

Not from my own shop, but I have done some building for some fund raisers for the church’s benevolence ministry with other men from my church. Napkin holders, paper towel holders, banana hangers, cutting boards, key boards, and scrolled Christmas ornaments have all sold out every time we put them out at the fund raiser sales.

Book stands, laptop desks, candle holders, and Bible boxes have been total dogs sales wise…

I think pricing / cost may have something to do with it, and of course YMMV…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View CplSteel's profile

CplSteel

142 posts in 849 days


#12 posted 08-17-2012 05:01 AM

The problem people are hinting around, but not spelling out directly is that you cannot compete toe to toe with a major manufacturer which you are not. To put it another way, 100 years ago people bought a table. One, and it cost a lot, it was well built and they took care of it. When my grandfather bought his house it took him 10 years to buy furniture for it. They had empty rooms for years because they could not afford furniture, that would never happen now. You cannot afford to make a dining set for anything close to what Sears, Ikea Macy's) charges for one. The links are to random dining room sets, consisting of a table and 6 chairs.

Sears and Ikea are around a $700 price point, Macy’s (which some may consider high end) is around $2,000. At Room and Board chairs 6 chairs will run you at least $600, and more likely $1,800 while a table be $1,500. DWR can run you $6,000 easy. Some of those pieces are solid wood, but even at the higher margins you will find veneered OSB or perhaps torsion boxes on legs.

If a consumer looks at a $1,500 table and thinks “I can buy a dining room set for that” then they can’t afford to buy anything from you. (Yes you can build boxes and pens but again, the volume you have to put out to make a living like that, as opposed to a hobby, is a tough road. Not that there is anything wrong with making some money as a hobby.)

You can’t compete, even with the expensive end. You have to charge more then high end retailers if you want to make a living in this business. Now I am sure that there are some out there who can get buy without charging hundreds of dollars per chair. For the most part, customers, even high end customers, won’t pay that much for custom furniture (they will for built ins, which is part of the reason cabinet makers are far more prevalent than furniture makers, mdf is another reason).

Lets say you can build and finish a table in a week and a half. Give yourself another week each month to cover marketing, bids, bills, taxes, maintenance etc… which means that you can build two tables a month. Call it $5,000 per table, 50% overhead in materials, supplies, tools amortization, rent, insurance, utilities, marketing, etc… and you are making about $60,000 per year, assuming you can find 24 people each year that want a $5,000 table. I am not saying it can’t be done. Some do it, I know one or two of them, but it is not easy and you will need help, through networks of people that can find you business.

-That’s enough from me.

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

1572 posts in 1832 days


#13 posted 08-17-2012 06:23 PM

Hi Guys,

Thank you all very much for your carefully considered responses!

I was just looking for some simple advice, and it’s turned into quite a great discussion. I guess what I’ve learned is that there is no simple answer to this topic. I’m going to re-read each response, and soak up as much from each of them as I can.

Woodworking is my passion, and I’ve always believe you should follow your passion. Wishing us all success!

-- Dean

View CplSteel's profile

CplSteel

142 posts in 849 days


#14 posted 08-17-2012 08:24 PM

I apologize for my post above. I typed it on a new toy (iPad) and I am not thrilled with the results. Please forgive the errors that make it hard to read.

Mean_Dean – taking the time to come up with a plan and write it out is probably the best thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to take a risk so long as it is a calculated risk. Good luck and let us know how it works out.

View rum's profile

rum

148 posts in 1271 days


#15 posted 08-17-2012 09:51 PM

My theory (yet to be fully proven :D) is that as a craftsman you can sell things people WANT but not strictly things people NEED (don’t confuse this with utilitarian vs non-utilitarian items, people can want things they use – they are just generally “rarer” or “more special” than things people need). The reasoning is that if its something people NEED (and that’s the only reason they buy it) you’re already out competed by the big boys who will simply bury you. If you can hit a niche of things people want that is currently poorly served (for whatever definition of “poorly” you choose to use) you may have a fighting chance.

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