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sales advice needed!(long)

updated mon 30 jun 97


Kenneth D Westfall on wed 18 jun 97

I'm sure you'll get tons of different points of view...each of us has
learned the ropes of crafts fairs the hard way...blood, sweat, tears and
no gas money home! If, as you said, your display is professional
looking, your pieces are finished, and your prices are reasonable, then
those fairs are probably just not the "right" fairs for you. It <>
be just that simple. We've done a lot of fairs one or two times, then
dropped them, because sales didn't get any better. Eventually, we've
found two or three really good fairs which require several months'
production time to build enough inventory to do well. Our rule of thumb
is "if you want to sell $5000, then take at least $10,000 in inventory".
And, yes, there are shows out there that are the right market for your
work, which can make those kinds of dollars for you. But, you won't
likely find them overnight. You should make some weekend trips to look
at fairs which you are considering applying to, and then decide whether
you want to apply. Being a "fairgoer" can help you see if your work
would be out of place at that particular fair. If your pots are
'country', then a 'modern' or 'designer' show will probably not be the
right place for you to sell well.
However, sales aids can make a difference, such as signage pointing out
specific selling features ( for our ^10 functional stoneware, we have
signs pointing out that everything is oven, microwave and dishwasher
safe, as well as lead free), do you accept Visa or Mastercard? If so,
tell it to the potential customer with signs. The same about personal
checks. ( the point being to make it as easy for the 'customer' to buy
as you can, and still protect yourself) Display aids such as flowers(
real ones) in vases, wire wisks in mixing bowls, fruit in bowls, etc. can
really add to the warmth of your display, and interests the customer long
enough to engage them, and it gives them ideas as to how "they" can use
your pots!
Regarding wholesale...everyone does this differently. We live in WV and
our retail prices are not as high as they could be, if we were selling in
a larger market. But, we make a healthy living on the pots we make, but
this did not happen's taken 10 years to build a very
stable customer base, both wholesale and retail. We set our wholesale
price at 30% off our retail. That's it...our wholesale price is the same
for every wholesale account. (ex: $20 retail pot sells at $14
wholesale) If the shop we sell wholesale to marks up more than 30%,
that's fine with us...they have to decide at what price they can move an
item and make enough profit for their shop. We do watch that shops
aren't marking up so much that they can't move pieces, and if that seems
to be happening, we talk to the shop about the issue, but they still have
the final say. We may choose not to sell to a shop again if we don't
feel they are displaying the pieces well, or are not representing us in a
way we find agreeable. If you decide to sell the rice bowl, for
instance, at wholesale to that shop...decide what price "you" need for
the piece, and don't be sucked in by the 'quantity means I can sell each
one cheaper' lure. If that shop orders 20 now, and they sell well, and
they re-order 50, and then another 60, etc., then you'll be losing $ time
and again. Your time is worth $ and you can't give things away! But,
be reasonable. AND don't give "open account" unless you've checked the
shops' credit history! Just because you want to sell, doesn't mean you
should take foolish risks. If you can't afford to lose it, don't gamble
with it.
Prepare a Retail Price Sheet and a Wholesale Price Sheet and have copies
available to hand out, upon request, at fairs. Many "interested" shops
never call back. So, don't get discouraged by, what we call 'be-backers'
and don't start to knock yourself and/or your pots. But DO listen to
what potential customers' comments are, because, it never hurts to see
things from the consumers' point of view, if you want people to buy...but
you don't have to make every item people suggest to you, either! If
people are asking for pink, and you hate pink, then you probably
shouldn't make pink. But, if you never thought of making pink, then give
it a could be the ticket!
In the early days we spent many drives from 6-10 hours away from home
hashing out "what we did wrong" and "why didn't we sell very much" and
beating ourselves up, when we had not done anything wrong, and we had
good pots, but the fair wasn't right for us. We do poorly at fairs that
don't have and admission fee, generally speaking. Beware of fairs that
have really long hours, like 10am to 10pm, they tend to draw a street
crowd that has little interest in buying, they're just out to look
around. Too much food or music, and people spend all their $ on food and
they have none left for pots! So, keep trying and do a bit of fair-going
yourself!( as a tourist)
Good Luck, and if you'd like more (isn't this too long already), then you
can mail me directly at
Tracey Westfall

Kenneth D. Westfall
Pine Hill Pottery
Don't get stuck in the mud pies K&T