Market Tips: When Sales don't go your way

The recession, our economy, lack of income, rising costs – we know the drill and the constant challenges we face!  The bottom line is we all have less and less money! What this means for creatives and crafters selling their wares is usually a decrease in sales. In a recent report I compared sales from markets in 2009 to markets in 2012 and saw a general decline across the board despite the fact that creators and crafters are getting more skilled and local industry is growing.  I have seen this trend amongst fellow market stall holders despite the excellent quality and level of innovation on their stalls.  In the past people could buy several options of the same product whereas now we see them deliberate for half an hour on which one to choose.  The focus – they can only have one!  This is all normal and despite this relatively simple example – there is a bigger picture.  I recently talked to a leading investor and financial manager about how the recession is affecting you and me as well as how long it will continue.  Income is staying relatively the same, but the cost of living is increasing and so the small amount of luxury money we have is getting depleted by responsibilities.  The effects of the recession are set to stay with us for a couple more years so put your creativity to good use!  Creativity often blossoms from the most difficult of situations and circumstances.

It isn’t all bad and no…you don’t need to pack up your market stall or give up on your dream just yet.  Let’s chat about a few ways to keep sales going and what to do when your market sales aren’t going the way you had hoped.

Keep Overheads & Costs Low:  All crafters love stocking up on new supplies, but we often get carried away.  I suggest keeping a detailed inventory list in order to know what you have at all times.  Much like the idea of stock take, but rather supply take.  This will decrease wastage and unnecessary buying.

Develop New Ideas and Products:  When in the development phase buy minimums of what you need in order test the idea or concept.  Don’t go ahead and buy meters and meters of fabric and supplies if you don’t know how the idea is going to pan out.  Once you have a successful prototype – take note of what you need and then buy in bulk for production.  No use in buying 20 meters of felt that you are never going to use.

Test Items:  This is strongly linked to the tips above.  If you are concerned about a product being very different to your usual offering – then test it.  Make only a few and see what sales are like, if the product is well received go ahead and plan for production and bigger quantities.

Research Trends:  What is happening in the rest of the world and what is the longevity of a trend?  We all know geometrics are in, but do they fit into your business…is there room for a new trend driven line?  We love local, but in order to succeed we need to branch out and stretch our wings – see what is happening around the world and develop unique ideas based on your findings.  I love looking at the Renegade Craft Fair for inspiration and general direction.

Keep a Record of Sales and Analyse:  Keep a record of what you sell.  I keep a detailed sales sheet at each market to keep track of what I am selling, but also to keep track of my spending on the day.  For example – lunch, juice etc – this all eats (excuse the pun) into your profit.  Compare your records from various markets and understand what the general buying trend is for customers.  Sales always differ and it is hard to pinpoint why one thing sold out one month and didn’t sell even one another month, but careful records can definitely offer long term insight.

Take Photos:  Take photos of your stall once all is setup – that way you can have a visual record of what it looked like.  I always like to go back to photos of past markets especially the good ones and see what worked and how I can improve my setup and layout.

Have a Sale Section:  Some sellers hate the word sale and think that is shows that your products aren’t doing well, but in fact a sale is a positive thing. It opens up space for constant product evolution, change and development.  A small sale space offers the clients with a small budget the opportunity of still sharing in the beauty of your products.  If you don’t like the world sale – work on a creative name instead.  Advertise your sale in your newsletter, on your blog and through social media.

Don’t get Despondent:  Possibly the most difficult of all the things to do especially as an independent business owner.  Times will get better – keep working hard and above all stay unique and original.  Don’t take ideas from fellow stall holders in the hope of improved sales – it isn’t fair and you would hate it happening to you.  It is also important to not blame people.  In difficult times we often like to blame market organisers, but in turn you need to ensure that you are doing your absolute best – I mean really... your best!  If you do have a market related grievance discuss it with the organisers in a friendly, respectful way and come up with solutions together.  Complaining is time wasted – finding a soloution is time well spent!

You aren’t Alone:  Once you realise this you might feel better.  Setup a craft group and meet every now and again to discuss the unique challenges that we face.  I found it so wonderful to chat through our common problems and know that I am not alone.  There are some things that only we understand!  Craft groups can also offer valuable insight into new ways of doing things.  There is strength in collaboration and joining forces.

Lastly – Take a Break:  We live in a busy world and sometimes your imagination just needs a timeout.  Take a month or week off – develop some ideas and before you know it inspiration will be blossoming.

I hope you have found this useful – please feel free to share your tips with me…I would love to hear what you have to add.