Friday, July 30, 2010

Summertime Dilemma

I'm in one of those cyclical phases where my sales have been really slow, which tells me I need to work on my Etsy Shop, and post something on my blog,  and post on my Facebook fan page, and swap out work that's been in the galleries for awhile but I just don't feel like it. Sometimes all the shameless self-promotion gets dreary. Therefore, sales are showing the results of my slackness. And since sales are not happening I don't feel like making anything new, either. Nor do I want to buy any supplies. It's a vicious circle that I'm trying to get myself out of. It's so obvious that my personal ambition level directly reflects how fast things move in my business, because this isn't the first time this has happened, that's for sure.

For a while now I told myself that I was on vacation, or at camp for the summer. Excuses like "it's too hot to fire up the kiln, or the torch" have been going through my mind. And I've had company and been out of town a few times. I could fire the kiln or solder in the mornings when it's cooler. But I don't. The continually sucky economy doesn't help, either, but that could be just another excuse. (Or maybe it's that email that I didn't forward bringing me the bad luck it promised!)  How many times do I have to invent new ways to try to sell my work? And I'm tired. I've been in this business for over 20 years and the spartan life and money worries of an artist are wearing on me. Four and a half years until I can retire, not that I'll ever entirely stop making jewelry.

Now I have a great opportunity facing me and if I don't get myself out from under the ceiling fan I'll miss it. I've been approached by a small chain of stores that's locally based and they're opening a craft gallery next to their original store. If it goes well, they'll expand them to more of their stores. This could be a nice windfall for me if I can figure out how to do it.

The dilemma is that they want to buy my work wholesale. I've never done that before because figuring out how to make a profit when selling at half price is challenging. At half of the price I've set I don't make enough profit to make it worth my efforts. If I double the price I've set, things don't sell.  And it's not fair to have the same items priced higher in one store than another one.

Any artist can tell you that they have things that they make a big profit on and things that are less profitable and that in the large scheme of things it all works out. It's all about perceived value. For example, I have a formula that I use to price my work based on the weight of the finished piece. It includes the cost of the materials (mostly the silver), plus the cost of doing business, which includes paying myself for my time. When the calculating is done I'll look at the final number and decide, based on the perceived value of the piece, if the price is too high or too low, and possibly adjust it up or down a little bit. The other thing about perceived value is that, if a piece doesn't sell, sometimes it moves faster if you raise the price rather than lower it. Weird, huh?

So, back to my wholesale problem. The options I'm thinking about are 1) figure out if there's something that I already make that I can let go of for half price or 2) Come up with something totally new just for them that would be easy to make and profitable. Good thing the woman in charge is on vacation this week because I'm still laying on the couch under the ceiling fan thinking about it. If anyone has suggestions about how to get out of a creative funk during the heat of summer with no air conditioning, please let me know. This has got to stop.


Janet Bocciardi said...

Zoe - I "hear" you. My guess is your funk will lift when you figure out what you want to do with this great opportunity. My recommendation would be your 2nd option - make them something that can't be compared to other work you do. This will not only get rid of the problem of pricing discrepancies, but also get your creative juices flowing.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes.


Mitzi Miles-Kubota, Painting and Writing for REAL said...

Honey! Answer #2! Make something you can afford the time to do for less money. Then ultimately the stores may want to spring for some more expensive items. Maybe give that particular line a new "brand name" to differentiate it from your boutique line?

Go get'em! This is a great kind of problem to have!

fredracey said...

I'm so glad to hear of this opportunity for you. Sounds like the kind you've been wanting for many years. I'll bet the stores know their clientele backwards and forewards and they would be the source for a shopper's profile. That could get you going. Or you could do some market research yourself on their stores and who buys there. The stores logo on a medalion springs to mind. Or something that was popular when the store first began-"back to the future." Next time it rains hard, have a brainstorm in the rainstorm and see what pops up. May the thunder beings shower you with many good ideas! You go girl!