Or "The tale of the Petone Indoor Markets"
Let me tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin!
Planting the seed
An idea germinates; organisational therapy; a search for a venue; defining the market; what a response!
In early 2017, it came to my attention that there really weren’t any craft events in Lower Hutt, particularly in winter. It was, of course, essential for them to be indoors, and so the search for a suitable venue began. I made a call-out for interested stallholders, to gauge interest (which would influence the size of the venue), and began hunting.
Initially, I had intended the event to be something small, where I would offer coaching to my Copper Catkin Consulting students, and they would be able to have a go in a low-pressure market environment – but the idea blew up! The levels of interest were definitely high enough to justify the event, so I began to plan.
With Copper Catkin, we attend a great many markets and fairs throughout the year, and we consistently sell several hundred dollars of stock at every market, even the very quiet ones. If there are people at the market, we give them every opportunity to take home some Copper Catkin goodness, and many of them take us up on the offer.
We look around us and see that many other makers are struggling to do the same, so here are a few quick tips.
Am I doing something wrong?
Is it me? Is it my display? Is it my products? Is it my prices? Is it this market?
It could be any of these, all of these, or none of these.
Let's work through and see what could be happening.
The times, they are a-changing
Well, first of all, times have changed. Back in the halcyon days of Wellington markets, there wasn't much competition - there weren't as many markets, there weren't as many quality makers, and there were a lot of people who loved supporting local crafters.
Wellington is suffering from market fatigue - we have lots more regular markets, and they take the shine off the excitement of the event.
Market organisers are also letting quality makers down by allowing imports and low-quality stalls to undercut their handmade prices, and customers are no longer educated about the cost of handmade. Add that to the proliferation of small events splitting the skilled maker-base across too many locations, and adding opportunity for the lower-quality products to find spaces, and the experience as a whole becomes very diluted and same-same.
Add that to the fact that we simply don't have enough people in New Zealand, let alone Wellington, to support the number of events, and you can see why sales are slipping.
If only we could support events the size of the Oregon State Fair, for example!
Everyone is "making to sell"
There is a huge fashion at the moment for people, especially stay-at-home parents, to "make a little something" to help with household costs and alleviate the tedium of being stuck at home with the kids - "I have so much time now that I'm not working (of course this is tongue-in-cheek)"... And there are so many kits out there that people think it's much easier to make things with skill than it really is. Who hasn't heard "oh I could make that!" at a market?
This fashion for making low-quality goods and selling them cheaply because "it's just a hobby" hurts those who make quality goods, because everyday customers can't tell if you used $2 essential oils or made your own from the plants and flowers you grow - and they don't care. They just look at the prices and go for the cheapest.
MLMs are also major culprits - when a maker is competing against a reseller, who not only has to make very little effort to create their products, but who also receives training in professional stall display and sales, the winner is generally the MLM seller. Customers also gravitate towards recognised brands, so if "Lucy's handmade lotions" is competing against Nutrimetics, for example, most customers will choose Nutrimetics.
Wallflower sales techniques
Do you sit behind your stall mournfully, and hope that someone will notice and like your creations?
Are you embarrassed to tell people about what you have made?
Do you take along something to make so that you have an excuse to avoid eye-contact with customers?
This simply does not work. If you believe in your work enough to try and sell it, then SELL it. Engage, with customers, give them an excuse to spend money with you! Sitting and hoping will only work with a very few customers - most of us need help massaging the money out of our hands and into your pocket. Help us buy the thing we like by asking for the sale! We will actually be grateful, most of the time, because we want it but, in this economic climate, we need to justify it. Make the justification for us, and we will do the rest.
What's your number one product?
If you said anything other than "me", you are wrong. Why would I buy from you, when I can get it from Jenny next door, or online, or... BECAUSE I AM BUYING THE EXPERIENCE. Art is a package, and you have crafted something that will uplift me - because I am supporting a local maker, because I am buying something handmade, because what I buy is a part of a person who is telling me all about how it was created. When I look at that bowl, or I use that bath bomb, or I wrap that painting as a gift, I am thinking about you, the maker, and I am enjoying the extra buzz of connecting with the creator of this beautiful, practical, helpful, magical thing.
So don't slouch grumpily behind your stall if it's a low day, work harder! Project your joy that someone might want to buy something you have made! DO NOT COUNT YOUR TAKINGS, count the compliments and positive reactions. While you are at the market, you are NOT here to make money, you are here to spread joy. Change your mindset, push the energy to max, turn up that smile to 11. Really make people feel like they are the reason you are here - you want to share this thing with them, specifically, because they are important to you, and you are so happy that they are there.
This is called the "opening night" principle. For every theatrical show, the opening night is the most important - everyone puts all their energy into it. The second night is always flat, as a result. Every single customer should experience opening night with you - so by the time the market it over, you should be exhausted. That means you did it!
First impressions MATTER
We have talked about having a positive attitude already - body language is a major way to communicate with your potential customers. Be sure that you are always open and positive.
Even more important than that - have an amazing stall display. Your display should have elements to bait your customer over to check out your products, and hooks to keep them there.
People shouldn't have to interact with you in order to understand the basics of what you are selling, so make sure that they can easily identify:
"But I have to update social media!"
If a customer catches you on your phone, be human about it!
Just tell them that you have to keep up with your social media - BUT THAT CAN WAIT, because they are more important. Gauge your customer's reaction - if they look like they want time to browse, simply say that you will go ahead and finish your post, so that you're not hovering. let them know that they can ask questions any time, and make sure that, if they do, you put your phone down immediately and focus entirely on them!
Is it my prices?
It definitely could be.
"This market sucks"
You need at least 3 data points to plot a trend, so you need to attend at least three of those events before you can draw a conclusion.
If you have poor sales three markets in a row, ask yourself these questions:
If you have attended at least 3 events, and all of the above were done well, then think about the location, the skill of the organisers, and whether the audience was appropriate for you.
People simply aren't spending the way they used to, and it's the luck of the draw whether or not you are the lucky person who snags their cash today. In that case, just keep trying - use the markets as free research - ask people what they like, give out surveys, talk to your customer base, and keep improving. If you really want to succeed, you will, but it's hard, hard work.
It comes down to:
But... I don't know how to do these things...
That's ok, Copper Catkin Consulting can help - keep reading!
Finding the right product lines can be challenging - experiment, but be wary of having too many product lines. It looks messy, confuses the customer, and makes it hard to deliver a clear message to potential buyers. "I make a whole lot of jumbled chaos" is never a good message, and regardless of the quality of those items, they will end up looking like a junk stall if you don't edit. Find and refine your products and deliver a clear and punchy brand message, and you will do well.
If you won't price your products so that you are not undercutting other makers ("it's only a hobby" is a terrible excuse, don't do it), stop selling. Seriously, it's not ok to price that low - and it makes everything at the market suspect, because why is your stuff so cheap?
Likewise, if you have to price yourself out of the market to pay yourself appropriately for the work, you need to find a different product, or change your approach to making it.
Once you have your product and pricing down, you need to work on your brand - which is YOU.
This is where Copper Catkin Consulting comes in.
Brand, display, and sales are firmly inter-connected, and you will not be successful as a seller unless you find a good combination of the three.
Start with our free mini market makeover email series:
We offer a variety of services to help develop and crystallise your brand, so that you know who you are and what you are selling. Your brand is a part of you, and so is its personality. Make sure that your logo, colour choices, branding, display, and products reflect that.
Upcoming classes are in the events tab of our Facebook page - message us to book!
Get in touch so we can tailor a package that suits you!