I stopped doing craft shows about 18 months ago, the economy was so bad I wasn't making any money at them and in the last show it cost me money, and it was the story with every vendor. I have a friend who has sold a lot of my things via word of mouth so I know my things are good and saleable. But those sales are a drop in the bucket. I see so many things on ebay that have no bids on them and I had been successful there a few years ago. I don't expect to make a living off my hobby but I don't want to have it cost me money for a show and I don't want to waste a day sitting there. Are things getting better? It's a gamble but do you think the economy is good enough to go back to the craft-show weekends? I could continue just adding to my inventory until Christmas season gets close and my husband wouldn't get upset about the money I spend on supplies. There is a sign that says "beading is cheaper than therapy" so true!
I'd like to comment more generally on what to do when you're not selling as much as you would like so the answer is timeless. It's important to look at the successes you are having and build on those. For example, you mentioned that a friend has sold a lot of your jewelry via word of mouth. Why not work out an arrangement with her--like a commission on future sales--that can increase revenue? Also, if one friend has been successful at referring sales to you, it's possible you have other friends (and family?) who might be just as persuasive! The social circle is an extremely important way for artisan jewelers like you to get sales and referrals. Don't be shy about tapping those resources, because they can be very successful.
In terms of shows, jewelry artists should avoid low-end shows where discount merchandise is being sold. For example, if the show has more of a "flea market" atmosphere, customers may arrive expecting a bargain. Bargain-hunters are not typically good customers of handcrafted jewelry makers, so make sure future shows you attend have historically attracted buyers who are interested in handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces and are willing to pay a higher price to have something unique and handmade. You might be surprised that many jewelry makers actually wind up selling more when they raise their prices. That's because higher prices often attract an audience willing to pay more for quality.
- Dr. David Weiman
Dr. David Weiman is a respected expert in the field of marketing and selling handcrafted jewelry and a well-read contributor to Fire Mountain Gems and Beads "Ask the Experts". He is the author of Introduction to Marketing and Selling Jewelry, The Jewelry Selling Answer Book and The 5 Keys to Selling Handcrafted Jewelry. A free newsletter on selling handmade jewelry is available at his website: www.marketingjewelry.com.