Shoppers don’t head to a craft fair with the intention of insulting the artists. They’re usually just asking a question they see no harm in asking. So this article is not to shame anyone who’s uttered the words below to a vendor.
Rather it’s to point out to small business owners that just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to cater.
Consider your business’ goals, values and message before agreeing to something. For example, if you want your work to be valued, viewed as high-end and raise awareness about the importance and costs of using ethically sourced materials, don’t hand out discounts anytime a shopper asks.
Being flexible is a perk people love in small businesses. So you don’t necessarily need to say no to the scenarios below but you do need to put your business first. If you’re going to alter your designs to suit a customer, drive across town to drop off a purchase or rush to fill an order by someone else’s deadline, put a price on the extra work.
When you’re willing to make a sale at any cost, you’re sending a message to yourself and your customers that you don’t believe your products will sell on their own. Have confidence in your business and know if you take pride and believe in your work, others will too.
This question is often asked at street markets where there aren’t doors that stay closed until start time. I’m not sure where the logic comes in, thinking purchasing before opening warrants a discount. It’s more of an inconvenience to the vendor to stop in the middle of their setup, dig out their cash box and conduct a sale. If the event allows and you’re willing to, processing a transaction before you open is accommodating enough; you don’t need to hand out a discount as well.
A retailer would almost never open their doors early to allow a shopper to come in and shop because they’re in a rush. And if, under very special circumstances, they did allow it, they certainly wouldn’t be offering a discount.
Sometimes we overhear a shopper asking a friend if they can make an item you’re selling. That’s just wrong. But sometimes they’re bringing a photo of someone else’s work to you and asking if you can replicate it. If you’re in the business of taking custom orders, this may not be a huge issue but remember you are the artist and people are interested in your designs, not how well you can copy someone else’s.
If someone is looking for a friend to make the items they’re shopping for, what are they doing at the mall in the first place? And unless you’re at a store that offers customization, you would never hear a shopper ask if a retailer could make the exact item another retailer carries. Why wouldn’t they purchase it from the original retailer? They’re most likely looking for it at a cheaper price. If that’s the case, they won’t be a loyal customer to the brand and their products.
This question isn’t a problem if they’re genuinely interested in the process. But it becomes a problem when they’re looking for details so they can make it themselves. Determine which details are selling points and which are trade secrets and be okay telling people you unfortunately can’t share certain techniques.
Retailers would never give away their trade secrets. They put in a lot of research and manpower to turn their operation into a well-oiled machine. If someone else wants to build a business to the same level, they need to put in the hard work and find their own way.
Again, if you’re open to taking custom orders, this question is not an issue. But do consider if the materials will cost you extra and the time it takes to source them and make alterations.
If you’re not set up to take custom orders, don’t let a simple question make you feel pressured into taking them. I strongly disliked the work customization added. It involved extra trips to the fabric store, double the communication, sometimes drafting new patterns and I was always left with materials and designs I wouldn’t use again. But I would feel guilty saying no to a customer, end up caving and then resenting the order. Had I set a strict “no custom orders” policy from the start, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration.
It’s okay to have shoppers choose from the selection you brought. They do it all the time at the mall and will understand. They may ask a retailer if an item comes in another color but if it doesn’t, they don’t expect the sales associate to whip one up.
Some shoppers may not understand the cost of buying handmade, in which case, they’ll be shocked at all the vendors’ prices. If you happen to be selling items that are higher than the typical craft fair item, explain why your prices are higher. Use signage to state the organic and ethically sourced materials you use or share the amount of time you spend on each piece so they understand the value they’re getting. One person’s opinion of your prices does not mean they’re not worth the price you’ve set.
People don’t walk into Tiffany’s and gasp at the prices. Tiffany & Co. has branded themselves as a high-end jeweler and educated people on their prices. Every detail right down to the little blue box and white ribbon tell customers their products are worthy of the price tag.
You may consider the option of dropping an item off to save your customers shipping costs or to get it to them faster. But instead of a postal service driving across town, searching for the right address, burning gas and adding miles to their vehicle, it’s you. Be sure those costs aren’t coming out of your pocket.
I haven’t personally shopped at a retailer that has offered to deliver a product not in stock. The most they’ll do is use their computer to look up which stores in the city have my size and it’s up to me to pick it up. If a retailer does offer delivery, it’s through a postal service and I’ll be paying for any shipping, handling or custom fees.
If you’ve been in business long enough to operate through the holidays, you’ve dealt with last minute shoppers. They need an item and they need it before Christmas. I would make myself miserable trying to take on as many orders as I could to bring in enough revenue to get me through slow times in Jan/Feb. I didn’t even allow myself time to enjoy the holidays.
The better plan is to set a sales goal for Nov/Dec and make enough stock to hit it. You’ll feel less pressured to say yes to every potential sale that comes your way, knowing you have what you need to meet your goals.
Christmas is the busiest time for retailers and they’re focused on making hay while the sun shines. Yes they want to help people complete their shopping lists but they’re not going to throw their operation out the window and neglect other shoppers to cater to one person who waited until the last minute. It’s first-come, first-served and every man for
themselves during holiday shopping 😉
If an employee at a retailer said yes to any one of these questions, they would likely be written up or fired for giving a “just because” discount. Even managers weren’t at liberty to hand out discounts in the stores I worked at. Unless an item was damaged, the price was the price and shoppers could take it or leave it.
I’m not in favor of giving discounts just because. Although I’ll admit, I did allow myself to feel pressured into taking money off for those who asked but I almost always regretted it. What did work for me was setting a Friends & Family discount for people I knew. If someone I didn’t know asked for a discount and I felt it was appropriate, I would offer to give them the Friends & Family discount. This gave me a set percentage to apply and ensured I wasn’t being talked into a discount I wasn’t comfortable with or discounting myself out of a profit.
If you define the scenarios you will and won’t discount and the percentage you’ll deduct, you’ll have an easier time responding when you’re put on the spot.
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy these reads: