Launching new product collections is really important for a handmade business. They create buzz and give people a reason to buy.
Think about your favorite clothing store.
If they simply carried the same products, day after day and week after week, would you feel any sense of urgency to head in and see what’s new?
Or, if new items randomly trickled in (e.g. one new shirt this week and a new pair of pants two weeks later), would you know when to stop in to check out the newest items?
“We have one new item” is not enough for that store to get you off the couch and heading in to see what’s new.
“Our store just got stocked with a new collection” tells you there are lots of new products for you to shop and that you should get in there to get the first pick of the new products before they’re gone.
When your products don’t revolve around a collection and you’re releasing/listing new items as you make them, it doesn’t create enough interest or urgency to get shoppers coming back to your online or offline store and eager to buy.
Some stores can thrive on a constant supply of new products (e.g Winners, Home Sense, Marshalls). But typically that only works when there’s a lot of demand, the store is fully stocked, and customers know, no matter what, they’ll find something they love. Their customers also know that if they don’t get in and buy today, it’s likely to be gone tomorrow.
So can a business be successful when new stock constantly trickles in?
But it requires an entire business model to be planned around it. (e.g. training shoppers to understand they must check back constantly and buy instantly to avoid missing out)
The easier way for a handmade business to bring shoppers back is to plan collections.
STEP 1 – DETERMINE THE PURPOSE
When you look at bigger retailers, they have a reason for launching a collection aside from: we have some new products for sale.
It may be a collaboration with a celebrity, change of season, an event, etc.
We know that you’re planning this new collection for the holidays, however, what is the purpose of it? Why do people need to buy products from this new line?
Are you creating a collection of products that will make great gifts?
Or is the purpose of this collection to offer products customers will want for themselves?
- Bath & Body – a new line of soaps to add a touch of Christmas to bath time or hand washing time. Or perhaps a bath & body line to help relieve some of the stress the holidays bring.
- Bags & Purses – a new line that incorporates the latest trends through style, or color, or fabric, etc.
- Home décor – decorations, or table settings, or candles, etc. to help customers create the perfect, festive atmosphere in their home.
- Jewelry – a holiday collection to be worn to Christmas parties.
- Children’s clothes – items they’re going to want to dress their kids up in for the holidays.
Define the purpose of your holiday collection.
*If you’re going to create a new collection based on trends, you may be interested in:
STEP 2 – KNOW WHAT YOUR PEOPLE WANT
Now that you know the purpose of your collection, you must be objective:
Is it something your customers are going to want, or is it simply something you want to make?
You must really think like your customers and what they’re going to care about/be looking for.
For example, many people will be celebrating Christmas, but how do your customers celebrate Christmas?
- Bath & body – will your customers appreciate scents that remind them of baking with grandma at Christmas time? If so, what type of desserts were popular when they were kids? Or are they looking for traditional Christmas scents, e.g. the smell of Christmas oranges, peppermint, and cinnamon? Or maybe they want more of a rugged Christmas scent on their hands…like they just came from the forest after cutting down a Christmas tree, or the smell of rum and eggnog.
- Children’s clothes – if your clothes are for getting the kids dressed up for the holidays, what are they getting dressed up for? Photos with Santa? Family photos for Christmas cards? The school Christmas concert?
- Home décor – if your items are for someone to decorate their home for the holidays, what’s their home décor style? Do they want modern Christmas décor or traditional? What type of hosting are they doing? Kids running around, ripping open presents or elegant dinner parties?
- Jewelry – if you’re creating a holiday collection for people to wear to Christmas parties, what type of parties do they attend? Glamorous office parties? Sorority and frat house keg parties? Or family get-togethers at grandmas house?
Or, if the purpose of the products in your collection are to be purchased as gifts; who are the gifts for? Are you offering products that are perfect for the acquaintances in people’s lives (e.g. coworkers, neighbors, etc.) or to show a spouse how much they love them?
Don’t go for the typical holiday-themed products; think about your customers and make them feel you really get them by offering exactly what they need/want.
What is going to make your customers think: I need to buy one now…before it’s gone.
STEP 3 – THINK ABOUT A MARKETING PLAN FOR YOUR COLLECTION
I added this step because it really does help you look at the bigger picture and ensure you’re not simply making for the sake of making.
Don’t assume that posting pictures of your new products online or setting them on a craft fair table is going to be enough to sell them.
Think about how you’re going to INSPIRE people to visit your craft show booth or visit your online store.
Most businesses are going to be launching holiday collections, so why is yours the one they “must-see”?
- How will your social media posts change to catch followers attention? (Check out this tip to get your posts going viral)
- What will your newsletter subject line be to get people to open your email? Need help with that? Tons of ideas can be found here
- What will your customers say to their friends about your collection? E.g. You’ve gotta check out this ______ because __________.
- What story would you pitch to the media when sending a press release in hopes of getting an interview or an article written about your business?
When you think about marketing in those ways, it helps you see when there’s a big enough purpose for your collection.
People are NOT likely to:
- Perk up about a product simply because it’s red for the holidays.
- Open an email because the subject line says: New Christmas Collection
- Tell a friend “You’ve gotta check out this soap because it smells like a candy cane!”
- Write an article about kids clothes because they’re red and black buffalo plaid for the holidays.
Think about what might get you to pay attention to a business that’s marketing a holiday collection.
STEP 4 – CREATE A MOOD BOARD
Pinterest is my favorite tool for this. You can create a secret board so competitors can’t see what you’re planning and you don’t throw off the theme of your account (if you use it for business purposes).
I like to start with color. 85% of shoppers say color is the main reason for buying a particular product (source) so you should plan colors accordingly.
Before I started planning collections, I would buy material based on fabric I liked and its price. That created a range of products in a variety of colors.
Instead, try choosing 2 or 3 colors that look great together and tell a story.
If your collection has a lot of products, you may want to choose up to five colors. However, the more colors you add, the less obvious the color story becomes.
What do you think of when you see red, green, and white together? Christmas right?
What about orange, burgundy, and deep green? Makes me think of fall.
What about yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple and brown? Probably nothing in particular because there are too many colors.
On Pinterest, search “color palettes” to get inspired. You can even add a keyword you’d like to plan your collection around, e.g. “holiday color palette”, or “winter color palette”. Or perhaps you want to evoke cheer; try “cheerful color palette”. Or maybe you want to help people escape the cold of winter; try “warm color palette” or “beachy color palette”.
After colors are chosen, think about patterns, textures, styles, etc. to get the whole look, feel, and vibe of the collection.
Always keep the end customer in mind. Who is going to be wearing, applying, or consuming the products? What type of home are your products going to be displayed in?
Make sure you stick to their style when designing your collection.
STEP 5 – MAKE IT PROFITABLE
A new collection must make you money.
Source your materials and determine the cost, as well as how many products you can make from those materials.
But don’t stop there.
Consider how much money you must spend to market and sell those products. For example:
- Will you need to spend any money on promoted social media posts? How much?
- Will you be selling at any craft shows? How much will table fees be?
- How much will Etsy listing fees be?
Now think about how much time you will need to market and sell your new collection. For example:
- How many hours will it take to create, tag, and package those products?
- How many hours will you spend posting them to Facebook, Instagram, or sending out newsletters?
- How many hours will you spend setting up, selling, and taking down your craft show display? Or photographing, uploading photos, and creating Etsy listings?
- How many hours will you spend waiting in lines at the post office during the holidays to ship those products out?
Multiply your estimated hours by your hourly wage (how much you’d like to be paid per hour for your time).
Based on the money you must spend (including your hours worked multiplied by your hourly wage) and how many products you can make, market, and sell with that time and money, how much must you charge for each product to earn ALL that money back, and then some?
Make sure the price makes sense for the value you’re providing. Will consumers gladly pay your prices or will they seem overpriced?
If it doesn’t, work your numbers.
Can you buy your materials in bulk to save on money?
Can you speed up production?
Can you speed up marketing tasks? Here are 5 ways to market your holiday products
If you don’t earn back more than the money you spent, you’re not profiting.
If you have the time, you can follow these 3 steps to determine if your new products will sell, before you pour time and money into making lots of them.
STEP 6 – KEEP IT SELLING
How will items within your collection work together so people are likely to purchase more than one product?
Although I always warn against trying to offer too much variation (just look at how this jam vendor increased sales by 27% simply by limiting selection), it is important to have enough variation that you’re not limiting purchasing.
Don’t stop people from spending more money with you by not giving them options to spend their money.
Someone is not likely to buy 5 different necklaces for someone, or for themselves (or 5 bars of soap in different scents, or a purse in different colors, etc.). But they might purchase a necklace as well as earrings and a bracelet that work with it (or the bar of soap, lotion, and bath gel, or the purse, matching travel case and coin purse).
As long as you think about how products will work together, your selection shouldn’t get out of control.
It’s when you start thinking: I can paint and sew and bake, so I’m going to offer paintings, quilts, and my famous Christmas cookies… that you run into trouble.
Those items don’t work together and no one thinks of Christmas cookies when picking out a painting for their living room.
Make sure there’s a strong theme and connection between products.
You also want to keep budgets in mind, especially around the holidays.
The idea is NOT to appeal to everyone’s budget; but rather to appeal to everyone within your niche.
If you’re selling high-end luxury jewelry, you should NOT make a $5 necklace just to appeal to a wider range of budgets. However, if your average item is $75, you may add a lower-priced product that sits in the $40 – $50 range. That may be out of budget for some people but on the low end of your customers’ budgets.
Or you may offer add-ons that allow a customer to bump up the value of their purchase. For example, an additional $20 to engrave or stamp a message to the back of a piece, or $10 to gift wrap a purchase.
At Christmas time, I like to think about the types of gifts people typically buy, or the types of people they buy them for and the budget they may have:
- Stocking stuffer – small budget
- Secret Santa gift – bigger budget
- Santa gift – biggest budget
- Acquaintance – small budget
- Family member – bigger budget
- Spouse – biggest budget
Now, keeping your customer in mind, you can create a range of gifts with varying prices that fit within a range.
STEP 7 – PRESENTATION
Collections make it much easier to create your craft show display or create product groupings online.
First, think about who is going to be buying your holiday collection.
If your products will be purchased and worn/used/displayed/etc. by the same person, that’s who your online or offline store should be designed for.
If your products will be purchased by one person and then gifted to someone else, your online or offline store must speak to two people:
- The one who’s buying
- The one who’s receiving
Your display must be strong enough to convey your collection’s message and make the buyer think: That is SO Kelly.
But it also must say: This will make a great gift.
When you’re creating, you must think about the end-user. That will ensure all the pieces in your collection scream: perfect for someone (e.g. perfect for Mr. Fix-it Dad, perfect for trendsetting Kelly who loves bold colors, etc.)
When you’re thinking about your display, think about how you can communicate your message (e.g. I make the perfect gift for handyman Dads).
Online, I suggest reorganizing your categories or adding a new one (e.g. Gifts for Dad under $50, Gifts for Dad under $20, etc.) and thinking about product photos.
What type of background, lighting, props, or editing can you use to also communicate your message?
This article may help you with your photos:
At a craft show, you must think about your backdrop (e.g. tablecloth), props, signage, etc. that will help communicate your message.
You may also get some prop ideas from:
And don’t forget to think about the proper layout that helps people flow through your space (even if it’s an 8-foot table) and encourages purchasing:
This free email challenge will help you design a craft show display that communicates your message.
Follow the step-by-step plan in this article to stay on schedule, once you make your plan.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE TIME TO CREATE A COLLECTION?
If you’re reading this article in the middle of November, or earlier but you just don’t have time to plan, produce, market, and sell a new line of products, you can still boost sales.
You’ll like the ideas in this article to help you MAKE LESS BUT SELL MORE.
And remember, it’s more than just what you sell; it’s about the experience you create for holiday shoppers. Here’s how to create an amazing one, while working with what you have.
You’ll also find some helpful tips here: 3 WAYS TO BOOST SALES FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Are you going to get to work on your holiday collection? Feel free to share it in the comments 🙂
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!