Regardless of what type of product you sell, every handmade business goes through a period of slow sales. These tips are here to help, whenever that time strikes.
You’re not alone if you feel your sales drop as the days get warmer and longer. Consumers are outside enjoying the nice weather and going on family vacations.
But you do still have a business to run and can’t abandon it for 3 – 4 months.
Working harder and trying to stay busy also isn’t the solution.
Working smarter and being strategic in the right ways to keep those sales going year round is the way to go. Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1) Get your handmade products into new locations
Although it’s summer in North America, on the other side of the hemisphere, it’s winter. Consider if it would be feasible and profitable to ship your products to a country that doesn’t experience summer at the same time.
Contact boutiques, email bloggers, cross-promote with other handmade businesses and gain new fans on the opposite side of the globe.
Update your website to let new visitors know you ship worldwide, and include new shipping options and costs for those locations.
If connections are hard to come by, paid advertising may help your reach your target market in a new location.
2) Try a different type of event
There are typically many craft shows to choose from during the holidays, but in the summer, you may need to think beyond craft shows.
Explore festivals and markets that happen outdoors.
It’s important to choose events that target people who are a fit for your handmade products and who are likely to shop and buy at the event. A popular festival may seem like a great place to sell your products, but consider the type of people who will be visiting the event, and if they’re likely to shop at it.
A music festival may attract a lot of people, but those people are there to listen to music. They may not spend much time shopping or want to carry around items they’ve purchased.
Each event is different so be sure you take your time and do your research so you can be sure the event will help boost your handmade sales. For a little guidance, check out 10 Red Flags to Watch for when Applying to a Craft Show.
3) Appeal to a different type of shopper
If you do plan to sell at new types of events, consider what type of products will sell well at them. The people who shop at outdoor farmers’ markets and festivals usually have a different shopping mindset than people at a holiday craft show.
They’re typically not ready to drop hundreds of dollars or carry around a big or heavy item for the rest of the day. They’re out to enjoy the weather, eat some food, pick up locally grown vegetables, enjoy some live music, and see what their community is producing.
They will still buy but may be more interested in smaller, lower-priced items.
Don’t get stuck in the “take it or leave it” mentality. If you want to keep your sales going, adjust to your market.
You don’t have to revamp your entire offering. Simply add options that are a better fit for their shopping habits at outdoor markets or festivals.
For example, if I typically make and sell handbags that are $100 and up, I would want to offer products with a lower price point when selling at a farmers’ market. Since I know many people shop for groceries at farmers’ markets, I might create a collection of reusable grocery bags and produce bags. I would keep them on-brand so they look good next to my regular handbags.
If I were vending at a music festival instead, I might offer lower-priced drawstring bags that can be worn as a backpack. These would be an easy purchase for people who need a bag to carry around the items they’ve purchased or to stuff their jacket into when the weather warms up.
You can boost your sales by adding the following types of products to your lineup:
Tweak your existing handmade products to appeal more to the outdoor shopper. Can you make smaller, lighter, easier-to-carry versions of your products?
Can you introduce lines that go with the theme of the market?
For example, fruit & veggie-themed soaps at a farmers’ market or music-themed stationery, or art, or jewelry at an outdoor music festival.
Stay on-brand and true to your signature style by adding your spin to a theme. Otherwise, you risk attracting one-time customers who will struggle to find items to purchase from you in the future.
4) Expand your product offering
Just because you knit wool hats doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel and wait for the weather to cool down to start producing, marketing, and selling again. Explore different types of products you can make that will appeal to your target market throughout the year.
Think of a new handmade product to introduce, pick up a new skill, or find a way to reinvent your existing products to be more appropriate for the summer.
A business that sells scarves and hats in the winter may:
>> Introduce summer-appropriate knitted products such as crocheted swimsuits, knitted bags, of knitted home goods such as washcloths, blankets, throw pillows, etc.
>> Learn to sew so they can stay within the accessory category and make fabric hats or lightweight scarves.
>> Switch up the material and colors they use and make lightweight knit hats for summer. They could swap their website photos of models in parkas for those in a slouchy hat, white tee, and cut-offs.
Explore ideas to see if you can offer anything that will blend with your brand and boost sales in the slower summer months.
Be sure not to go too crazy with different products. Too much selection can actually harm sales.
5) Share your expertise
You’ve undoubtedly built amazing skills perfecting your craft. When it comes to art or online marketing, you don’t need a certificate proving you’re an expert. Experience is proof enough that you know what you’re doing.
If you’re doing something other people want to do, and you’re doing it successfully, they can learn from you.
Write an e-book, create a video course, teach classes, or run workshops to share your knowledge and get paid for it. Take some time to brainstorm what others may consider you an “expert” in and the content you could share that people would be willing to pay for.
You may even consider creating a DIY version of your product.
Package all the materials need to make your most popular item and write clear instructions for each step. Sell the materials, and step-by-step guide as a DIY kit.
6) Attract new social media followers when you’re not selling
Social media is a lot more fun when you’re not trying to sell something. And social media users are a lot more interested in non-promotional content.
Non-promotional content may not result in immediate sales but you may gain new fans, followers, or subscribers because of it. That will come in handy when you are ready to start selling again.
Plus, you will have built trust with new followers because your posts aren’t all about selling your handmade products. They’ll see that you provide quality content and that you really get them.
Let’s say I sell winter hats and my brand appeals to the outdoorsman/woman. During the summer my target market may be going out for hikes, looking for great outdoor spots to visit, or planning camping trips. So instead of trying to show them my warm winter hats, I may share content such as:
- Camping hacks that are lifesavers
- The best hiking trails in my area
- Recipes for granola bars they can pack for hikes
You may even be able to sneak a promotional message in with your non-promotional content, which is a much more effective way to sell. Try the Trojan Horse Technique.
And if you need content ideas for your social media pages or newsletter, check out 365+ Newsletter Ideas for your Handmade Business. (which will also work for social media posts).
7) Run a promotion
I’m not suggesting you drop your prices to boost your handmade sales. I am suggesting you consider running a promotion or sale to either clear out old stock or create some interest in your new stock.
Keep promotions short and sweet. A sale that goes on all summer doesn’t urge anyone to buy. In August, a discount to promote your new fall line that’s valid for one week only will encourage people to buy now.
Don’t treat sale items as less valuable than your full-priced items. Take amazing photos, write powerful product descriptions, and show people what an amazing deal they’re getting. You want the handmade products to look as though they’re worth double the amount you’re charging.
If you’re barely making a profit on your handmade products, you need to first make sure you’re pricing them properly and covering ALL your costs. Then look at ways to lower your costs.
What To Do When Your Prices Are Too High covers the different ways to lower your costs and increase your profits which will come in handy if you want to offer discounts.
You may also be interested in The Success Planner, which will help you get all your business’s numbers and tasks organized and help you reach your sales goals.
8) Create a tradition
Consider if you can offer an exclusive product, deal, or offer that only comes around once a year. Kind of like Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
For example, you may only open your books to custom orders during the summer. Market custom orders as a once-a-year opportunity so people jump at the chance.
If you don’t take custom orders or typically have a bunch of requests for them, consider if there’s another limited time offer you could run. That may be your product in a special color, scent, material, etc. Or maybe it’s your best sale of the year. Or a bundle of products discounted and sold together.
Create a tradition your fans, followers, and customers know to watch for each year and create some hype around it.
9) Target travelers
Many people go on vacations during the summer, so consider if you can create products for people traveling to your city or people going on trips.
What might people visiting your city want to purchase as a souvenir? These types of products would be ideal for selling at summer markets and festivals.
If you’ve priced your products properly, you can sell them wholesale to local gift shops.
Another option is to create products that appeal to people leaving your city on a trip.
- Travel bags (toiletry bags or small bags to sort clothes inside luggage)
- Games that travel well for car or plane rides
- Clothing or accessories that are comfortable for travel (e.g. a blanket scarf that looks fashionable worn as a scarf but can also be used as a small blanket when on a plane ride)
Explore different ideas within your niche and product category that will appeal to your target market.
10) Seek out consignment partnerships
Sales may slow down for you in the summer but they ramp up for many stores. See if you can boost handmade sales by selling your product wholesale to retailers.
But first, you must have your prices set right. Follow this guide.
Most cities have an area that’s great for shopping brick-and-mortar stores. Clusters of boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants create a spot for people to get out and do some shopping, without being cooped up in a mall.
If you haven’t thought about selling through retailers before, Pros & Cons of Selling Through Retailers will give you a good overview, and 10 Steps to get your Handmade Products into Boutiques will help you get there if you decide it’s a fit for you.
- If sales are slow and there’s not much you can do about it, use this downtime to catch up on all those things you’ve been meaning to do. Send thank-you notes to loyal customers, update your website, start your blog and build up content, reach out to other businesses, or organize your craft room. Here are a few tasks you can work on when times are slow.
- Use your efforts wisely. You can’t force people to buy or pay attention to your handmade business. Spending hundreds of hours or dollars on marketing and advertising is going to be a waste of time, money, and effort if people don’t want what you’re selling right now.
- Use this time to start and grow your newsletter list. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your business. Check out:
- How to Start a Newsletter for your Handmade Business (in 10 minutes and for free)
- 365+ Newsletter Ideas for your Handmade Business
- Start to finish guide: How to Start, Send & Grow a Successful Newsletter
Know your customers and your business. Recognize your ebbs and flows so you don’t get discouraged at the same time each year. And don’t be afraid to switch things up and try something new. Slow times are the best times to test out new ideas.
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!