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Gifts vs Self Purchase

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This year 50% of my studio sales were in Nov/Dec.  Last year 42% of sales during Nov/Dec.   About 75-80% of these purchases were for gifts.

If you are not selling your desired target, you should consider positioning your business as a gift destination.     I do sell some gifts at the two shows I do, but sell more at my free standing retail location.   I think it's possible to sell some gifts at shows, but consider a bricks and mortar space as a supplement.   I have built most of my destination business (which is 80% of my business) from customers that "saw me at Canton" (Canton, MS bi-annual flea market).    You need somewhere to shovel all those customers after the show.  This is where you could do online too.   I refuse to ship pottery.  So  I can't offer much on experience on that.  I do ship jewelry and have gotten most of my online orders from those Canton customers.   Interestingly, the most searched word on my jewelry website is "pottery" .... so I know the demand for online sales is there.

You have to select a location for becoming a gift destination after the show.  Once you have a location, you need to shovel every customer you encounter at shows or other places to that location.  I give away stacks of cards at my shows (remember cards only 2 cents now).    I always have cards and casually hand them out to people I run in to.

Location Options

1.  Free standing retail operation in the location as your studio (my model)

2.  Kiosk - A small selling space in front of or in another business (Mark C uses this)

3.  Space in a vendor, craft or antique mall.   This could be ideal if the venue is a successful retail operation.   One of my clients just sold $20k plus in a vendor mall during December.  You really need to do your research on these venues.   I know of another very successful once a month venue that has an assortment of merchandise where vendors sell $4k and more.

4.  A shared retail space.   I've seen 2 different places where 2 people split a store in my area.   They have their separate registers or use a code like vendor malls do.   I could see where 4 or 5 potters split a retail space.  

5.  Online.    Drive customers to Etsy or your online store. 

Gift Buyers vs Self Purchases

- Most gift buying is driven by price.

- The competition for gifts is just getting them to your store or outlet.  You need to get in their evoked set of gift giving options.  Become one of the "go to" sources for gifts.  Whereas at a show, there are rows of options for competition.

- Gift buyers are less discriminating ... they will buy things that will never be a self purchase.

- Most gifts are "obligation gifts".   They HAVE to get something.  Hate to say it but half the time, they may not even really want to buy a particular gift.  You are providing a much needed service if you can supply gifts in their price range.  Wedding gifts and a lot of Christmas gifts are obligations.   I have a steady wedding clientele.  The great thing here is that wedding gifts are consumables.  The buyer usually doesn't worry about "where they will put it".   And pottery is easily established as the "go to wedding gift".    Buyers usually have a set price.   A lot of them have the same "go to" item for every wedding gift.  My average wedding gift is $50.  Shower gifts are usually $25 to $35.

- Teacher gifts are consumable gifts.   The kids usually have new teachers each year so people will come back year after year.   I find ornaments to fit perfectly for teacher gifts.    I always add a new style or two and change up the colors so in case they still have some of the same teachers (coaches, dance teachers, etc may not change.   My record teacher gift sale this past Christmas was 27 gifts (for 3 kids)

- Dirty Santa gifts are consumable gifts that you can hit almost every year.  Average price varies from $20 to $35.

- Family gifts.    Buyers for family gifts are typically more discriminating than other gifts.  A typical purchase will be a lady buying for her daughters and daughter-in-laws.    Average price here is around $50.   They will buy anniversary,  Christmas and birthday gifts.      I've found I don't retain this customer for more than 2 or 3 sales.  But ... it's a good sale.  Another good family sale is for "all the grand daughters"  I have seen a few women hit all the women in the family with $50 gifts. When they extend to "all the nieces and nephews ", this is usually a $4 to $8 ornament.

AND many gift purchasers do buy something for themselves.  Or send another gift buyer in to get them a desired item.  We have a wish book to record this.







Edited by DirtRoads

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Most Excellent Article, thank you.


I want to add one thing that you touched on.

6 hours ago, DirtRoads said:

I give away stacks of cards at my shows (remember cards only 2 cents now).    I always have cards and casually hand them out to people I run in to.

Before I retired I would tell my sales people never hand out just one business card instead always hand out at least 3 or more cards to each person.  You would be surprised how often those extra cards get pass around to other interested people that would result in more sales.

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DirtRoads, This is a great analysis of gift buyers and their reasons for buying. I especially like your little insight into why it's easier for folks to buy pots for others, rather than themselves - they don't have to have a place  to put it!

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