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The nursey business is on fire this spring/summer due to gardening/food production during covid times. Its at a all time high my friend in the business says-seeds ran out months ago.Backyard planting took off. It was even writen up in the Washington post . Soil amendment production have not kept up with demand.I'm sure planters will be selling well as well.

Edited by Mark C.
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My frustration is not with the citizens so much as the govening state to state -every one on their own deal. The world wide pandemic needs a at best well thought out science based world response-ok ma

I say “absolutely!”

I'm still fairly inexperienced at selling online. I did my first "real" online sale this morning (meaning it wasn't just a sale of leftover pots from my open studio, these were pots that I made expres

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Posted (edited)

I've been doing more consulting than usual and the outlook is online.     Shipping is hitting Christmas numbers.   The outlook for shows is not good.   "A Christmas Affair", the Junior League show  in Austin, Texas cancelled their 5 day November show.

Here is the plan for Hollydays, Junior League of Baton Rouge:   (Long but some of you might find it of interest.   This has been a major event for over 20 years)   Retail is being SHOVED to online.

Hollydays Merchants:
 
We promised you an update as soon as we had one, so here are a few exciting changes for Hollydays 2020. Because there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the time line of COVID-19, and for the health and safety of our community
, we have made the difficult, but very EXCITING decision to move forward with a Hybrid Hollydays, which includes a virtual market!!
 
We are working tirelessly to build a unique and functional platform that attracts shoppers and merchants alike. See below for a sneak peak of our homepage, which includes pricing and availability:

 
ONLY 200 spots available 
starting at $250 per square. 
 
each square links directly to YOUR e-commerce site

So what are you getting for $250?
 

In addition to heavy promotion on social media and digital platforms, we are leveraging our marketing budget to drive traffic to your e-commerce sites and using geo-targeted advertising to expand your customer base. We truly believe this is an opportunity to build a virtual market that works in conjunction with a physical market to create an immersive shopping experience for years to come! 
 
For those merchants who had already committed to a physical market and paid your deposit, you will be refunded in full and you are not obligated to participate in this virtual option. However, we sincerely hope that you choose to do so! 
   
I'm floored by this ... a Junior League show going to online selling.
Edited by DirtRoads
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I've been doing marketing consulting since 1983 and retail since 1993.   I have never seen such a shift in thinking.   Event retailing is really being pushed.   I've analyzed several market research studies and event attendance intentions has dropped significantly.  (30 to 50%)  Online is EXPLODING.   I'm not sure of the degree to which some events can spring board back to normal, after the Covid is gone.

Bricks and mortar retailing store fronts are condensing.   We will see less retail locations after the Chapter 11's at year end (Limited brands, J.C. Penny's, etc .. list is extensive)   I think store fronts will remain and the remaining stores will fare okay.   I'm seeing enough customers but sales are down because I've lost a lot of my tourist business.   That casino near me still isn't open and Covid is wrecking the Natives ... someone that is Native that I have known most of my life just died at only 71 years old from Covid.   But I'm still pulling down a good profit, with employees laid off drawing unemployment.     I'm writing off the 20% annual revenue I get from my 2 shows as I don't think the October show will go.    My online sales (jewelry only) are way up .. Christmas level (which aren't that much because I don't push that)

We need to share everything we know about online.   I have a great shipping post from another forum.     Can I share it here?

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I can report from the limited scale online sale that I had this past weekend ... my goal was to make the packing process as easy as possible, because that’s the part that I really hate to do. I limited the sale to only 40 small pots, mug-sized or smaller. I only had to order two sizes of boxes (9 inch cubed for one pot, and 9x9x16 for two pots), which totally simplified the box sourcing. And because every item was about the same size, I did not have to spend time mapping out the best load fit inside each carton, because the loads were all very similar. 

In a past online sale, I spent 10 hours packing 35 pots of various sizes, including some that were quite bulky and heavy. This time it only took me 4 hours to pack all 40 of the pots. And it wasn’t mentally exhausting. 

Edited by GEP
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Posted (edited)

I found this to be a great assessment of USPS shipping:

https://www.craftserver.com/topic/113686-usps-shipping/?_fromLogin=1

Another thing I learned is to ship pottery in  double boxes.   And instead of buying 2 boxes, make a box form for the inner "box" with cardboard.   Just wrap it around the item and secure with packing tape.   Make sure this inner box does not use, stuffing with newspaper, peanuts or packing paper.

I use Instagram and Facebook for jewelry sometimes.   I have envelops ready and send first class.     I just use Pay Pal.   All people have to do is email you the email address they use on pay pal.   It's easy and customers seem secure.  You just send pay pal request.  No cc's or anything.  No cart needed either.    I usually number my items A, B, C, etc., and limit it to 5-7 choices per campaign.  Last one I did about a month ago, I sold 27 bracelets.   If you don't sell online, this is an easy way to get started.    Just a pay pal account and an email and you get your money. 

 

 

Edited by DirtRoads
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I only sell items that are of certain dimensions online. I keep 3 sizes of box, and don’t double box, but I do go through a lot of cornstarch packing peanuts. I have a dedicated shipping station with all my needed things to hand, and I can make, load and close a box in about five minutes or less. My next investment will likely be a Dymo printer, so I’m not messing around taping paper shipping labels to each box. So much of pottery is economy of movement, and shipping is no different. Having a dedicated packing station with my online inventory already at it saves a lot of time. 
 

Selling online got a lot easier for me too when I decided to offer a limited number of items only, and make those things specifically for the purpose. 
The shipping is easier, but there are additional benefits in that you can re-use listing copy and just swap out the photos so you’re not spending days trying to describe your work every time you do a shop update. 
 

Other copywriting tips for those who don’t sell online regularly yet: when you get a customer that has a question, save your responses to them so that you can copy and paste for an FAQ section, or for when someone else emails you the same question. It will happen a lot, because some people don’t read your entire website, and some people want your personal attention. Become one with this idea in the same way you become one with smoke bomb questions in your booth. Being irritated with the non-readers does not make them read things. If you’re getting the same question frequently, consider doing a social media post that addresses it. 

I’ve also found online updates are also a lot easier if you treat them like planning for a show. Give yourself a date a month or two out (or however long your prep cycle is) so that you have enough time to make all the work, take photos, acquire shipping supplies, build marketing materials (emails, social posts, maybe ads?) and finally build listings. Two months from now is August. What’s in August that you can celebrate or use as a cheeky thin excuse to have a sale? I have a friend who makes a lot of aquatic animal themed work, so she has a sale or a shop update during Shark Week. That one isn’t going to work for everyone, but there are a million silly days in addition to more recognized ones like Labour Day, or Mother’s Day, or whatever. 

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I think photos also need a mention. I know that a lot of show applications require the gradated grey background, so that’s the default setup for a lot of folks. However, white backgrounds for most of your photos along with one more “lifestyle”’shot for scale reference and inference are shown to convert better for online sales.  Switch your backdrop to a white one, and don’t try and omit all cast shadows. Don’t feel like the background needs to be seamless, unless you love the look or you’re using some images to get into print publications like gift guides. It’s ok to place your items against a white wall. 

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I don't do much in the way of "commercial appeal" work but I want to break even on my pending high-tech lightweight new kiln shelves. I have become willing to do a low-fee local consignment unit in an artisans shop in a tourist area. The owner does all the shipping/advertising/and runs weekly online sales on Facebook. The store is large and attractive;  the merch is typical New England stuff...wood tables w/moose burned in, woven fabric baskets, more lovely handmade earrings than the planet will ever need, etc. .  She has a strong following and so far, so good! I find myself making things like herb markers (so not me!!) and they look quite nice, are not terrible to crank out in terms of repetition (I absolutely hate production-style repetition) and it's providing me with some motivation (always an issue) to do some other targeted items, to go with the seasonal flow. I've even decided to peddle my herb stakes to local nurseries & feed stores.  For me, it is not a shift from shows/fairs (hate 'em) but it is a lazy way out of doing my own online stuff. The real paradigm shift for me is to get myself untangled from some of the art-think that may satisfy my spirit but does little for my bank account. 

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7 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I think photos also need a mention. I know that a lot of show applications require the gradated grey background, so that’s the default setup for a lot of folks. However, white backgrounds for most of your photos along with one more “lifestyle”’shot for scale reference and inference are shown to convert better for online sales.  Switch your backdrop to a white one, and don’t try and omit all cast shadows. Don’t feel like the background needs to be seamless, unless you love the look or you’re using some images to get into print publications like gift guides. It’s ok to place your items against a white wall. 

I actually disagree that potters need to do this. I’m sure the “studies” show that lifestyle photos sell, but they are referring to situations where a customer is looking at your store and still needs to decide whether they are going to buy something or not. The lifestyle photo helps them visualize the item in their own house. I think a far better approach is to have your marketing ducks in a row so that people arrive at your store already intending to buy something, and the job of the photos is to help them decide which one. Therefore the photo only needs to be informational, showing size/color/scale, on a non-distracting background.

When I do online sales, i use my gradient black to white backdrop.  Why? Because it’s right next to my inventory shelves. I have a natural daylight photo stand that takes better looking photos, but it requires carrying pots up a flight a stairs. Not worth it when it comes to online selling, where efficiency really matters! 

As for marketing ducks in a row, I honestly don’t have a big social media presence. That’s not the secret sauce for me. I’m finding that my online customers come from three sources. 1) customers in cities where I traveled once to do a show, but haven’t returned, 2) fans of my blog, and 3) students of my online school. The blog and the online school are focused on helping people become potters and/or professional potters. In other words, my online presence is small but I connect with people in a more meaningful way, compared to the social media scene. 

I once had a great conversation with a potter who has a very famous, almost infamous, online presence. I won’t name drop. But I will describe his online presence as “I’m sharing my expertise in order to help other potters,” and he has spent many, many years of consistent effort building this presence. Again, it’s much more substantial than “look at my pretty pictures.” He doesn’t need an online store or a shopping cart. He just mentions that new pots are available, and email requests pour in. 

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7 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

background

 

There is a Noom weight loss ad on YouTube right now, such an amazing study of visual advertising.

So organized and color coded, it even seems to blend in scene to the next, mauve and brown, brown and Blue, to baby blue...Shapes are consistent and matching too.

I think a "real" background, of thoughtful placement, can sell best.

Some folks really nail it with the right color single flower, leaves...etc 

Sorce

 

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UPS now has flat rate shipping -meduim box (no weight limit) is $13-the only truble is the large box is not very large. Its all done with cubic inches so any box works as long as it under the max inches(no special box size needed)

I never buy packing materials-I always find them for free. I once bought a roll of bubble  plastic about 10 years ago and still have it 

Our local newspaper is no longer printing locally and was giving away paper rolls which I use to pack pots at show and to take to shows.

I got these for free a few days ago-I will drop off  a mug to the women  who I dealt with-these will last a little while-maybe the rest of my career .

 

IMG_3291.jpeg

Edited by Mark C.
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12 hours ago, DirtRoads said:

I found this to be a great assessment of USPS shipping:

https://www.craftserver.com/topic/113686-usps-shipping/?_fromLogin=1

Another thing I learned is to ship pottery in  double boxes.   And instead of buying 2 boxes, make a box form for the inner "box" with cardboard.   Just wrap it around the item and secure with packing tape.   Make sure this inner box does not use, stuffing with newspaper, peanuts or packing paper.

I use Instagram and Facebook for jewelry sometimes.   I have envelops ready and send first class.     I just use Pay Pal.   All people have to do is email you the email address they use on pay pal.   It's easy and customers seem secure.  You just send pay pal request.  No cc's or anything.  No cart needed either.    I usually number my items A, B, C, etc., and limit it to 5-7 choices per campaign.  Last one I did about a month ago, I sold 27 bracelets.   If you don't sell online, this is an easy way to get started.    Just a pay pal account and an email and you get your money. 

 

 

Thanks @DirtRoads  That was a good link.  My friend who makes goat milk soap and lotion, etc, uses Pirate ship and regional boxes quite successfully.  I will check out pirate ship for more articles as were mentioned.  I am curious about the size of boxes.  It seems like the priority ship boxes from usps are never the right size.  However, I have been learning from @GEP and @Callie Beller Diesel about limiting the size of the items I am willing to ship.  That makes so much sense.  So, here is a question, does that mean we also dial back on the type of items we are making in order to keep the shipping reasonable (aka increase profit margin?) Maybe just for 2020???

One of my better shows is in November in a neighboring town at (I know it seems odd) a small regional airport.  (I live close to a ski resort) After reading @DirtRoads post about the Junior League sale, I called the woman who is the organizer.  She is really scrambling to come up with options and to follow rules and guidelines for numbers of people that are allowed to gather.  In this area there would only be a handful of vendors who could or would do a virtual sale.  I help organize a December market here at home and it will be the same.   We are going to have to be very creative. 

Roberta 

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You folks all know that I pack and send with USPS, nearly 30 years now for chalices and patens. You are talking about cost on a 6X6X6 box, try that on a 14X14X14. I have been using these for years so as not to double pack for the chalices and patens wrapped in bubble wrap. I have considered leaving for UPS or some others especially with the discounts I have available, but really like USPS, and the service I get at out local office.

 

 

best,

Pres

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On 6/23/2020 at 10:42 PM, DirtRoads said:

I found this to be a great assessment of USPS shipping:

https://www.craftserver.com/topic/113686-usps-shipping/?_fromLogin=1

Another thing I learned is to ship pottery in  double boxes.   And instead of buying 2 boxes, make a box form for the inner "box" with cardboard.   Just wrap it around the item and secure with packing tape.   Make sure this inner box does not use, stuffing with newspaper, peanuts or packing paper.

I use Instagram and Facebook for jewelry sometimes.   I have envelops ready and send first class.     I just use Pay Pal.   All people have to do is email you the email address they use on pay pal.   It's easy and customers seem secure.  You just send pay pal request.  No cc's or anything.  No cart needed either.    I usually number my items A, B, C, etc., and limit it to 5-7 choices per campaign.  Last one I did about a month ago, I sold 27 bracelets.   If you don't sell online, this is an easy way to get started.    Just a pay pal account and an email and you get your money. 

 

 

@DirtRoads  I signed up for Pirate Ship yesterday and saved $5 on a 9 pound shipment.  It was easy and straightforward.    I had just started working with a retail shop in Park City before everything shut down.  She reached out last week and wanted some smaller items.  Things are starting to open up a bit I guess.  It was nice to get a bit of a break on shipping to Utah!!

Roberta

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June sales were down 16.7%.  However,  I have  3 employees not working (collecting unemployment) so my net is 27%  so business is cash flowing.   I am considering downsizing. It's been several years since I made, glazed and sold a piece of pottery myself.  

Edited by DirtRoads
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I thought that this might be a place for this. You folks know that I create chalices and patens for some church organizations. Last few weeks my contacts at colleges and organizations have been asking about pouring chalices. Seems the church organizations believe there will be a shift in communion services. They are asking for chalices with pouring spouts. Thinking about this I am going to have to make up some prototypes for this situation. I am thinking of a chalice with a shorter stem that I have and a deeper bowl with two opposite pouring spouts. . . for visual balance. I also can see one possibly with a handle, but not sure if they would go for that. Working next week on these, and will post the greenware ideas here.

 

best,

Pres

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On 7/1/2020 at 9:13 AM, DirtRoads said:

June sales were down 16.7%.  However,  I have  3 employees not working (collecting unemployment) so my net is 27%  so business is cash flowing.   I am considering downsizing. It's been several years since I made, glazed and sold a piece of pottery myself.  

I'm working in clay every other week-I thought about full time when the tourist flooded our county two weeks ago and orders spiked but then I though I really like the exrtra time off. So I'm sticking to the downsized schedule.I can always say no to any new business which I have been saying for some time.

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  • 1 month later...

I just finished the last of my planned summer sales events. I am now feeling kind-of settled in with my new business plan, which includes "free home delivery" sales, and small scale online selling. Since April, I have done 3 "free home delivery" sales, and 2 online sales. I just checked my records and found that my gross sales are down only 13% from this time last year. That surprises me in a good way, and I'll take it! 

Also, my show expenses (mostly booth fees) are down 80% from last year, and my travel expenses are down 90% from last year. So my bottom line P+L YTD is actually ahead of last year by $500. WHAT!!!!??!

I would still rather do shows, because I'm wary about how long I can keep working my current mailing list without being able to grow it at shows. I don't think I can do this indefinitely. 

And who knows what the fall and holiday season will bring. I normally would have done 3 shows plus my open studio. This year I am planning 1 more small scale online show, 1 virtual show (gonna give this a try, I'll report back), and my open studio. So that's fewer events, but with much lower expenses. We'll see how it goes.

I've made a lot fewer pots this year, which means I've had a lot of time off too. My house and yard have never looked better. In the fall/holiday season, I normally make 7 cycles of work. This year I am only planning to do 4 or 5. So more time off. Not complaining about that. It does make me think I can plan my work differently after we get to have shows again. 

 

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For me with no shows I'm tackling huge  put off projects like going thru outbuilding sand downsizing and organizing . Done some infrastucture upgrades. Still need to wrap up solar arry project before the rains. Tuna season is late this year and I have yet to catch one. Tossed /recycled all my collage art work and some other 40 year old stuff. Its joy when its finished-only two more  builings to do. The big one is done.

My wholesale is way up this summer and as GEP mentioned the show fees are way down with near zero travel fees.I rolled two show fees over until next year. The public seems to be a bit crazed with pent up buying fever here in this local tourist area. My market sales are way up and I had to go back to work this week to keep up. My gallery sales are up over last year for same months in summer.I started sending customers their way as I wanted time away from one off sales .Been better for me mentally .I amy do my outside xmas sale as it covid friendly but just do less days.If I do it will be my only sale this year.I hire the selling out -5 hrs a day-I will need a young person. I'm about 50/50 on the idea. I know my customers want it-just not sure yet if I do.

 

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I agree that there is a pent up demand for our type of goods, due to the lack of retail opportunities these days. If you can find an alternate way to reach your customers, they are ready and willing,

I have purged a lot of junk from my house too. Plus, painted several rooms, replaced old cruddy light fixtures with pretty ones, replaced all the old cruddy light switches and outlets, replaced curtains in two rooms. And I’m not done with my list yet. All things that I’ve wanted to do for years but never had time, until this year. 

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