Tips on product development and crafts marketing during the current recession
ImageWhile we certainly live in ‘interesting’ times, there are more opportunities than ever for brave and creative brands and entrepreneurs to deliver on changing consumer needs. This article offers a range of advice on product development and crafts marketing that will help guide your businesses as the global economy recovers from the current recession. The article will also outline a few suggestions for making your products more marketable by emphasizing the useful nature of your products as functional handmade gifts as well as a mix of innovative and tried-and-true ways to cut costs.

How does an artisan make handicrafts more “saleable” in a dwindling market and boost sales?

Functional Art Objects That Sell
Because many view art as a luxury, sales of strictly decorative items tend to decrease in recessionary times. Increase the functionality of your work. According to an Artists and the Economy Survey conducted by Artist Trust in Spring 2009, artists find functional objects more resilient to reduced consumer spending. Sellers are noting an inclination to focus on more utilitarian art forms. An emphasis on more functional crafts is increasingly evident at the retail level. Pottery and handmade furniture, for example, are creations that can readily serve both aesthetic and practical purposes. 
These items tend to sell well, particularly with the tourist market. Functional items that have been doing well include food service items such as teapots and mugs and table linens, all sorts of storage including bags and baskets, and garden accessories. Clothing is another area where most retailers still see strong sales.

Attention to detail
One thing that retailers and buyers look out for in functional items is attention to detail. Practically, this means useful, well placed pockets in bags, sturdy and well proportioned handles, tight fitting lids, etc. They also look for that special detail that sets the item apart, such as a unique surface pattern, creative use of color, twist on a standard shape, or re-purposing of a traditional material.

Other suggestions to make handicrafts more “saleable” and boost sales
  • Cut Costs and Reduce Overheads - One foolproof way to offset the blow of decreased sales whether for an individual artisan or a large group is to cut costs by simply being flexible and creative. Everyone can find ways to cut costs. Look at ways to cut the basics, such as water, electricity and rent. Consider going in on a group FAX machine/telephone. Be creative and brainstorm other ways to reduce costs. You might be surprised by how much you can save by these small steps. You may be selling fewer products now but cutting costs will make up for at least some of it.
  • Look into Group Buying - If your products use components such as beads, nails, wood, fabric, ribbon; consider joining others to buy them as a group. This is especially helpful with overseas orders. Companies often give discounts, sometimes 50 percent or more, when ordering large quantities. And shipping is almost always cheaper.
  • Minimize Transportation Costs - Look at alternate kinds of transportation and compare rates. You can also check your transportation company’s competitors for their rates and negotiate a better rate. Other ways to minimize transportation costs are to join others to ship together or even negotiate with your current transportation company for a discount if you are a regular customer.
  • Avoid Breakage - Learn how to pack items for optimum safety. Skimping on packing materials can end up costing more when products have to be replaced. And look for free/inexpensive materials like newspaper.
  • Remember the Fundamentals - Finally, remember the basics that must be covered regardless of the economy: e.g. Products must be appropriate for the region and customer to whom you are selling; A creative display is essential. It’s what attracts customers; if there is packaging it must be beautiful, interesting, neat and clean; Sales people need to be genuinely friendly, helpful and polite.
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