I spent the weekend in Los Angeles helping Megan Auman show her wares to buyers from California and beyond.
This was not a retail craft show (think Crafty Bastards or Art Start Craft Bazaar or Renegade). This was a massive national gift show bringing in vendors and and purchasing representatives from all over the world.
The majority of the goods shown were mass-produced, designed by artists & designers working for or in partnership with large corporations. These are goods you’ll find in all the usual places you shop: the mall, Target, and the department store where you registered for your wedding. Not bad, just usual.
Megan was showing in the Beckman’s West section – reserved for goods that are made by hand.
The show was quite positive and feedback was good. But I got the distinct feeling that many buyers looked on the handmade merchandise with suspicion.
In a down economy, carrying goods at a higher price point with unfamiliar labels and no celebrity endorsement is not a way to secure sales or guarantee foot traffic for your store.
Handmade is a risk…
So what can you do to make buying handmade a less risky endeavor for your local boutique or department store?
Ask for them.
While shopping at independent shops or boutiques, you’re often dealing directly with someone who makes buying decisions. Ask for lines or brands by name. Know who you would love to see in the store and let the owner or manager know where to find them.
Make a point of saying thanks.
Whether at the Farmer’s Market, tourist shop, or mid-town boutique, thank the owner or clerk for carrying handmade items. Even if it’s a product you’re not buying, pointing it out and saying thanks provides encouragement to those who are taking the risk by carrying it.
Even more than price, lack of planning stops us from buying handmade as often as when we’d like. Although you can pick up a gift more quickly at a local store than by ordering online, boutiques and gift stores aren’t open 24 hours a day like their big box cousins. Plan to purchase your gift a few days a head of time and thank the owner for helping you shop the way you prefer!
Buying handmade goods is not just a unique way for your to shop, it’s always a new experience for many brick & mortar store owners and buyers. Give them a hand in selecting the items you want to buy!