By Karen Hohler
Buying and selling American handmade items can make your retail business stronger, and expand your customer base. Drawing new people into your store becomes easier when carrying exclusive and unusual products that customers can’t find elsewhere. Not only does this help build your reputation as being a unique destination to shop, but it also strengthens your community and the American craft movement. Following are tips on how you can benefit from selling handmade items, and how to promote them.
Use special interest stories to promote sales. One way to purchase items is at a craft wholesale show, where you as a retailer can meet directly with the artist and gain valuable insight on the product and the process behind it. This allows you to learn about the artists and their work, so that you can engage your customers with interesting stories about each piece.
Make displays more engaging and appealing. Ask the artists for pictures of themselves and enclosure cards to go with their work. Or if at a show, pull out your digital camera and ask to take a head shot. Interview them about the creative process, the materials used, and what they say to potential buyers that helps make the sale. Put a picture of the artist and a bit about the work on the shelf, to play up the handmade factor. That personal touch adds value to a gift.
Increase sales to tourists and locals. Tourists love buying American handmade gifts and souvenirs to bring home. Conversely, locally made things are impressive to send or bring to friends in other states and countries. Use this as a selling feature in your store by promoting the craftsmanship, creativity and quality of the items you sell. Your customers will enjoy hearing that their purchase is as individual as the person they are giving it to.
Let customers know you are supporting local jobs. The 3/50 Project states that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home. If the items are American handmade, closer to $100 stays in your community.
Promote the “Buy Local” and “Buy American” message. Buying American handmade increases the sense of community in your store. Your customers will appreciate that you have made the effort to bring something to them that means more than just the object itself. They can also be proud that they are supporting a small business.
Help make dreams come true. Buying handmade work enables artists to fulfill their dreams of freedom, financial independence and being in charge. Artisans make things that take years of learning, practice and skill building. They do this with a passion and dedication that is often not part of business today.
Help save the environment. Transportation of products and increased packaging for overseas and long distance travel creates pollution. The closer you can source goods for your store, the less you contribute to pollution and energy costs. In addition, you can be sure that what you are selling was not made in a sweatshop, where conditions, hours and wages do not support a basic cost of living.
American handmade helps both artists and retailers to improve their businesses, while allowing the craft industry to prosper.