This was an odd week… I tried to experiment so my start up costs where higher than last week (I took and extra table you see and promptly forgot my camera to show you all!)… I guess you could say it made the results a little harder to quantify and compare to the first week. However having said that the weather was much better, in fact perfect for a market outing and customer footfall was higher as a result… although we did seem to suffer a ‘browsing’ customer rather than a buying one. I think that very few had a good trading weekend.
I wanted to understand which stalls were doing better, maybe there was something I could learn and put into play on my own stall? I was quite shocked really… the only stalls that did well were the ones who had ‘bought-in’ stock rather than ‘handmade’… but this is an Arts and Crafts Market I thought! Maybe this was the sign of a trend in new buying patterns? Or maybe the customers had gotten used to seeing ‘bought in’ product, where previous hand crafters had left the market? Maybe handmade crafts are not so in vogue right now (handmade prices are certainly competitive enough)? With such a wide range of handmade still at the market (although stall numbers are down compared to bought-in product), it was hard to pinpoint any one craft in particular that was or wasn’t working… making my felt-based product hard to reason one way or the other.
I did however experiment this week, as I said. The experiment was two fold… Firstly I laid out my Boutique collection slightly differently. I played with building up levels on the table. Maybe the 3-D effect would give some depth to my stall? I was also careful to lay out colours and textures that worked and promoted the ‘Mystery Bags’ more too. I did achieve a lot more interest through this and gave out lots of cards and even had comments on my prices being ‘really quite cheap’, but only sold a few items. I’m thinking more and more that I should demonstrate something next time… while some crafts are easy to understand there are others, like felt-making that are maybe not so easy. A demonstration could educate the passer-by on technique as well as workmanship and man-hours. I think it’s easy to forget when you work daily in craft circles, that maybe the passing customer doesn’t know what you know about making things. A demonstration could be a good way to interact a bit more too… maybe even get people interested in learning a new craft??
Secondly, I tried selling my craft kits and equipment that can be found in my Craft Store. I choose a small range of a variety of crafts, from cross stitch and embroidery to felting and card making, just to see what worked. I hoped that this would help customers to get into the craft mood and maybe even help my boutique sales. While some (quite a few) were clearly not interested in ‘making’, some browsed with interest and others were really inspiring, ‘Wow… will you be here regularly?… I’ll take this to start’. Maybe a craft kit stall will help bring back the handmade? Maybe there is a chance to start small and grow?? I must think about widening my offer next week.
I did hear from other stall holders though, that most London markets are suffering… ‘the customer’s just aren’t buying’, they tell me. It’s difficult to assess whether this is true or not… while there is constant talk of ‘credit crunches’ and possible rises in mortgage repayments, which will help to keep buyers hands firmly in their pockets, I did incredibly well on-line this weekend… which is unusual for this time of year. So they are out there… just not sure where they are hiding!
Still mustn’t grumble… I’m still here, just gotta keep plugging! More next week…
I'll be at Merton Abbey again this weekend (7th and 8th June 2008), do drop in and say 'Hi'.