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  1. HOMEWORK - HOMEWORK – HOMEWORK I often observe where a new coming leatherworker questions why his or her products are not selling well. Many here have been bitten by the bug to work with leather and then go on to look for sales for their sometimes almost great works of art. Many people they know will compliment them on their talent and even suggest they should offer these products for sale. As well meaning as this advice is given it is GENERALLY WRONG. I will offer two reasons in particular: 1. The product has not been exposed to any proper market research yet. 2. The product is often not ready or able to be reproduced in a profitable manner. In this post I will address the first of these reasons. Many people will make what they themselves think should sell and put this up on Etsy or some other sales platform and basically do little more than roll the dice. This will give you very little feedback other than if it does sell and how quickly. This to me is needles expensive gambling Other people will take it to markets and if they are clever will enquire from onlookers how their products could be changed in some way that would make them buy the product. What price would they pay for it etc. Remember this – You are NOT the buyer......They are. This is a correct method if selling into these markets is what you are happy to do. Way way back I tried a little selling at the markets but for me I could earn the same $ back in my shop every day of the week and without having to give up my weekend. The packing up stuff to take and laying it out and packing it back up and unpacking again was just not that much fun. All of us have different personalities and some are happy in a market place surrounded by people, some will prefer shops where a more one on one is possible and some like myself like to be left alone to work on their craft. I grew up in the outback bush in Australia around the Barcaldine Longreach area which is the environment for which I always have the fondest memories. For me the best is to be able to live and work in the bush and work on stuff that I mostly enjoy doing. I went from a shop in town where I often had customers waiting in line out the doors and up the footpath to a factory I had built out in the middle of a hundred+ acres in the bush. As I had to have regular dispatch and deliveries being close to a major town was essential so we ended up about 15 minutes out of the town Rockhampton. In an earlier post I said that I would expand on this statement – “Your comments have given me food for thought and bring me to realise that an expansion of how I get products into the market would be something to share for some that may have any interest. I do not have any problems getting orders for product or customers in fact quite the opposite. Over the years I have had to become very selective about what further customers and product types I can handle”. In order to get to this stage what I did is my HOMEWORK. You can be a good leather worker and you can be a good marketer or seller of product but very, very few (including myself) can be good or anywhere near to optimal at both at the same time. 1. I established my best markets to target. A person from Japan or China if visiting Australia has no interest in buying something here that they could buy back at home. Likewise if I travel to Bali I would buy a memento that is made in Bali. Not Korea or Singapore or anywhere else other than Bali. In everyone’s country there are generally established tourist areas. Having the country where it’s made on the product is essential. Australian labour is not cheap and getting the highest possible price point is important. Shops in these areas are often paying expensive rents and their mark-ups needed can be well over 100%. Means you’ve got to be quick and efficient and very reliable. These businesses realise that they need to supply products that are made in that country ideally and that to some degree you and I are not competing with cheaper products made in other cheaper labour countries so much. In Australia most of the town shops sell products made in China and that is by far the biggest amount of sales. Funny thing is that the Chinese are today my biggest end buyer and will pay more than most Australians will to get it.!!!! 2. Armed with a few prototype products I made appointments to discuss with the buyers the type of products that they would like and what type ofproducts they sell the quickest. This was sometimes hard to get to the bottom off and get straight answers. Better than friends and generally acquaintances by far, but still they do not want to say what is wrong with your offering so much. One ladies purse in particular I did, I thought would be a sure thing and after a lot of discussion and checking with a few different buyers it was agreed that the credit card slots needed to be an upright position when you opened the purse. But I put to them the buyers that the cards if they ever fell out of the slots would be caught in the middle of the purse. Turns out that the Japanese were the largest amount of tourists into the country at that time and the way they presented their cards to people. When and how they took out the cards and presented them to the receiver was important. Another thing I found that although most Australian buyers liked the full leather linings in wallets and purses the shop buyers did not. The combination of using material and leather in the linings came in to place and gave the advantage of being thinner and holding more cards etc. Japan and Germany and some other places have high denomination coins and coin pockets in wallets become more desirable feature. The point is that there are many sometimes unexpected differences in different market places that need to be found out before committing time and resources $$$ into making up stuff to sell. In production a clicker press is normally needed and the cost of the knives will soon tell to do your homework well first. As I already had some machines and experience at working with leather from my shoe repair and shoe making businesses (not essential to have at the start but helped) and my homework on what the market wanted and orders in hand, I then went ahead. Years later I now have less but much larger customers that give me more orders than I need. Most of these including the largest are on a pay before it leaves basis and that is what I recommend to build toward. The slowest paying customers are generally the largest ones and even with them paying up front they can sometimes take a month or more because of all the signatures involved. Sometimes signatures have to be done in other countries as well. Last note: Some in the trade would be surprised to learn that I have not and will not sign any contracts with my customers. Some have large brand names and if anyone wants to sue for some perceived fault in a product that they can dream up, those persons would be likely to go after a big brand for money than me who nobody knows. In my books they make big money of my stuff they can take that risk themselves. Some like ORVIS will try and get you to sign where you have to pay them if you’re late in delivery of their order. Nope- no way. I sign NOTHING. I will attempt to get into the How to get products ready in a profitable manner in another post on some other weekend. I hope that in some way you may find something of use to you in this and please feel free to add any comments that you think may assist others in finding their markets as well. Brian
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