Well it’s July. Time for us to think about Christmas. That’s right, Christmas in July. Those Christmas craft fairs can start in October or November and the Fall Fairs can start in August! This is the time to do a review of your inventory. What products do you have on hand? Which products sold well last year? Should you make the same or change your focus? Let’s take a look at some of these questions and how it will affect the production of your products.
I’ve been asked “What is the best product to sell for the market?” I guess the easiest answer is the product that sells! The problem is you don’t know, from one year to the next, what is going to sell. If it is your first time selling that makes it still harder.
The products you carry reflect you. What do you like to turn? What type of turning do you like to do? Let’s assume you like to do fairly straight forward spindle turning. You could turn lots and lots of honey dippers. This might be enjoyable for you but you will be limiting your sales. Each customer only has one option. So if you also turned a few spurtles and icicles then you would be using the same skills but now you are giving your customer a choice.
So look at your turning style, what products fit with your style, and turn a selection of products. You can go to my “Build Your Inventory” page and scan the projects there to get more ideas.
You need balance between diversity and selection. What I mean is that if you have 20 different products but only 5 of each then if one of them is doing well you only have a small amount to sell. I would suggest 5 to 10 products and maybe a quantity of 20 to 50 for each product.
Over time you might want to adjust which products you are emphasizing in your booth. Keeping your stock fresh will encourage customers to come back each year and check you out. If you only produce a limited number of options then you might flood the market, especially in smaller centers, and find that fewer people want your product after two or three years.
On the other hand you may have a product that you are known for and people come looking for it. In that case don’t stop producing the reliable product.
Yes if you multiply 10 different products by 50 you get 500 in total. This seems like a lot but if your customers want honey dippers then at least you have 50 to sell. You determine what and how much you want in your inventory. This could be your goal and you need to evaluate where you are currently and decide if that is where you want to be.
Reaching 500 items for sale is really not that hard. If you have been turning for a while you might be surprised at how many products you already have. Let’s take a look at some scheduling issues.
Life is always more complex but we need to make it simple for the moment. Your first Christmas craft fair is in the middle of November. That gives you four months and about 16 weeks to get ready. Not all the weeks will co-operate so let’s say you have 12 weeks to prepare.
If you have 6 different products then you could turn each product for two weeks and allocate your time accordingly. Depending on your turning skill you can judge how many of each product you could produce in those two weeks. I know that when I start doing a production run of products two things happen. I can get bored very easily (that’s why you set goals) and more importantly I turn those items faster.
Initially you might need a template or measurements to do the product. The more you turn the more natural the result and you become quite good at determining what suits the product and looks good to you. This comes with lots of time and turning, so don’t panic if you are not there yet.
Analyzing the Numbers
In our example if you could turn 75 products every two weeks for 12 weeks you would have 450 items in your inventory. That’s almost 500! You can change the numbers to suit what you are producing. A more complicated turning would be a smaller number but a higher selling price. Remember to turn a variety of products in a variety of price ranges. You are in charge of your production schedule and can determine the goals you want to achieve.
Play with the numbers to see what works for you. The goal is to plan ahead so you are ready for those fall fairs and Christmas Craft Sales.
Avoiding Production Bottlenecks
This happens when you need a part to complete the project but you don’t have it on hand. What extra items do you need? If you turn Icicles you will need small eyelet screws and some ribbon. If you turn tea light candle holders then you will need tea lights.
Consider your products and your schedule then make sure you have enough supplies to make your entire product line. If you are using pen blanks watch the woodturning suppliers for sales and bulk purchases. If you are like me and out in the country then make shopping lists and pick up all the hardware in one trip to the big city. Do you have enough wax and finishes? You also need labels and price tags in order to sell your work.
This is more than just for your accountant. People like to know what wood you turned and the story behind it (if there is one). You can number your turnings and keep notes on each if you are doing bigger projects like salad bowls. If you are turning small objects then write the information on a tag when you turn the item (I’m still working on this one!) and attach the tag to the product. People like to know what they are buying and you have more information to help them out.
You also need to know what you have for sale and what is selling and what is not. If you only have a few different products in inventory it is easy to keep track in your head. However, you need to write it down. Otherwise you will not remember what you sold last year at your different events. This will help you plan for future events better.
That was a lot for one session. Thinking about what you would like to sell, how many to have available, and when you are going to produce them, will help you get ready for your Christmas Craft Shows. The earlier the better so even though its July outside you might need to think about Christmas in your shop.
If you still have questions please ask. I am interested in what you have to share.
You might also be interested in the following business posts:
- Production Runs: How to organize your turning for a production run
- Sales Receipts: What information to collect on your sales receipts
- Appearance Matters: How do you appear to your customers?
If you are looking for projects to turn, or products that might compliment your current inventory, you can click on the projects tab to see current project posts, or click on Build Your Inventory for a complete list of the projects available on this web site. The list is separated into categories and each category gives you some marketing ideas.
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