Businesses like mine that depend on markets, festivals, trade shows, comic conventions are facing a very tough month ahead. We depend upon large gathering of people to sell our products. The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has placed this industry in a place none of us have been in before. All of us are finding ourselves watching the news to see if our next show has been canceled or if it will be rescheduled. Stress, Stress, Stress has become our common mantra. Calling friends who are vendors and seeing if they have the magic answer as to what to do. The whole time they are wanting the same answers from you.
So then, what can we do? That is what I want to explore in this article. There are three areas that I want to touch upon that we can do something about during this down time. Business Review, Online presence, and Future Protection. Remember hope is not entirely lost and this adversity will end.
We are three months into this year, take inventory of what you learned so far about this years sales cycle. This is the time to evaluate your products.
- Are the products I’m selling, selling?
- What trends have you seen at the shows you have done so far this year?
- Are design in line with what you see people are walking around carrying?
- Are the products I have going to be hot sales items at Christmas?
Start thinking about Christmas and preparing for what products you will need then. This will be the time to try and make up for lost sales now.
Product evaluation is something we usually do on the fly. Few of us take the time to gather empirical data on the products and their sales demographics. We just off of how many do we have on hand and are they selling.
- Are your products are are selling the way I want them to?
- Should I increase my inventory or possible increase my prices?
- If they are not selling do I need to lower my prices, put them on sale to get rid of the inventory?
- Does a certain demographic by that item and should i change my sales approach?
Sunflower earrings are always a seller for me but this year I’m selling even more of them. I’m spending this time increasing my inventory of them. Pineapple earrings are the opposite. Last year I couldn’t keep up with the demand this year it has died off dramatically excepts along the gulf coast. So I’m planning on keeping less of them in my show inventory so I can have room for other products that do sell. I also rewrote my online description and SEO ( Search Engine Optimization) to reflect Florida and the Texas coast.
Are the trends your products are following working? When I do shows I always walk around and see what other people are selling and look for trends. I’m not looking to steal products to sell, I’m looking for patterns and designs.
Last year I missed out on Leopard skin prints. I didn’t notice how popular they had become. When I realized it I quickly came up with some design and capitalized on it, but I missed a lot of sales in the mean time.
Take the time and go to stores like Micheals and Hobby Lobby and see what designs patterns they think are popular. They pay a lot of people to research this looking their lead never hurts.
Display and Packing
Getting in and out of a market is not our favorite part. We want it to just be there and ready to go so we can sell. take this time to ask yourselves these questions.
- What have customers said about my display?
- Does my display need repair?
- What is the worst part of my pack and Can I make it better?
- Can I pack tighter so I can get more product into the pack?
- What do I need to add to my display (i.e. dressing room, lights, signage)?
- Does my display look modern or does it look dated?
- As always can I cut my cost or increase my sales by modifying the display?
These are questions that need to be asked on a regular basis. I look them over once a month. When I am at shows this is something I look at when I see other peoples packs and displays. Can I utilize similar designs to them and will it help my bottom line.
This is the area that I keep hearing vendors talk about working on during this time period. Which I think is a wonderful idea. I firmly believe any effort you place into your online sales pays off massively. Even if the effort fails what you learn and how to correct it makes you stronger.
The real question here is what should I be doing to increase my online presence. Where will my efforts payoff the most, because I want to see immediate results. I need to make up for lost revenue.
Are there online sales platforms I’m not using and should I expand into them? I hear vendors say they need t get online or redo their website. This is the time to do it. Look into different platforms and decide which ones are right for you. This topic it way too extensive to get into with this article, but this is the time to start that evaluation.
- Amazon Handmade
- Build or remake your own website
The more revenue streams you have the better-off you will be to weather these unexpected storms like the corona virus.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you have an Etsy or a website research how to write SEO. This is the single best way to improve your online sales. If they can find your site they will never buy from you. Spend this time working on writing good descriptions using keywords that are trending.
Preparing for the Future
Cutting cost as in any business this should be your mantra. Is what I’m doing the most cost effective way to do it, or can I do it cheaper even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.
- Where can I cut cost?
- Diversify the more revenue streams you have the less exposure to risk you have.
- Connect with your customers
I recently made one of these comfort zone sacrifices myself. At Cate’s Concepts designing is key to my business and anyone who knows me, knows I live on Adobe Photoshop. I’ve used this software since the late 90’s, I’m very familiar and comfortable with it, but at $31.49 monthly ($377.88 per year) it’s expensive. I switched to Affinity which is a photoshop alternative. Affinity cost me a one time cost of $49.99.
I also use Shopify as my web platform. It has tons of wonderful add ons that make my site run better and add functionality at a cost. I recently went through all of my add on’s and canceled several that were charging me monthly fees that i can do without for right now. When this corona virus pandemic passes I will add them back.
Remember this will end
Will I be ready to go when it does? This is the question I am asking myself everyday. I have the choice of watching the news all day and fretting about what I should do next or I can take the steps of what I can do to protect myself and my business. Again, remember hope is not entirely lost and this adversity will end.