Thursday, September 11, 2008

A question....?

Today I met up with a friend to have a quick look round our local flower & sundries wholesaler. In general it was a fairly dissappointing trip but I got a couple of basic things that I was needing. Last year my friend made some really cute little ladybird magnets and was swithering whether to make them again this year and the conversation brought me back to something I've been thinking a lot about lately. For all of us who do the whole handmade small business thing, do customers expect to see our range simply growing, with the addition of new items every few months or do they expect to see a clean slate, everything new once or twice a year? Do we continue with the staples that always seem to fly out of the door (even if we are sick to the back teeth of making them??) or do we risk changing everything (fabrics, products, etc) for the sake of "keeping it fresh"?
The reason I ask is that when our little felt covered notebooks were featured in Country Living a couple of Christmases ago we got loads of sales, which was great. I still do covered notebooks but the style has changed and the original ones are no longer on our website. A customer who ordered the original notebooks has re-ordered a couple of times in the last few months. As well as buying the new notebooks, she asked if I could make some of the original felt ones. Now this isn't a problem as I still have the fabrics available but obviously don't have the product in stock so it does mean a special run of just a couple to please the customer. I do believe this is all part of the charm of being a small business that will happily oblige when possible, but at what stage to do you say "sorry I don't make them any more"?
So, a couple of interesting questions there that I'd be really interested to find out what others think, both from a customers point of view and as a small business owner? Answers on a postcard please....only joking, comments or e-mails would be great!
L x


Andy said...

I think that is the beauty of a small, personal business - you can do a mixture of both old favourites and new ideas. I found it really boring to make the same thing over and over, but some of those things really sold well so I persevered with them and then added new things to relieve the tedium. I do think it is nice to update a range every year or so but old favourites are favourites for a reason. Good luck with it all.
Cathy X

Cathy said...

Sorry - that last post was me - not sure why it came up with Andy's log in!
Cathy X

Pipany said...

This is an interesting one Lisa and I will be popping back to see what others say. I am relatively new at this having only been n business for a year. I feel the need to introduce new stock quit regularly as I worry that people will stop visiting my site because it looks as though I have just left it. It also makes me think about where I am heading with it and that keeps me fresh & interested. I keep the things I feel are my regular order spinners and anything I particularly like/enjoy makking and then gradually phase the rest out with new stock. Great thread this one xx

Jude said...

I think that is the essence of a small business.As long as you have the means to source the items to re-make the goods. Of course, updating is important and I think, gradually, they will take over the oldies.Evolving?All the best

Vanessa said...

I think naturally some of my products kind of run there cause! But I think of some of my products are my bread & butter products for example my childrens aprons.

I also revive some of my products at particular times of years, so I class these as seasonal.

But I am pleased that I can bring new things to the table every so often, so when I am attending shows a second time around at least there are new products.

Hope this is of use

vanessa x

I have been thinking the same thing myself since I have been doing my website. Will check back to see what other folk think.

tea and cake said...

I think I would welcome a mixture of both the older projects, so long as you can still bear to do them, as well as the new.
After all, we all need to stretch and develop our work, don't you think?
You never know where it will take you! Good Luck with it all, Karen xx

paola said...

As a shop owner, I much prefer the 'update a few pieces at a time' approach.

I find it very exasperating when things which sell very well for us are discontinued for no apparent reason. If you've got a hot seller I'd stay stick with it until it stops selling, maybe freshening it up from time to time with different colours or trims.

However, I do also like to see new ideas from my favourite suppliers. Chances are that if something of yours has already sold well for me, then something new will also appeal to my clients. And it allows me to freshen up my stock without having to develop and manage another supplier relationship.

Hope that helps!