Does Woodwork Really Sell?
When it comes to selling woodwork items there are basics that need to be addressed before the first product is placed on the display table. In this article we hope to help the beginner avoid some simple mistakes we have made along the path to success.
This article is about setting examples; not promising tips on what sells.
Over the last few years while attending markets as vendors selling woodwork items, occasionally someone will ask about selling their things they have made or hope to make. After 180+ markets under our belts we think we have some idea on how to answer this query, so lets get started.
Does woodwork sell? Yes it does, and it’s not hard to get started with a plan. To work out where and how, we can investigate below.
Let’s break it down.
- All things have a price. In some avoidable circumstances you may not like that price, but there is much you can do to get a fair price for your effort.
- Matching the product with the searching owner-to-be.
- Where to start with selling. This is all about data and investigation. You have to go in with a plan.
- What makes a good idea into a saleable product? Everyone makes the same things these days. How do you design something new?
- Be different, without embarrassing yourself. Learn to let your display do the talking.
- You should match your expectations to your research efforts. There should be no surprises here.
All things have a price
Even the roughest piece of turned wood that you have ever seen will sell; out of the blue someone will step up and buy it…at the right price.
What determines that price is a combination of many factors and strangely enough it can end up that the low quality plays a smaller part in the equation than first glance would suggest. The buyer could see something else in that wooden item that the maker failed to notice.
A good example of this is at one particular market we sold a smallish sized cutting board that was, to us, just a small offcut from a larger job and so we had sanded it back and applied a few coats of pure Tung oil.
What this gentleman bought this board for was to re-saw it down for knife scales, the two cheeks of wood that make up a handle of a knife. The bloke made knives, and the wood we had in that board was just what he could use.
The board sold for $35.00 if I recall, and I have since discovered that one set of knife scales can fetch upwards of that price alone. The board would have yielded maybe 5-6 sets for him so he saw a bargain and acted.
The finish quality of the board was good, as the timber was clean and defect free. It would have made a wonderful cutting board for someone. The point here is sometimes the finish means little to the buyer.
Having said that, it is not feasible to attend markets and expect every item to sell like this. It has only happened the one time to us that we are aware of.
Everything has a price, but sometimes the price to sell can be hard to swallow. How do you avoid this?
Matching the product with the searching owner.
When we are designing new products, and truth be known, not much is new these days, we already know reasonably accurately who will be buying them. Not the exact person, but the kind of person most likely to buy from us.
If you can manage to work out who your typical customer is likely to be, you can search out the markets these people are probably going to be attending and you can secretly arrange a lovely meeting between the product and the new owner (who sometimes doesn’t even know they were searching for this product)
Where to start with selling
This is all footwork. To work out if your woodwork sells you need data. Research the types of markets in your area, the people who attend, and the typical crowd size. Then, sort out your products and match them to the people and the markets they attend. If your product is good…finish, quality, and presentation, you have a chance to sell. If you discount the data or fail to research, you might be sitting waiting for that one customer who buys a board for knife scales.
What makes a good idea into a saleable product?
What we have found to be influential in this subject is our ability to make everything in house. We purchase machinery when required for a particular process but we design and make all product right here.
Offcuts are never just offcuts, they are something that will sit on a table if it is sort of interesting to look at, and our minds are just geared towards looking past the thing it would be known for and seeing other uses for it.
Mistakes are often our greatest discoveries as well.
Our range of Timberskin coolers (koozies to our American friends) are the result of a series of dead ends that came from a different process we were chasing and we ended up with a product that we are immensely proud of.
Back to your market stand for a bit, when it comes to working out what sells, don’t get caught in the trap of piling into an idea before checking the customers liking for it. Will it float or sink. Dedicate more display space for the sellers and trial the new things little by little.
The only person who can say if a product is ok is the customer, and if you don’t know who the typical customer would be of that product, read the top part of this article again.
Be different if possible
This has to be the most worn out cliché in history, but only because it’s true.
How does one make themselves different? You could yell the loudest to maybe bring in customers, but that would likely chase more away that attract them.
You could wear the loudest clothes ever seen at a market in the hope that this will attract the crowds, as people certainly do love a spectacle. But that will only make your products melt into the background and go un-noticed.
Our advice is to put the most effort into your display and let that do the talking.
Set the customers expectations as high as you can; be subtle, from a distance, so when they arrive to explore your products (since you have studied who your typical customers are and you think this market is where they linger) you might just be pleasantly surprised at the outcomes.
When the customers’ expectations are met, price is secondary.
So yes, woodwork does sell, but only after you have served an apprenticeship on how to know whom your customers are going to be, and then working out how to meet and then exceed their expectations. If you can get this right, long term repeat customers pop up everywhere.
Too many times have we seen the equation in the wrong order. Poor sales have been blamed on the crowd with the vendor not accepting or even understanding who the crowd was made up by and then not knowing if the typical customer for their product was even at that kind of market; and the attention to the display was poor and had the opposite effect of attracting customers.
This leads us to the next and last section of this post, there should be no surprises.
You should match your expectations to your research efforts.
There are many well-known quotes and comments for all over the place and one stands out here. “The harder I work the luckier I get.”
I don’t know who first said those words but the certainly ring true. We can attest to this saying; as we can now look at a product before the public has seen it and know with a good level of confidence that it will sell.
We know who our customers are and the market they frequent so we have already pre-arranged the meeting between our products and them, even without sending an invite.
I hope this doesn’t sound brash or over-confident because it’s not that way at all.We know that our typical customer will buy if they can hold and see the items. That is why face-to-face markets are so effective for us.
We make wooden products, all handmade and to a world class standard, and we are not surprised when someone comes into our stall and without blinking or complaint buys something we have made for prices higher that most of our competitors will ask.
We are very proud of what we make but those items are only a small part of the big picture.
The opposite of our efforts is someone who turns up to the market out of the blue and expects to sell woodwork items because they made them. All the attention has gone into the detail of the dream and has drained any enthusiasm for a quality display. If no research is done, sales will follow that effort. It is just the way it is.
So, to finish up, Yes. Woodwork does sell. It can sell very well when the product is placed in front of the customer who is looking for it. Work that out and you have a good shot at selling your items.
If you want to get a far greater in-depth picture on how we go about setting expectations, click here for a longer article on this subject.
Article written by Tim Blanch as part owner of Pickers Ridge Hardwood Designs. He is a qualified Carpenter/Joiner and has been turning for over 25 years.