David Hendley on mon 15 sep 03
Like Tony, I sell most of what I make at my shop. We agree that
it is the only way to go.
I divide pottery sales into two classes:
Easy Money and Hard Money.
The goal of a smart potter is to maximize the Easy Money and minimize
the Hard Money.
The ultimate success would be to make a small number of pots, sell
them for a lot of money, and keep all the money. Selling from your
own shop is the best route to this goal, but like traveling a two-lane
country blacktop rather than the Interstate, the journey is a long and
winding one, with detours and flat tires.
You don't just open a pottery shop and expect that you will have
customers. You pay your dues on the asphalt first. The first few
years I had my shop open, I traveled to a dozen craft fairs a year,
handing out 25,000 brochures for Old Farmhouse Pottery in 3 years.
Believe me, that was Hard Money. A day to pack, 2 days to sit out
in the weather, and a day to drive home and unpack. Often for well
under $1000 in sales and $400 in expenses.
But that was just the start of the journey. If just 1% of the people
who got brochures decided to make a trip to the shop, that is
250 customers. At my door. No packing, no traveling, no rain,
no entry fees.
The first few years, I made sure that every tourist bureau, tourist
attraction, and motel in the area was supplied with brochures. A
lot of work for no money.
To get the locals, I advertised, and I don't mean a little $50 ad in
Section D of the newspaper. For three years, once a year, I produced
a 4-page insert for the paper, my own little newspaper (the Old
Farmhouse Glazette) to let people know everything about the
shop. $1,700 every year, and that was money earned the Hard way,
on the road.
A mailing list of previous customers is worth its weight in platinum.
A mailing announcing an open house or special sale is a guaranteed
success. But again, you don't start out with a mailing list. You amass
one while you are spending most of your time working for the Hard
My experiences were, in the internet time frame, eons ago, so it had
no role when I was establishing my shop. Today, you would be downright
foolish not to have a web presence, not necessarily for direct sales,
but for reinforcing your product and image.
Finally, anyone who does travel to the shop must be given full attention.
Once you get them there, the "experience" is what matters. People do
not want to buy things from a jerk who is too busy to help them decide
which $10 tea cup is right for them.
So, the answer is, you start out with nothing and are forced to work
for Hard Money. This means you have to travel, split your money
from sales with someone, and/or pack and ship pottery. Gradually,
as the Easy Money starts walking in the door, you can start cutting
back on the hard marketing work.
For myself, 13 years after opening the shop, I'm pretty particular about
wholesaling or going to a craft fair, since I've got a constant supply of
Easy Money coming right to my door. I've slacked off the advertising
and am not conscientious about making sure my brochures are readily
available. I am a ripe target for a hotshot young potter moving to the
area, working longer and harder than me, and stealing my customers,
but that is another subject................
(If Chris's spam-blocking ISP is doing it's job, this "Easy Money"
will join "500 Orgasms" and "Sex Change Operation" in
----- Original Message -----
> This begs the question of how you made the transition into being a solely
retail seller. How'd you do it? How did you get everyone to come to you?
Having been to your studio, I have to wonder how many millions of folks
drive by only 10 minutes away.... so how do the folks that find you figure
out you're there? Has your web-presence helped any? What portion of your
total income is from retail shows as opposed to retail from the studio?