Custom Work has Fallen Off

I mostly create jewelry and sell it so have not done enough custom
work to judge, but I will tell you that I have talked to a lot of
people in various fields of entrepreneurialship (is that a word?) and
they all are struggling.

My jewelry is in a local shop. She does wonderful custom bedding and
decorating and has very unusual, reasonably priced home decor items,
baby gifts, etc. She has maybe an average of three customers in the
door per day. Another acquaintance of ours has a furniture store. She
says the lack of interest is the worst she’s seen in 20 years. I have
a customer who is a wholesaler who told me last year that their show
attendance was down 60% over previous years. I do shows once a year
at a potter’s art center. Their sales had been way down when I was
there last year.

I was so happy when I juried into some of the “hard-to-get-into”
shows last year. The public attendance was terrible. The other shows
I did last year had horrible attendance too and the other artists
(not just jewelers) were complaining that other shows were down.

In Texas, our sales tax receipts are up! “Great economy” is what you
hear and read in the news! I’ve looked at the breakdown of those tax
receipts and they seem to be fairly evenly weighted, e.g., furniture,
groceries, auto sales, etc., etc., and then there’s a miscellaneous
column that you have to guess at who/what is included.

It isn’t just a problem with the sales of artisans/artists goods. It
seems to be kind of across the board with small businesses. My
friends and I have has hed this question over so many times. What is
it? Are people maxed out on their credit cards? Worried about
upcoming political changes? Terrorism? Too many opportunities to buy
and people have just lost interest? Are sales tax receipts up because
big business is the only one selling, e.g…Wal-Mart, Sam’s, etc?
Have people gotten less materialistic? Are they afraid of…you
name it?

It’s been this way in my world for a good three years but on the
other hand I am lucky enough to have a part-time job that helps pay
the bills and I am still selling enough jewelry (while not risking on
shows) to help with the bills too.

J. S. (Sue) Ellington

All of this might have already been said and I missed it because I
have not read all of the replies to this posting, so I apologize if
I am repeating, I lived in the Houston Texas area during the oil boom
so I saw it boom and bust, many stores went out of business and many
stores carried on as usual. Every area of the country is going to go
through hard times at different times it’s always a cycle. Now I
admit that there are towns that loose a large factory and the town
dies so we cant address that. But just general business is down we
can address. When times are good we love it and sometimes forget the
general factors that made it good for us, we start to get greedy,
maybe raise our prices, quit advertising, start producing work that
thrills us instead of the customer and so on and on and on. Then
times get a little hard and we blame it on the economy and the
president and the governer and whoever we can blame. Maybe we need
to look at our business practices. A store should spend 4% on
advertising, some say 7% do you or the gallery you have your work in
do this. When was the last time you changed your showcases and store
around, added new lighting maybe a new rug. Is your advertising the
same old boring ads that people are sick of, is your work the same
old boring work that everyone has seen and is sick of. Have you sent
out post cards to all of your past clients advertising a new service
or new designer or what ever, do you even have a list of all of your
customers to send to. I have been in stores and can’t believe the way
they look, stained ceiling tiles from roof leaks stacks of catalogs
and or magazines sitting everywhere, old stained carpeting, showcase
glass so scratched that you can’t even see through it. Are your
displays grey but used to be white, is that smile on your face gone
when customers walk in and are you playing music that you like
instead of what your cutomers like. We go in to our stores or
workshops day after day and the bad things seem to go away or blend
in and we forget about them. The customer sees everything and is
influenced by that, successful people want to buy from successful
businesses and to be successful they need to look successful. Does
your work fit in the gallery its in, is it too arty or not arty
enough. The jewelry business is up, large diamonds are selling,
large colored gem stones are selling, most commercial jewelry stores
are doing fine, they are also advertising big time, the old adage you
have to spend money to make money holds true. If your designs only
interest one out of a hundred people then you are only going to sell
one out of a hundred or it may take two hundred because the first
one might not be able to afford it. If your designs are loved by 60
out of a hundred then you got it made. Also when times were good were
you putting some money back for when times are bad, because its going
to happen, we need to be prepared. Its hard to admit that we might be
the cause of our own downfall and its easy to blame others, take a
close look at your general business practices and change them. One
of the old sales gurus said, and I can’t remember exactly… take
care of your customers because there will always be someone out there
ready to take them from you, so are you losing customers to them or,
are you taking their customers from them.

Happy Selling
Bill Wismar