Merrie Buchsbaum’s business is evolving. Like many craftspeople who have been around for a long time, she has made changes to keep her studio profitable and her customers happy.
Merrie works in polymer clay, and she loves patterns. What she has identified is that it is the work she is doing which is satisfying, not necessarily the form that results. She says, “Don’t lose sight of what gets you excited about your particular work, without getting stuck on what the final product will be.”
The handmade jewelry she had been creating for years became more difficult to sell when silver prices shot through the roof. Her materials cost forced her to raise prices significantly, so she made the decision to discontinue that line.
Today, she has shifted the focus of her wholesale business to creating pens, pencils and stylus products, which has opened up new markets for unisex and corporate gifts, including catalogs and boutique specialty stores looking for unusual lines. Her customer base has changed significantly (although she has kept about 25% of former accounts.)
Merrie has changed her sales tactics also. She learned through trial and error that it best served her business, and her customer’s businesses, to offer pre-selected packages, display options and planned merchandising. This makes her handmade line stand out in a store, sell through well, and become an easy line of products for buyers to choose.
These smart strategies have proven themselves in sales – MerrilyMade is having its best sales year in 21 years of business. Here’s how she does it:
- Selling products in units of 4. This prevents cherry-picking and dragging buyers down into minute details which slow down the ordering process and can be confusing.
- Offering pre-packaged displays of her Garden Pens line. Signage and hang tags tell her story and act as sales aids for the retailer.
- She provides acrylic displays for super-easy merchandising (retailers love this!) which are free with larger orders, or can be purchased with smaller orders. Not only are they convenient, but act as a physical reminder when they need to be restocked, creating repeat orders.
- Variety of packaging options that serve different retailers. A pouch with each pen suits a more classic upscale or corporate client, while boxes may work better for retailers wanting to place the items on a shelf.
- Shelf-talkers are available, and “educational cards” come with each pen.
Merrie will be appearing in a major film documentary being released in theaters in fall 2012. Titled “Made in America” the film presents her handmade business along with American-made products from other industries. Look for it to premiere this October.