Over the last few years I have been selling my sundials through various third parties with moderate success. Being once removed from the customer I lacked the feedback necessary to understand why things sell (or not) as they do. I felt it was inevitable that at some point I shall have to try the direct approach. So last Sunday, supported by my wife, I took the plunge.
Some weeks ago we applied for a table in the most prominent of the Christmas markets in our town and was granted one. I was not going to go crazy, I thought one day would be enough.
I was determined to go into this fully prepared. I spent extra time in the workshop to make sure the stock was adequate. My wife (without whom I would never have attempted this and who put in a mammoth amount of work) went over all the details with me in a painstaking fashion to make sure the table looked right on the day, the packaging was just right, there was enough information material etc., etc. I was sure on the day that we were ready.
Sunday was a beautiful day with sun shining ( a rarity here) and a Santa parade in town which brought the citizenry out in force. I thought our table location was near perfect, certainly compared with what some others had to put up with. We got our McDonald's breakfast, got to the market in good time and set up well ahead of schedule.
We had a couple of jewellery stalls, a cosmetics stall, knitted articles and novelty dog food in our immediate vicinity.
To cut a long story short, the outcome is best described as "we are richer for the experience". Here are some of the observations:
1) Considering that the weather and circumstances seemed ideal, the actual turnout appeared low.
2) Given that this is a town where I know several hundred people (and they know me!) I identified exactly two individuals the whole 5-1/2 hours.
3) 99% of the attendees passed my stall with their eyes glazed over. There was no opportunity to engage (which my wife was ready to do at a drop of a hat - her being Steve Jobs to my Wozniak to use the Apple analogy). There was no curiosity.
4) I cannot blame this on lack of originality: Mine were items unlike anything remotely present in the market. The most curious were the children and I ended up giving out quite a few of my "How the sundial works" handouts to them.
5) The question of workmanship did not even come up - the minority who commented were universally complimentary. The creative process was enquired about by only one person. The prices were not mentioned once.
6) Observing the other stalls there seemed minimal sales off all of them except the novelty dog food; That did roaring trade!
After digesting the experience for a couple of days I came to the conclusion that I have been dealing with the wrong demographic compounded by the poor economic climate. Pre-2008 I was selling my dials which were considerably inferior to my current standards with little difficulty. Admittedly this was in the neighbouring town where the demographic is somewhat different. As recently as June the same dials sold in Vancouver at significantly higher prices (the gallery there takes 50%!).
There is always the possibility that since June people came up with a better way to tell time but I suspect this is unlikely :-)
I intend to spend the next 3 weeks in reflection on what to do next as well as updating my workshop. I could:
1) Cut my ear off and start painting sunflowers. However, I do not have a rich brother.
2) Change my line of products completely. Somebody on a forum I belong to suggested good results may be obtained by making items for the S+M community. This no longer seems so far fetched...
3) Explore ways and means of getting through to a different demographic.
To continue with the Apple analogy I would like to follow the late Steve Jobs maxim "Screw the market research, how do they know what they want till you show it to them?" a bit longer.