Many people would prefer to just be left alone in their studio to make leathergoods. Still more people think that by simply posting finished items on Instagram, you’ll be able to sell your products with very little effort. But for most, this approach falls frustratingly short of creating the sales you need.
Simply put, in order to grow and make your business or hobby worthwhile, you must invest time and energy to sell your products. The good news is that there are many other approaches you can take to create a successful growing business. Here are 17 ideas for selling your leathergoods:
- Craft Fairs and Festivals– Craft fairs and festivals are perhaps the most traditional avenue to sell your work. Of course the easiest way to get started is to exhibit at fairs in your own town. Your entry fee will depend on the size and reputation of the fair. If you can, make sure you attend the fair at least once before you decide to exhibit in order to evaluate whether this far is a fit for you. Some fairs are juried, which means that you will need to submit an application in order to be considered for acceptance. Make sure you have a good bio or artist statement and excellent photos of your work to include with your submission. And don’t be disappointed if you don’t get accepted. Simply re-apply the following year. Some artists enjoy creating a whole lifestyle by traveling from one excellent fair to another. You can form great friendships with other exhibitors and enjoy seeing repeat customers come back year after year to see what you have made.
- Other Shows – Don’t just limit yourself to craft fairs. Perhaps there is a home and garden show in the area and your unique products might really stand out as a new product category.
- Farmer’s Markets – Farmer’s Markets vary widely from on city to the next. While some are solely focused on fruits, vegetables and baked goods, if you’re lucky, you will have a robust farmer’s market with plenty of opportunities to show your work amongst fellow artists.
- Hotels – Hotels are an often overlooked possible venue to sell your goods. Look to the local boutique hotels for the best chances. Design a small traveling table that would look nice in a lobby. Make sure your signage very low key. When you are calling on the General Manager, show him a picture of your set up. Try to get your projects to a point where you can keep hammering to a minimum. On-site embossing is always a hit. While you’re there, see if the hotel might need any leathergoods for their operation, such as desktop or restaurant items. Also see if their on-site gift shop would be willing to carry some of your goods on a purchase or consignment basis.
- Car Dealerships – Every car dealership is looking for an angle to get more people from their target market to come out for a visit. And having a pop-up demo station in a nice dealership will give every salesperson a reason to call people in their prospect list. Call on the general manager using a similar conversation and strategy as the hotel example above.
- Retail Boutiques – Research boutiques in your area might have related products, but not leathergoods. See if they will host you for a few weekends. The boutique will help with most of the marketing. You may need to contribute drinks or snacks. And of course you will want to reach out to your own contacts to invite them as well. You will definitely need to create an agreement in advance for how both you and the boutique will get paid.
- Pop-ups – If there is a vacant storefront in your area, perhaps the commercial real estate agent would entertain you having a short duration pop-up in the space. The benefit is that you will most likely have complete control over how your brand is displayed and merchandized. The downside is that you might need to invest time and money to acquire shelving, tables and merchandizing props.
- Shopping Parties – Holidays present a great time to have shopping parties. Consider partnering with a jeweler, painter, potter or other artisans to hold parties in each other’s homes or neighborhood clubhouses. Everyone can pool the marketing and promotional duties.
- Charity Events – Charity events are a wonderful place to sell your wares. Ladies will often host fashion shows to raise money for a worthy cause. While the organizers may have done a good job of partnering with a fashion designer, they may need handbags and leathergoods to complete the looks. They often will also provide tables where you can show your work.
- Museum Gift Shops – If you have any museums in your town, they are often very happy to have local artisan goods in their gift shops. Museums can have special exhibits or open houses where they will invite artisans to participate. Get the upcoming schedule of events and see if you can contribute.
- Website – It should go without saying but you absolutely need your own branded website. You may have started with Etsy or other shared site, but if you want to grow, you need to build your own website. Luckily there are great modularized tools available that allow non-technical people to build great sites. Use either WordPress with a premium theme, Shopify, Wix or Squarespace to get a quick start.
- Business Cards – Of course, your own work is the best calling card for your business. If you catch someone admiring your bag or wallet, be quick about offering your business card. And make sure you equip your spouse and friends with business cards that they can also hand out on your behalf.
- Social – Social channels like Instagram and Facebook have been the mainstay marketing technique for many makers. Make sure you post frequently and use appropriate hashtags so people can search for your work. The biggest mistake many make is counting too heavily on social to bring them nearly all their buying customers. Think of an Instagram or Facebook order as being the icing on your sales cake.
- Real Estate Offices – In nearly every town, all real estate agents come into their main office for a weekly meeting followed by a caravan where agents visit the newest listings. Ask the brokers of the leading firms if you can put up a table top in the office during meeting mornings.
- Country Clubs – Members of country clubs are a great target for your wares. Ask the general manager if they have any times when you might be able to set up a table for sales and demonstrations. This could be in the main clubhouse or your could strike a deal with the head golf pro to exhibit in the pro shop. Perhaps you could even design some golf or tennis related products.
- Holiday Markets – Many towns have holiday markets. If you can build up an inventory in advance of the show, you can often have a very productive selling time.
- Corporate and Employee Gifts – Usually very large companies have lots of rules and regulations about what they can gift to employees or customers, so these firms are often not the best prospects. But medium or small companies are excellent targets for corporate gift programs. Call on the heads of human resources or sales to see if they might be interested in working with you to come up an innovative gift for their staff or clients. If you do a good job and the company gets a good reception for your products, then you might have a very lucrative customer for years to come.
Hopefully this list has spurred some innovative thinking about some new ways to market your leathergoods. Do you have any other sales approaches or venues that have worked well for you? I’d love to hear in the comments.