WHY YOU SHOULDN’T DITCH YOUR SLOWEST SELLER

How your “slowest” seller could actually be your best marketing.

There are two tenets in business that everyone accepts as true:

1. You should figure out what your most popular product is, and sell the heck out of it.

2. You should figure out what your least popular product is, and get rid of it.

In fact, I read it again just a few minutes ago.

Here’s a little story about why you should reconsider step 2.

I’ve been a long-time CVS fan. While waiting for prescriptions to be filled, I would wander the aisles shopping. (In fact, once our insurance company switched to Medco’s online pharmacy, our “miscellaneous” expenditures dropped enormously.)

CVS is losing me as a customer to Walgreen’s. Why?

They no longer carry three products that I love:

a) They no longer carry Physician’s Formula make-up remover lotion
(I LOVE this stuff because it isn’t runny and doesn’t drip like oil versions);

b) Dr. Scholl’s pedicure file (probably because their store brand is cheaper, though not nearly as good);

c) and they don’t carry dental wax (which I want to use to position jewelry for photography.)

Probably because they were slow sellers. Or they had a store brand they wanted to push. I dunno.

But guess where I’m finding these products now?

Yep. Walgreen’s.

Okay, to be perfectly fair, the makeup remover is getting harder to find anywhere. I suspect the product is going through a makeover.

But my point is, wherever these products are, that’s where I’m going to go to get them.

Our local grocery store does the same thing. It introduces new products which I love, and discontinues them when they aren’t big movers.

Other grocery stores pick them up–and that’s where I go to get them. One carries my all-time favorite fruit-infused vinegars. (People, these are amazing to use in homemade salad dressings.) I go to another for my Ghiradelli hot cocoa.

So every month or so, Hanniford’s does not get my $200-$300 grocery bill.

So sometimes your slowest seller can be a draw to very passionate users/buyers. People who will look elsewhere if you drop it, like my favorite pear infused vinegar.

Sometimes an item sells slow because it’s really expensive, or very unusual. It can still be a huge draw to your other work. And it can make the rest of your work seem more affordable. I don’t sell too many $5,000 wall hangings. But when I do a) it’s the equivalent of selling a hundred $50 items, and b) it does a bang-up job of publicity.

My Big $5,000 Wall Hanging (from Niche Magazine, April 2006)

Sometimes a “slow” product will come back around. I hadn’t sold much fish jewelry in years. Maybe their time was over? When I put my “business hat” on, I considered dropping it. When I put my “artist hat” on, I realized it still had a story to tell. And guess what? I’m now selling more fish.

Fish necklace, back in demand!

Or perhaps it just hasn’t had time to catch on yet. I hardly sold any sculptures when I first started out. Just when I was about to lose hope, sales took off. Plus, turns out they fill a major niche as a gift for guys. I would have lost that marketing opportunity if I’d given up too soon.

Maybe your slow seller is something that sets off the rest of your products. Years ago, a friend had a yarn store. She didn’t carry any yellow yarn, because “it didn’t sell.” I showed her an article by a color designer for a local yarn mill. The designer said every line should have a yellow “because it fills out the color wheel, and makes other colors sing.” The store owner added yellow, and her sales rose.

Maybe your slowest seller is a dog* because of very good reasons. It’s out of fashion, you make a better one now, or you can’t even get the supplies to make it anymore.

But unless you’re sure it no longer serves any purpose, consider it a small price to pay for a few very special, very passionate customers.

Because any customer who is passionate about your art is sharing that passion with a lot of other people.

And that’s a good thing.

P.S. I apologize for calling any part of my/your art “a dog”. Just trying to give some good business advice here, as well as good artistic advice.

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9 Comments

Filed under art, body of work, business, craft, marketing, selling

9 responses to “WHY YOU SHOULDN’T DITCH YOUR SLOWEST SELLER

  1. Hi Luann;

    Funny, I’m always trying to get rid of my slow sellers, and my husband is always saying to me;”Keep them – the dogs (he really does call them dogs just like you do) make everything else look better.”

    I am not kidding you = so, let’s keep the dogs. And every once in a while something I have had FOREVER sells, and it just gives me a jolt. And some other times I look at everything I make with fresh eyes, and say “Hey, this is all teriffic”

    Thank you for your post.

  2. E. S.

    This is really good timing. I am trying to prepare for the only art show I’ll have time to do this year and I had actually considered leaving all the old work in the case under the table, only bringing it out if someone asked if I had more merchandise to show. Maybe I’ll have to put a couple or three of the dogs out to make the rest shine.
    Susan

  3. Nellig

    Good post, great blog. Thanks for being consistently interesting and inspiring.

    Can’t help noticing those impressively well-arranged fabric supplies (I’m guessing they’re yours) in the photo behind you.

    Would you consider writing about how you organise your supplies, keeping them readily accessible yet not letting them take over the world? You DO seem to have it down.

  4. Holliday Hutson-Thompson

    I make sculptural papier mache art….wall art, masks, bowls and each one is different. I find sometimes that a piece that I think of as a “dog” someone else may love. I have a particular color palate that I like to work in (reds, purples, golds) and pieces I create in other palates (blues, greens), to me, just aren’t as successful. I’m always amazed when someone is crazy about a piece that I don’t relate to. Different strokes for different folks…one persons “dog” is another persons…..”bone”?

    Holli

  5. Melissa Guernsey

    Luann,

    I enjoy reading your wisdom on the journey of art sales. This is a great article.

    Two years ago, I had an ornament I was going to discontinue, I took all I had left to a craft show. Due to my husband not being able to help me, I had to set my booth up differently.

    Those “dogs” boosted my sales by 30%. Of course, one of the components is no longer sold, so I do not make them anymore for that reason!

    Sometimes a “dog” just needs a different place to shine!

    All the Best!

  6. Kat

    As a lurker on beadcollector.net I’ve admired your work. Who knew I’d also see you quoted on babycenter.com? : )

    BTW – I, too, am so bummed about the Physician’s Formula phase-out at CVS. Will try Walgreens now. Thank you very much!

  7. Wow did I see an example of this today! I sold a necklace in my Etsy shop that I have seriously had for what seems like eons. It was, is, the simplest item in my shop and one that I always considered removing because it didn’t move!

    I’m glad I left it :-)

    Thanks for writing such great advice!

  8. Beth

    One of my favorite business stories is the story from the late Dave Thomas about why Wendy’s has a triple burger on their menu even though they do not sell very many: They discovered that if they removed the triple, they stopped selling doubles! So the triple is really a sales technique for doubles. I think this is often true of a higher-end item. It encourages sales of the less expensive items. (And sometimes you sell one!)

  9. Wonderful article, and a very different viewpoint from what others say on “old art.” I had a piece that I created in 2001 around for a while, when (2) years ago, I decided to put this particular piece in an upcoming exhibit. It sold for a few thousand dollars! A young man bought it for his wife, since it had an uncanny resemblance to her late father, and the background of the image captured the environment of his Latin nationality. This has happened a few times in my art career. I’m glad someone is writing about it, and of course it would be you, my guru! :) Thanks for writing the way you do!

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