Nov 102011
 

I walked my fingers through my wool yarn the other day, touching and rearranging the skeins, admiring their colors. In reality, I was pondering the idea of introducing a new line of products in JN Originals, my shop on Etsy which features crocheted and felted items.

Whether you’re a small shop owner like me or have a large business that reaches into every household across the nation, I suspect that all sellers go through some sort of “research and development” phase—more than one phase, to be sure, since the marketplace is fickle. What’s “in” one year is “out” the next. The super-long, fuzzy “eyelash yarn” scarves of four years ago, for example, have given way to shorter scarves that keep you warm but don’t flap into your face when a gust of wind comes along. If you’re lucky, as a handmade seller, your timing is on and what you sell leaves your doorstep almost as soon as you create it. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? In reality, there is always a certain amount of risk involved, so you can’t afford to make too many of any one item, or you’ll get stuck with product you cannot sell. But without experimentation, your business is stuck in the water like a ship without sails because nothing is ever static.

Before I began selling handmade goods on Etsy, nearly everything I made was gifted to those I knew, both family members and friends, so to some extent these people represented the source of my market analysis. Their “oohs” and “aahs” translated into the sections of my shop including hats and scarves, felted journals and needle books, coffee cup sleeves, fingerless gloves and flower brooches. What I have discovered, however, is that people’s admiration or appreciation of these items does not necessarily result into sales. What people are excited about receiving for free does not excite them so much when they have to reach into their pockets. And there is always a price point beyond which they will not tread, no matter how wonderful your product may be. I have also learned that what sells well online may not sell equally well in person at craft shows. In a word, we’re all on a perpetual search for that one special item that will make our business bloom and sales take off. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces. I tried selling felted napkin rings on Etsy and failed, for example. Research and development can make the bravest among us grow faint of heart!

Despite the risks associated with any new item you introduce, there is something magical about the research and development process. You check out your competition for similar items and decide how you want to stand out. Finding a unique angle must always be your goal, for you simply cannot assume you are the only person to generate that idea. And when you finally unveil your product, it feels somewhat like a gift you unwrap and pass around to get everyone’s reaction. So, that is what I am doing below, where you’ll see a small felted bowl that represents a new product line in my shop. What do you think?!

 

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© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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  11 Responses to “Introducing a new product line”

  1. I think it is absolutely adorable! I have no idea if it will be a big seller or not….so I’m no help in that area of your research.

  2. I like the little bowl, but I am not sure that I would personally use it. If I had space at my desk or workspace, I would probably use it. But since I do not have storage space nor working space, things get stacked and heaped up; and stacks are moved from place to place to provide a clean working space. If I had one of these little bowls, I would want it to be “front and center” so it could be seen! Maybe your market could be the upper end person who has space and money! Sometimes I wonder if Etsy is the right venue for some of my items. Your little bowl (and I bet your felted napkin rings) would go well in an upscale interior decorating magazine. Get someone to feature them there! Proper marketing, I believe is the key, but don’t ask me what that is???? Oh . . and . . I love your comments about the discovery process that we do all go thru. And I agree with you about craft show vs. online sales and the differences.
    Good luck with your new product line!!!

  3. Judy – great article – your research is right on the money (so to speak!!) It is sad that people don’t understand the quality of something homemade, I often see the things that sell do not have the quality of good workmanship. But you really got me thinking!!!

  4. Very pretty! I especially like the flower that you added – that detail is very nice. I wouldn’t use it for paper clips, but it would be fun to put something special in it for a gift. I could also see this sitting on a dresser with potpourri in it – hehe – or peppermint candy. When you do your photographs of your new line, I would fill them with all kinds of fun things.

  5. I think they are adorable. I have a vision of three or four all in a neat row holding different things. What a great idea!

  6. I love that bowl! The flower is perfect for it! I’m thinking of new lines too and it’s been quite a process trying to figure out if it’s a viable idea or not.

  7. Your new piece looks great! I can’t wait to see more of them. You’re right about the risk of this idea. As I’m sure you know by now, I have a new line in the works for 2012. My new line for 2011 (my dagger bracelets) has gotten a ton of hits, hearts, etc. and the pattern has sold well, but the line hasn’t sold. I’m hoping that this line will sell better. It will have a lot more options and versatility so I’m hoping that will help. Good luck to you!

  8. I think it’s sweet! And it can be used at a home or business office. Or put on a shelf to admire!
    One thing I see that is very popular, always, are pets! Don’t know quite how to use that angle… {:-D

  9. Hmn…I came here via BBA discussions because I feel totally the same as you. Being a knitter it’s very hard to work through your design problems AND find items that work well just because it takes so dern long to make our work! A design evolution can take an entire season and then, well, that product just might be ‘out’ by then. I also agree in terms of price point. It’s SO hard to compete with those who are making similar products via fabric and thread because their materials prices are so much lower. I personally struggle here. You brought up a great point when you mentioned in the discussion about trying to figure out what is worth your time weighted against what will actually sell! I look at some of my work and say, man, these should really be priced at so and so. Who would buy a coin purse for $30 though? It’s tough, so tough…and many don’t get the struggle. I’m glad to see it presented in more of a positive light here. OK- END CHAPTER now, phew!

  10. I like it!!!
    “I have also learned that what sells well online may not sell equally well in person at craft shows” so, so true. What I sell most of online is different from in person.

  11. Felted bowls are awesome. I use them around my house and every few years I make a bunch and sell them – they are always very, very popular. They’re great for office desks for paperclips, counter tops to collect pocket change, and on wood dressers they won’t scratch – good for nicknacks, jewelry and nail polish, etc. etc.

    Good luck with your new creations.

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