I’ve been aware since I first started selling my own hand crafted jewellery on-line and at craft fairs, that my prices were probably below what they should have been – considering the time I spend on pieces, the range of tools, resources and skills we need to maintain and the direct costs of actually selling – most of which have increased significantly in the last two or three years – like postage and packing materials, raw metal stock etc.
I therefore made a decision to gradually set my prices more realistically for the work and costs each piece represents and the average unit price has no doubt crept up in recent months.
But I’m also acutely aware that money is tight for all of us. Many of my best and long-time customers have lost jobs, had hours reduced or have other financial pressures on their household, as we all do.
A customer commented the other day that she’d love to buy a particular piece but just couldn’t justify the expense at the current time, so this set me thinking about making a range of lower priced items to address this issue.
I saw a TV programme many years ago which was a fascinating insight into how a design is developed for the high street. It started with an original blouse design – a little summer short sleeved blouse with embroidery on the pocket flaps and lots of interesting stitched details and pretty buttons.
They set about cutting a pattern, working out the stages and costing the materials. They made up the garment and timed the processes and came up with a cost to make it and how much it would need to retail for to be profitable – a task that many of us must be all too familiar with. The resulting retail price was far too high to be competitive, so they set about modifying the design, process by process, detail by detail until the price to make it was in-line with other high street fashion chains and what the market could stand. Every row of stitching had a cost implication and even the direction it was sewn and the order it was assembled had cost implications.
They replaced the original breast pocket which had a separate flap over fastened down with a pretty button and embroidered flower to a single piece pocket with a top stitched detail to look like a flap and a less expensive decorative and non-functional flower button sewn directly onto the pocket – they eliminated several stages and a chunk of saving in the materials too. This process was repeated with the front placket, collar, shaped hem and sleeve. Even the separate body panels that gave it the fitted shape were eliminated for shaped darts and the 7 buttons of the original shirt were whittled down to 5.
The finished high street version was superficially very similar, but a much trimmed down process, halving the manufacturing cost and bringing the retail price in-line with customer expectations and making it profitable to sell.
So I’ve applied this thinking to some of my own designs this week – looking at elements that customers like and are familiar in my work, but trying to streamline the processes to be able to offer a range of pieces at lower price points – I’m calling this range my Credit Crunchers.
It’s early in the process yet, but I already feel pretty good that this is something worth doing – none of us have any money and whilst I’m still keen to stretch my ability and make progressively sophisticated work – I think there’s still a place for pieces that I can make more quickly by streamlining the amount of processes and in using more modestly priced materials.
I don’t aim to compromise my work or customer service ethic in any manner, but there are other ways in which I can make savings for the customers.