Why Artisans May Want to Rethink Selling to the Low End Market

by Gail Oliver, Small Business Marketing Consultant

I have had a lot of very successful small businesses, who are technically having great success selling on popular online marketplaces, come to me and ask for advice as to why that despite this success, they are still not making money.

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 3.57.31 PM

Here is the conundrum. When you try to sell to the low-end market (which these businesses are), you have to be able to produce significant volume in order to make any money because your profit margins are so thin. To meet this significant volume means you have to hire additional labor, which again cuts into your profit margins.

Independent artisans will always have a tough time competing in the low-end market if their products are labor-intensive, simply because they cannot afford the economies of scale needed to produce large volumes at decent profit margins the way large manufacturers can.

Case Study: The Low Priced Artisan

Take, for example, the person selling trendy knitted gloves. These gloves are aimed at the low-end fashion market and were originally selling for $25 but became such a huge fashion hit that more competition came in and drove the prices down to $15. The maker is getting tons of orders, let’s say 250 orders a day at her online shop. On the surface, that looks great. But let’s break it down a bit more.


She is grossing $3,750 a day (250 x $15). But there is no way she can make 250 pairs of gloves a day all by herself. So she needs to hire people to meet this demand. If one person can make 10 pairs gloves a day, then she needs to hire 25 people. And this is not to mention who is going to be packaging up and shipping these 250 pairs of gloves every day. So before she can pay herself, she has to pay her staff of 25. Let’s say she pays them each $125 a day, so that amounts to $3,125 ($125 x 25). Then let’s say that her material costs per pair of gloves is $1, so take off another $250. Then there is her packaging costs, which may be $.50 per pair of gloves, so take off another $125. Then there are her selling fees, which can be around 3%, so take off another $112. Then her transaction fees (credit cards/PayPal) also 3% so take off another $112. That leaves her with an overall profit of just $26 per day (and not all business expenses have not been taken into account). Obviously, this is no longer a successful business model. In fact, the irony is she actually makes more profit ($119) if she sells just 10 pairs of gloves a day.

So are artisans and indie sellers better off in the moderately priced, higher-end or luxury markets?

Case Study: The High Priced Artisan

Take the artisan, for example, who is making high-end leather bags. She charges $800 for a purse. It takes her several hours to make the purse, so most of her day. Her material costs are roughly $100. So if she sells one bag a day, she makes $800 less $100, less selling fees, packaging, etc., all pretty minimal. Therefore, she profits around $637 on the sale of one bag, in other words earning $637 for one day’s work. Not bad. If she sells only sells one bag every other day she profits $9555 a month or $114,600 a year. She has no problem meeting this quantity on her own and will never need to hire extra staff or take on more costs and she will still earn a great living and all she has to do is sell 15 bags a month.


Again, I am talking about labor-intensive products where you can only produce a few to several on your own a day.

I’m also not saying you have to go really high-priced, but you may want to consider the possibility of having two brands – a lower priced brand and a mid to higher priced brand, to tap into both markets and then decide which is more profitable for you.

Remember, you are in business to make money. If your business model isn’t working, you need to rethink it so that it does.  Otherwise you may find yourself working very hard to make little money.

Need More Advice for Running Your Small Business?

I offer a variety of affordable services especially for small businesses. Feel free to contact me about how I can help your small business, no obligation, at attentiongetting@gmail.com.


Top Selling Products Online for Spring 2013

by G.B. Oliver

As you know by reading my blog, I am always up on the latest trends and the top sellers. So, here is what my research showed as currently the top selling products, for various categories, from major online retailers. If you have products that match these, you may want to move them to the forefront of your website/online store.

Current Top Sellers:

Jewelry: Ear cuffs are huge sellers, as are are large statement necklaces like bib collars, chain link bracelets, multi-color chandelier earrings and hand / body chain harnesses. Lots of turquoise, emerald green and pastel colors.

Large, bib necklace from Modcloth
Large, bib necklace from Modcloth

Purses/Bags: Satchels, hot pink, orange, leather, no prints.

Art: Art prints on reclaimed wood, large canvases (5 feet+), abstracts, kalightoscope-type patterns, black and white photography tinted with color sporadically.

Kitchen: Canisters are in big demand, floral patterns, modern tea kettles and tea pots, cookie stamps, dish towels with whimsical block prints.

iPhone Cases: Florals, bird prints, zebra prints, polka dots, stripes, silicone, metal.

Kids/Baby: Fun cutlery, personalized dishware, pyjamas with famous storybooks’ prints, whimsical book ends. brightly colored clothes hangers.

Twisted Family Cutlery from Saks Fifth Avenue

Outdoor: Willow bark, chevrons, Moroccan prints, coastal/beach.

Wedding: Mint, grey/silver, blush, chalkboard-style, simple/sans serif typefaces, water color designs, butterflies.

Vintage: Non-fiction books/cookbooks from 1940s -60s, lidded porcelain jars, silver teapots, posters, wallpaper, sconces, oversized wine jugs.

Pets: Stylish small dog carriers/purses, thin leather braided leashes, sleeping pods.

Other: Terrariums, drinking glasses with sayings on them, milk glass, milk bottles, humorous cat and dog faces (think grumpy cat), photography prints on clothing (dresses, leggings, scarves and more), unique watch and clock faces, bicycle prints (on everything from t-shirts to glasses).

FINAL WORD: These are products that are currently popular, so I am not saying to jump on the band wagon, but rather if you already have items like this, and they are not selling, maybe you should be giving them more focus. Or take these, add a new twist or mix a few themes together, for an original offering.


© 2013 G.B. Oliver. All rights reserved.

Online Stores I Love – Harabu House

by G.B. Oliver

One of the things I try to do with my blog is frequently point out Marketing I Love and Products I Love, but today I am actually going to talk about an Online Store I Love. The store is called Harabu House and if you are looking for ideas to what makes an online store work, you definitely should check them out.

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.41.45 AMHarabu House was launched in 2010 and is an exclusive online eco-boutique for contemporary and stylish global finds. Their mission is to find sustainable products that provide economic, social and environmental benefits to the artisans who create them, and they carry products from all over the globe.

What Harabu House is Doing Right:

  • Great Products – They carry truly unique, beautiful products for the home (as well as some jewelry and fashion accessories). From hand painted tea cups to teak measuring spoons, everything seems to have a mix of the exotic and the contemporary at the same time. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.44.17 AM
  • Easy to Navigate – I personally do not like busy home/landing pages and Harabu’s is sleek and simple. They have a slide show running of various products with a caption such as “Find Me Under Dinnerware“, making it easy for the visitor to find the products on display. All the categories are neatly displayed at the top and the particulars such as contact info, FAQs, newsletter, and social media icons are tightly compacted in a barred off section at the bottom. I also love how that important upper right hand corner notifies customers of their free shipping offer on domestic orders over $75 with a hot pink elephant icon drawing the eye right to it.


  • Gift Guide – Another icon on the home page is their gift guide. But once you click on it, you are actually then given more options to narrow it down further, such as a gift guide for housewarming, baby shower, for him, for her. Another attempt to make the shopping experience easier for the customer.
  • Product Descriptions – The product descriptions are so well written, with compact narratives that tell you everything you need to know and create a need to buy. They are typically followed by a small write-up about the artist. I love the Tell a Friend feature, allowing you to instantly email the product to a friend, the Add to Wish List icon, and the Request More Information icon – three great Call to Actions to keep buyers engaged.
  • Category Highlight – A nice touch this online store has, is that when you are in a particular product category, the icon behind it colorizes, reminding you where you are. Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 10.47.55 AM
  • Photographs – The photographs are definitely top notch. Well-lit, various angles, magazine-quality set-ups, typically showing the product in use. I also like that for certain products, they include a photo of any magazine editorial that product has appeared in, which helps credibility with customers because it acts as an endorsement.
  • Shopping Cart Total – A cool feature about their shopping cart icon in the upper right hand corner, is that it will not only display the number of items (which is pretty common with most online sellers) but it actually displays how much you have spent so far. Love that!

FINAL WORD: So, if you want a good example of what a sleek, attractive online home products shop should look like, check out Harabu House.

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Do You Know Who Your Target Market Is?

by G.B. Oliver

I am always amazed by businesses who don’t seem to know who their target market is. These are the primary people who are most likely to buy your products and/or services. It is one of the first things you must identify before you can do any type of marketing.

Why is it important to know who is most likely to buy from you? Well, you can’t find them to sell to, if you don’t know who they are.


Your Target Market Q&A

1. Gender – Are your products for male, female or both?

2. Age – You just need a range. For example, if you are selling wedding products, the age range is probably 23 to 33, for the most part. If you are selling orthopedic shoes, then probably an age range of 60+.

3. Income – For example, are you selling luxury products? Then you need to target buyers in the higher income range.

4. Business or End User – Are you selling products a business or profession wants or for personal use? Maybe you have a product aimed at teachers, or in my case, small business owners. Maybe you sell art which you think is mostly for the home, but businesses look for art for their offices as well.

5. Primary Buyer – Is the buyer of the product not the user? For example, if you sell baby products, obviously you are selling to the parents, not the baby.

6. Location – Is this a product only of interest to someone in a certain city or country? For example, you have a product with the Union Jack flag on it. Would someone outside of the U.K. still be interested?

7. Needs – What are the current needs of your target market? Is it someone who is getting married, having a baby, starting a business, going to college, buying a new home, etc.

There are other factors you can consider as well, depending on what you sell, such as your target market’s style (traditional, modern, etc.), ethnicity, education level and so forth.

Once you have identified your primary target market, go back over this list and identify possible secondary markets. For example, my primary target market is small business owners, but I have actually had marketing students buy my ebooks. A secondary market can be the gift giver, an event planner, a fashion stylist, a daycare provider, etc. – basically, WHO could benefit from your products?

Once you have identified your primary and secondary target markets, now you have to go and find where they are and what makes them buy. I always recommend asking friends, family and colleagues who fit the description of your target market. It should NOT be guess work.

FINAL WORD: It is impossible to market your business effectively if you do not know who you are selling to. Make that your first priority to determine who wants your products and/or services, and everything else should work around that.

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How to Sell On Etsy Successfully with an Analysis of the Top Selling Etsy Shops

by Gail Oliver, Online Marketing Consultant

Etsy has been a popular marketplace for over 10 years now. So if you are thinking of opening an Etsy shop, you may be wondering how to sell on Etsy successfully.



Etsy currently stands at over 1.6 million + sellers and over 300 million  products. So how does a new shop get found?

I have been working with Etsy shops for over 4 years now, and I can tell you the main points of the formula for success.

Common Traits Among Top Selling Etsy Shops

  • The majority of top selling shops offer products in a niche. Niche shops tend to do better because all of their products have the same keyword phrases, which maximizes their SEO, both Etsy and Google. As a result, they get better search results because they sell one type of item. For example, a shop that sells only bracelets as opposed to all types of jewelry, which is much broader in scope with more competitors for keywords.
  • The majority of top sellers list over 100 items and more likely upwards of 1,000. The reason seems to be that it is a numbers game. The more items you have, the more searches you turn up in and the more search tags you can take advantage of.
  • The majority of top selling shops offer products under $20. Low priced products are a lot easier for new customers to take a risk on, and much easier to get multiple sales.
  • The top selling shops have amazing product photography. As a result, their images stand out better in Etsy search results, and their photos are more likely to be used by Etsy on their social media pages and in their Etsy Finds newsletters.

If you really want to know how to sell on Etsy successfully, be sure to check out my very affordable marketing services, ebooks and plans for Etsy shop owners here.

© 2012-2017 Gail Oliver. All rights reserved.