Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yart Sale Schmart Sale!

Yard + Art = Yart sale, which is pretty cute, I must admit. Etsy artists are having a site wide Yart sale through June 14th. My 2 bowls, pictured above, are in my Yart sale, at a very tempting reduced price, because they are experimental shapes and not available to choose in large sets.

I'm sort of watching the threads in Etsy's forum with horror, though, as posts abound with cries of not making any sales after marking pieces below cost, or making sales on nonperishable goods and being elated just to have made a teeny tiny profit margin. YOWZA!!!

The big problem there is that most new artists or handmade makers have no established set value for their work to begin with. We are not Corning Ware; we do not have a generally known retail price, from which a discount can be taken. And so here is the market maxim:

Your work is worth what the last person paid for it. Period.

So, if you mark down a $20 necklace to $10, you just devalued every other $20 necklace in your shop. And perhaps the entire inventory by 50%.

If you are an artist without a well established set retail price for your work, and you have a 15% off sale, you are going to have a rough time convincing those same buyers and lookers that your work is worth 15% more just because it's now June 15th, and the Yart sale is over. In fact, you are probably training your buyers to withhold purchasing until the next sale.

Sales in art are not equivelant to sales in a retail chain store, because art is bought and sold with the potential to hold or go up in value. Putting your artwork and handmade goods on sale says to an investment buyer that you are not a good investment.

SO, if you are yart selling, which I am, make a clear distinction between what is available in your yart sale from your other pieces. I recommend against a "storewide sale", or moving pieces into some sort of clearance bin. It's a marketing strategy for art where you are hurting yourself in the long run.

Pieces in my yart sale section are priced lower because they are seconds, samples, or experiments. They were not a regularly priced piece yesterday and a sample today. If I discontinue a line, the very last pieces will be discounted, but that is my only exception.

As handmade makers, we can't price the way that indutry does, our markup is not as high as industrial goods and so we can't discount and market as if we are Macys or Target. The one advantage we have is the investment value of our work, and I will protect that value- for myself, and my customers, too.


  1. i admit i actually put 2 pieces for 10% off. as i dont have a real job and gallery sales have all but stopped, and i've only sold to blog friends so far on etsy, i'm trying it with two pieces that aren't limited edition items. I also know that it gets confusing for everyone as an artist only gets 50% from gallery sales so when they sell on their own they get 50% more (however you want to look at it).
    it still confuses me, and right now I'm willing to just try it once. You make a lot of sense on why and which items you have reduced. thank you for this post.

  2. I agree with you whole-heartedly, and under normal circumstances would not participate in a sale such as this. However, we are experiencing a once-in-a-generation event right now with the economy and in order to make sales (and thus be able to keep making pottery), extraordinary measures need to be taken. So I swallowed my pride and put a limited number of items on sale for this limited time event. I wish I could stand firm and do no discounting, but rent is due and my other expenses are piling up as sales have dropped.

  3. These are beautiful pieces, Lee. I agree with you about the pricing, but also understand the plight that many of the artists are going through as well as everyone else in these times.
    I actually believe that when it comes to art, the less something costs the less"value" collectors and other enthusiasts place on it, rightfully so, and it actually may deter sales. Too expensive is no good either. One has to try to find the ground where their art is within reach but at the same time not under selling ones self and art.
    I have actually been considering increasing my prices as I feel I have been selling too low, even it these times.

  4. Very nice blog entry. I completely agree with you. I have preferred the route of raising prices rather than lowering prices. So I like to start a little low and then increase. I didn't participate in the Yart sale, but gave a 50% discount on shipping this week. I believe a discount on shipping doesn't devalue your work, the price of the work is still the same and customers save money on shipping. Just my 2 cents as I am shocked to see the promotion threads and chat rooms slashing their prices for this Yart Sale!

  5. wolfewoman, I appreciate your clear thinking. There are even plenty of reports of the big industrial retailers concerns over training consumers to only shop discounted sales. People start to think that that's what something REALLY should cost, otherwise it wouldn't have been offered at that cost.

  6. Lee, I think you're absolutely right about this. I do understand that people need to do what they have to do in their particular circumstances. It makes sense, if you want to offer sale items to come up with a rationale for why you can do it for those items, even if you don't articulate it to anyone but yourself. Do you read Lisa Call's blogposts? She did a really good piece recently on pricing.

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone- both here and on the Etsymudteam thread. We all have to make tough choices economically, and I'm just offering my observations for consideration.

    I must say that I've seen the notion of 'bargain art' fall on its arse a few million times... sometimes with me underneath it. I've seen successful galleries bought by new owners who tried an "art at affordable prices" theme, and they all failed. Buyers understand that the average artist or craftsperson is not making more than a living wage anyway, and they are not looking to drive us into poverty. People actually love supporting the arts, and artists, too.

    I have pieces that span a wide price range. In this economy, people are buying mostly in my $20-$50 range, so I just offer more at that price point rather than marking $50-$100 pieces down. Something for everyone, and food for my family, too.

    I wish you all great success, and lots of sales!

  8. very interesting reading both in your post and in these comments. I think you all make valid points indeed. I have not participated in the 'Yart' sale, not because i don't want to but purely as i am swamped in all areas (not meaning sales either lol .. that's just a wish)!

    I do wish those well that are participating and i also 'wish' for some resumption of normality in general sales, for us all.