Published in Issue 19, October 2012
Written by Tracey Kifford
The talented Samantha of Manfymoo produces delightful purses and bags with cow and pig prints and she has written a little poem to sum up the Christmas experience for busy craft designer/makers everywhere…
Christmas is a busy time for us crafters,
Attending craft fairs with my fellow grafters.
Hoping customers will spend lots of pennies,
Bags of sewing, wrapping and sending.
All my goodies are delivered by Royal Mail,
So let’s hope there will not be too much wind and hail.
Drink Milk with Santa and leave a carrot for Roo,
Make someone smile at Christmas with Manfymoo!
Samantha Wallbank – Manfymoo
ChicnTrendy’s Helene and Suzi have a love for natural products, producing a range of painted wooden and pottery products as well as felt and hessian bags. Christmas is one of their busiest times of the year. Helene explained how they prepare for the Christmas rush.
We start thinking about Christmas in earnest during early September as that is when we spend a week together on a sort of craft retreat in France. There are just two of us as well as my husband and dogs so no intrusions just time to spend thinking, planning and crafting – sharing hints and tips we have found in our experimentation/product development from earlier in the year.
Our main preparation is planning what to make especially for Christmas – this year
(2012) we will offer more products in hand made felt including bags, a new range of decorated and gold leafed glass and a larger range of natural wreaths and Christmas decorations. At this point we also plan which Christmas Fairs to attend – based on last year’s experiences which were pretty positive (we have only been trading for just over a year). In fact our success at the Christmas Fairs last year was an impetus for us to take it more seriously and now we have also taken to using a number of craft website to sell our items as well. We have realised though that our product range is best appreciated when it can be touched and seen in detail. The disadvantage of this is that we have to attend the fairs in person and as much of our product is breakable and heavy (pottery and now glass) we spend hours packing and unpacking at arrival and departure from the various venues.
One of the main differences about our Christmas prep compared to the rest of the year is planning the logistics of the targeted Christmas Fairs as we do not go to fairs during the rest of the year. This year will also involve setting up a special Christmas section in our on-line shops with Christmas specific gifts and decorations and we will be doing this during October. Another new idea is to start offering small ‘make-it-yourself’ parties and workshops locally to us during October and November.
Sandra of Sandy Mitchell Jewellery produces some fantastic contemporary necklaces, brooches and bracelets. One of her best times of the year for sales is Christmas and here she shares her preparations in the lead up to festive season.
As a designer and maker of contemporary jewellery who sells both wholesale and retail I have to start thinking of Christmas back in August when most people are lying on a beach sipping a cocktail! I send out a newsletter to the shops and galleries who stock my work in September and then start my retail promotions via events, exhibitions and through my website at the end of September.
I usually offer some kind of incentive to customers to place an order early - such as 10% off for orders placed before the end of October or free shipping. This makes a huge difference and spreads the work out more evenly in the months before Christmas.
I usually end up working on individual orders right up until about 10 days before Christmas – there is no point in taking orders beyond that because you are then at the mercy of the Post Office!
I try to design something 'sparkly' for this time of year or something that will go with the LBD (little black dress) to wear at parties. Last year my best seller was a Christmas Sparkle Bracelet – this year I am launching a Christmas Sparkle Sphere Necklace.
By about 18th December I start to wind down and I usually take my holidays over Christmas and New Year as a well-deserved break.
Catherine of Little Memories Keepsakes produces a fabulous range of keepsake jewellery including finger, hand and paw print cufflinks and key rings and pendants. Here she explains how Christmas is different to other times of the year for sales and work and how her craft business fits into her busy schedule.
Typically my keepsake business toddles along for much of the year with a relatively steady turnover each month. January is quiet along with the summer holidays and during these periods I only get a smattering of orders (which suits me as I have two boys at home). I set up my business nearly three years ago and on average I make 60% of my entire annual turnover between September and December.
I now make sure that by the time it gets to mid-September I've ordered all the business stationery I'm likely to need (to give out at events) and have ordered as much stock as I can afford. The last thing you need when you've got 15 pairs of cufflinks to make is to be thinking about ordering promotional postcards and gift boxes on a three week lead time! I keep my social calendar as clear as possible without offending anyone. The last two Christmases I've tried to take orders right up until mid-December and it's meant late nights and early mornings to ensure the work gets finished in time.
I used to attend events all year round, now I concentrate mainly on September to November with a couple chucked in around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. If you're at an event lasting 5 hours there are inevitably quiet periods so I try to plan my work in the run up to the event so I can take bits and pieces of jewellery that need polishing by hand with me. Plus I use these quiet periods to arrange appointments and contact customers about finished jewellery so that no time is wasted!
This year should feel slightly easier as my youngest is now in nursery every day so I'll have some more ‘free’ time to turnaround the jewellery. Of course I still need to find the time for my other part time job, housework, Christmas shopping and running the house! January is then for updating the website, doing my tax return and booking our summer holiday with the profits!
Laura of Kozmic Dreams produces a brilliant range of knitted owls and cats as well as some fantastic baby hats. Here she explains how Christmas affects her work schedule and what she has to do to make the festive season a success for her.
Most crafters think about Christmas on and off all year round, which can be quite disconcerting when we're in the middle of Summer! I tend to attend a lot of local craft fairs from September onwards and sell a wider range of goodies to include hats, scarves and stocking fillers.
I try to target as wide a range of potential customers as I can. I have lovely postcards that promote my goods and lead everyone to my WowThankYou shop. I love going to craft fairs as well as selling online; the Christmas fairs usually have a great atmosphere and even if I don't sell anything, I love chatting to other crafters. It's also the best way to do some market research and get feedback on my products. People also tend to pick up my postcards and hopefully this leads to future sales.
Beverley of Just Bev Soaps loves Christmas but has to start preparations in the middle of the year to keep up with her sales and craft fair commitments during the festive season. Here she explains how she manages her time and resources.
Christmas for me begins in August if not July. In July I have to think about what I am going to make and from what. August is the month I need to make soap. All cold press soaps have to dry for four to six weeks before being sold anyway and so that is one of the big hurdles for me. Around this time I also have to source fragrances from suppliers and that can be a big delay if their Christmas ranges are not ready.
I sell at farmers markets and fairs quite regularly throughout the year and so around about September time I take samples of Christmas products to gauge what my regular customers need for Christmas. September is also a time for wrapping and making up boxes/bags/
baskets etc. ready to sell. When we get into November we have so many fairs that we really do not have time to make new products or wrap gift boxes anyway. I also make sure to look back at the previous year’s sales so that we are stocking our previous Christmas best sellers. One of our biggest winners at Christmas has always been chocolate orange soap made with real chocolate! This I demonstrated at a fair two weeks ago and people were amazed that we actually used real fair-trade chocolate!
So there you have it. How do you prepare for Christmas? Start early with your preparations, plan your work load accordingly, go to some selected craft fairs to sell and fly the flag. Make sure you have enough reserves of stock to cover the Christmas rush and above all keep smiling and have a drink or two, you deserve it.
May we be the first to wish you a very Merry Christmas from the WowThankYou team