Tackling the competition


Many of us view other creatives as the competition and fail to think about the billions of dollars spent every day on mass-produced items. The main competition for any one of us selling on Felt or in local markets is not each other – there’s a much bigger picture here, and collectively we can work for a bigger piece of it.

Over the last two years I’ve had the great opportunity to meet and hang out with many of you reading this (Hi!), and literally thousands of your customers drifting through craft markets around the country. What’s clear to me is that people at markets are buying things for a different sort of reason than they would buy a cheap single-use thing from a big box shop. Those reasons are worth hanging onto.

  • “I want to find something special for my brother/daughter/partner.”
  • “I can’t believe the detail that’s gone into this, and to meet the person that made it in real life is mind-blowing!”
  • “You just don’t get things as high quality as this anywhere else.”
  • “I like my hard-earned money to stay local!”
  • “Knowing the story of the timber this was made from is just so valuable. That’s what makes this special in my eyes.”
  • “I’m a painter myself, and I understand how hard it can be to put yourself and your work out there like all of these stallholders. Such courage. Anyone who does that deserves my money, but their work is why I keep coming back.”

This time of year, the Christmas sales period, is a brutal and fickle time of year. Everyone wants everything, right now, for half the price, and preferably gift-wrapped (if it’s free). Some of you will have had an excellent and fruitful time, and others will be lamenting the lack of sales. What unites us all is the journey and movement that we are a part of. Globally we are seeing the rise of indigenous and artisan craft – a resurgence of things that are made with love and designed to last as long as they need to. We are seeing people turn away the ridiculousness of planned obsolescence – that thing that makes your otherwise perfectly fine iPhone 6 stop working after x years and suddenly become landfill. We are seeing more people every day demanding more transparency around where and how their clothing was made, what sprays were put on their fruit or vegies, or how the chickens were treated when they were laying those eggs. This is the wider movement that we at Felt feel part of – organisations that care about things that matter – and you are also a part of this movement by nature of making and selling items locally. You are a local businessperson, whether you identify as one or not, and local business is increasingly seen as one of the best ways out of some of the holes that our society has stumbled into.

So why the unexpectedly sombre tirade from Jason today? Well, it’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and a call to action for how we can support each other both now, and in the new year.

The non-sombre list-guide to making Christmas an epic stepping stone to even better things in the New Year (catchy title, right?)

1. Walk the walk:

Buy from Felt sellers and local markets. If you want people to buy from you, you have to be willing to buy from others doing similar things. Can’t find what you’re looking for? In business terms that’s a ‘market opportunity’ and you could start making and selling them yourself. Or if you find them after a long and painful search, you should tell them to join Felt. Point them here to start with.

2. Be your own dream customer

Think about what you would like your customers to do for you, and do that for others. Give other Felt sellers shout outs on social media. Take photos and post them, or send images and a thank you note to them. Leave positive feedback. Give helpful reviews and suggestions to them. Tell your friends about them. Buy from them again. Promote other items alongside your own brand. Talk each other up, and help each other find customers.

3. Promote strategically

No matter what your craft, at a certain point you will realise that not everyone will want to buy what you’re selling – even some of your best supporters like friends and family. This can be a hard pill to swallow at first, and then you’ll realise that you don’t want to buy everything that others are trying to sell to you. That’s okay! One of the benefits of being part of the Felt community is that we can still mobilise that support, and get sales from the friends and family of other Felt sellers. It’s the difference between saying “I’d love it if you can buy something from my Felt shop this Christmas” and “I’d love it if you can buy from shops like mine on Felt this Christmas”. The likelihood of your friends and family finding something perfect to buy from one shop is much much smaller than them finding something from several thousand shops. If we all did that, we would all sell more. So do that.

4. Use our resources

Felt offers a bunch of free-to-download-and-print posters that you can put up at work/school/cafes/anywhere, as well as a bunch of handy wee cheap promotional items to use with your items and at markets. This year more than 50% of the sales on Felt were from customers coming directly to Felt, rather than being referred from (your or our) social media or any of the dozens of other promotions that we do. Promoting Felt alongside your own brand is quite simply clever marketing and good business. If you’re reading this then you’ll also likely know that my role only exists to help you do what you’re doing. Our measure of success is your success. Struggling with something? Ask for help! I would love to hear from you!

5. Talk the talk

Inspired by a story you’ve heard about another seller or something you read in Meet the Maker? Talk about it. Tell someone at work, or your super-consumer-capitalist friend. Even better, get them a perfect gift from Felt, one they will cherish forever. Change their eyes to the challenges of fast-fashion and their buy-then-throw-away lifestyle. For many of us, our craft business and our everyday lives are not neatly separated things. Start to align your conversation with the things that are important to you – small talk can be about big things! Share the things that give you authentic joy on social media (and in real conversations), and talk about your passions with new people that you meet.

You’re already on the team, now it’s time to tackle the real competition, and that starts with backing your team-mates and sharpening up your own skills. Our community are all working to gobble up the market of people buying mass-produced stuff, which will only happen when we work together.

Cover image by honeybirdchaser.felt.co.nz

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