When to Shake the Dust Off: Retail Decisions

For the past 6 months we have had our products on display at a local retail marketplace with mixed success.

 The upside has been the compliments we’ve received on the design of our space (thank my wife), the maximum usage of that space (again, my wife’s doing) and finally the beauty and quality of our products (drumroll please..... the carpenter’s kudos).

Whether receiving input directly from customers or indirectly through other vendors and/or employees; our product line has been praised for being both unique and of superior workmanship. We have been very appreciative of the feedback

 Unfortunately, with the upside there often comes a downside; and that  has been sales.  We opened our space in January so we were expectant of the Christmas season hangover.  We also knew we’d have to be patient as it takes time to become “known” and to establish a customer base.  That said, our sales have been a disappointment and we now are faced with the reality not uncommon to many small business owners; whether to stick with it or close shop and move on.  

 There are no easy decisions when it comes to retail.  The optimist would point towards the latter part of the year when traditionally sales skyrocket, while the pessimist looks at the potential of a continuing trend of more months with limited sales.  Then there’s the realist (which we aim to be) who takes both factors into consideration but focuses primarily on year end projections; cost vs. profit; benefits vs. liabilities and the reality of whether one is increasing their appeal to their target market with time invested.

 We approached our decision with our two most effective tools of problem solving: prayer and an honest assessment (aka "realism") 

 First, through prayer we acknowledge that all we have is provided to us by The Lord (including our time and our talents); and that He would lead us in the path He desires us to take.

Second, we looked realistically at all the factors needing to be considered, both past and future. We know our products are of high quality but that alone does not translate into success.  We also know that we have kept our space full by consistently adding new products while also rotating our items to maintain a fresh look.  Finally we looked at whether or not our location was matching customer to product; and in this area we found our greatest shortcoming.  

 Selling handcrafted  artisan wood creations that are made to last only targets a select audience.  In our “throwaway” society our greatest competitor will usually be the cheap and new, so our challenge is to find the consumer who prefers natural beauty over manufactured and hand-made over mass produced.  

 What we discovered in our current retail location is that we were not matching customer to product. We’re not blaming anyone (including ourselves) as this truth would not have been revealed without taking the retail plunge; however what we amassed was more wisdom than wallet.


 Thus our decision to move on.

 The term “shake the dust from your feet” is Biblical language that referred to leaving the place you were behind you and moving forward to continue your mission.  Though Jesus’ application has far deeper significance, we took a portion of that principle and applied it to our business; not by quitting altogether but by moving forward.

Our artisan products will always be available through our online store here at www.theprodigalcarpenter.net...........meanwhile we'll continue to seek the best venues for making them available elsewhere. 


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