It is thought that Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales can account for as much as 30-40% of retailers’ sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas according to The Balance, with the proportion of online sales accounting for this figure rising annually. That’s a huge incentive for modern retailers to make sure that they create their best offer every year.
But what about those of us who hand make our products – can we really afford to take part?
Today in the podcast I am exploring the idea of Black Friday handmade sales and asking, is it worth it?
Do you need to host a Black Friday Sale with your handmade products?
I’m going to be 100% honest here, in my eleven years of trading I tried this once, very last minute and honestly it made no huge leap in income for me, but that’s not to say the principle couldn’t work for anyone else.
First of all let me qualify my own findings with you.
I think it was 2014, or 2015 and I had some stock that had been hanging around for a while, post show stuff. It was often the case that after a run of shows I’d discount what was left, as occasionally shows can take their wear on product packaging. In this particular year I had not quite finished my shows but had a large box of stock I wanted to shift before Christmas because I was planning a bigger Boxing Day sale with some exclusive items and I wasn’t sure I’d cope with everything I had planned for, when it came to shipping them out after Christmas.
I decided on my dates and discount rates and posted about the sale on my social media and newsletter in line with Black Friday. Usually in these cases the stock gets a big buy out in the first few days and I’m left with a few pieces that linger.
I had heard that Black Friday was this big wonderful thing and had high hopes of selling a higher percentage of stock… the truth was I just didn’t. I sold less than what I would consider a normal sale might do for me. I don’t believe it was a stock issue, instead I honestly think that two things happened; firstly, most of my customers were buying other products… TVs and not yarn, and secondly some had become accustomed to my Boxing Day sales which I think they were waiting for already knowing that I was gearing up for some exclusive offers.
Of course, as I say this was just my experience from one year and with not as much planning as I would normally do (this was a bit of a whim), but it led me to asking the question, ‘Is Black Friday really a good idea for handmade products?’
My answer? In all honesty from my research I really don’t think it is… UNLESS… you don’t host sales at any other time of the year and you can afford to make your sale a jaw-dropping bargain!
The other truth I have come across is that many of the big sellers on Etsy don’t seem to create Black Friday sales either and that might be because they mostly run all year around offers for bulk buys. Or it might be that they also don’t see the viable profit generation that larger retailers can achieve.
Remember, larger retailers of mass-produced product have the ability to meet demand for a higher volume of sales and that’s what they push for, because that’s how they make their money during a sale. They also have smaller overheads compared to handmade producers, leaving them the margin to play with in offering their version of jaw-dropping goodness.
As hand producers we simply don’t have the production capacity or the margin to follow suit... and as I always say, ‘why would you honestly want to work for less?!’
How to host a Black Friday sale… if this works for your business model
There are craft businesses out there who can create volume, and these are the designers who sell patterns, tutorials and digital products like books. Their capacity is infinitely higher than product producers and given this capacity they can push for volume sales in a short sales period, if they offer good discounts and get their marketing right.
If you do want to try this for yourself, to see what your results are then here’s some advice to get you started.
Firstly you need to ask yourself a question; ‘Do I have enough older stock to create a sale?’ Then you need to ask yourself; ‘Can I discount this stock to say 30-40% off, without killing all of my margin?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’ in both cases, then you have the very beginnings of a sale!
I would then recommend that you start creating the following plan;
Gather your stock and work on the sale discount you can afford, given your margins
Create a sale section on your website, or Etsy shop
Create a sale on your website, or Etsy shop to launch at 12am on the day
Create promotional images for your website and social media to show off the sale
Create a plan for social content and schedule it. Check out my resource page for social media scheduling tools. Remember to link to your sale page in each piece of content.
Use Black Friday and handmade hastags
Use your sales page URL link as your website URL on your social media profiles, so that potential customers can find you easily
Create a newsletter sequence for your email list, linking to your sale page. This only needs to be two or three emails before and during the timeframe of your sale creating a more urgent call-to-action as they progress.
Make sure you have enough shipping materials to ship promptly
In most cases hand produced product lines aren’t really equipped for creating Black Friday sales from, because they don’t have the margin to make an eye-catching sale and they don’t have the production capacity to strive to sell volume and make back lost income that way. This being the case I don’t believe a Black Friday tradition suits all handmade businesses.
I do think however, that if you have a growing older stock issue then creating a sale at this time might not be the worst idea for an experiment, particularly if you do not create sales at any other time of the year.
· List of Social Media scheduling tools that I recommend