17 Aug 3 Strategies to Navigate Inflation
As inflation continues trending upwards across the globe, many struggle to counteract the high costs of doing business. From maintaining inventory to paying staff to strategizing for the upcoming high seasons of fall and winter, margins have thinned for many craft businesses.
However, there are several things you can do as a craft business owner to circumvent the effect of inflation on your business. While you can’t do much about the price of gas or the cost of shipments coming in from around the globe, there are some smart pivots to consider until the economy stabilizes. The following ideas require no investments. The point is to use what you already have at hand, and expand your offerings without investing in anything that might rely on the supply chain or require purchasing products at inflated prices.
If you’re running a brick and mortar business, think about hosting in-house events. These can be educational or social. For example, if you have a space for classes or social events, consider creating a monthly meet-up with a small admission fee for crafters who need help finishing their projects. This invites customers into your store for a crafting get together, and they may purchase some of your products when they attend.
Our client, Thimbles, a quilt shop based in Lockport, Illinois, hosted a Sleep in Your Own Bed Retreat (it proved so popular, they’re hosting another one coming up in the fall). The retreat lasts 4 days and invites sewers to Thimbles’ spacious classroom space to work on whatever they want over the course of the retreat. The sewers have access to tools and cutting tables they might not have room for at home, and at the end of the day, they return to their own homes. The event isn’t selling any products per se, but the quilters who attend do wind up browsing the store and purchasing products across the 4-day event. Thimbles has found events like this to sell out quickly, and warrant creating additional events to accommodate interest. The community building aspect of events like these is a valuable added bonus.
If you don’t want to commit to a full retreat, consider adding shorter monthly events. Our client Sealed With a Kiss, a yarn store based in Guthrie, Oklahoma hosts twice monthly “social” get togethers. Their Nine to Noon Crew meets the first Tuesday morning of the month, with SWAK providing pastries and coffee. The morning crew is so popular that they recently expanded to add Social Saturdays, held the second Saturday afternoon of the month. Again, they provide snacks and a bit of camaraderie, and many times the attendees are eager to purchase new products in the shop. If you’re up for hosting a weekly event, Cactus Quilt Shop, based in Tucson, Arizona, holds Sit & Sew Thursdays every week, offering use of the classroom work tables and equipment to anyone who wants to come in and sew. They’ve seen sales increase as a result, particularly as they rearrange and bring new products out to the floor each week.
An alternative if you don’t have a brick and mortar store is to host online sessions via Zoom or Facebook Live. Create a private Facebook Live event to stream to confirmed attendees only, then sell tickets on your website to the event. The event can be a craft along or a tutorial for a tool or skill. If you’re really feeling adventurous, configure Facebook live shopping so you can sell products during the event.
Create an Online Community
We’ve discussed how creating an online community devoted to promoting your business can increase brand awareness and grow your brand in our previous post, Building Content Communities. We dug a little deeper into the topic, specifically looking at Patreon, in our recent blog, Should I Start a Patreon? An online community supports your current business efforts while also expanding outward to potentially include online customers and fans you might not otherwise reach.
The beauty of the online community is it does not necessarily rely on product offerings and can remain largely unaffected by inflation. Starting a free, invite-only group on Facebook where customers can engage with one another and discuss crafting can lead to further engagement with your business.
Our client Vermont Quilter’s Schoolhouse hosts a private Facebook group for members of an ongoing Brown Bag Mystery quilt-along. The group generates its own content, with stitchers sharing their finished quilts and quilts in progress. Often, seeing the work of other quilters inspires members to purchase a mystery quilt kit, or invest in a project. Another client, the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, hosts a monthly stitch along Facebook group. Members of the Facebook group may not necessarily become EGA members, but EGA regularly shares classes, events, and other perks of EGA membership to the group, thus encouraging membership often.
Another client, Sarah Schira of Imagined Landscapes, hosts a Patreon with a very low monthly fee (less than $5!). In exchange, Patreoners gain access to a monthly Zoom call where participants can sit and craft together. Patreoners also vote on the best possible time for the Zoom session, so that each person feels like they have a voice in the community. It’s an incredibly low-stakes endeavor that only requires Sarah keep in communication with her Patreoners. She currently has over 350 Patreoners in her community, so setting a low bar for admission has really paid off!
Encourage Scrap Busting Projects
As crafters, the allure of “scrap busting” is undeniable. While you might initially think scrap busting doesn’t do much to sell products, it’s better to take a long view. First, you can provide support services when encouraging scrap busting (classes, projects, etc) as well as support materials (threads, backing for quilts, additional yarn). Second, once your customer busts through their scraps, they’re ready for new product to pad their stash! We have seen some of our clients encourage scrap busting projects while also generating money for their business.
Thimbles has hosted Stash Pot Pie classes every month this year. Each class focuses on a particular quilt design that only uses scraps for the quilt top. Their quilters have been stashdiving all year to create the monthly quilts, but also amend their quilts with additional purchases, whether it’s the backing and binding or the border fabric. In this way, for the low cost of the class and the additional materials necessary, Thimbles has designed an engaging and thus far very popular monthly event that isn’t reliant on new products or large purchases.
If you can design a class or special product that encourages crafters to use what they already have on hand, it’s another way to generate money—and loyalty—for your business.
We hope these three strategies have given you some ideas for increasing your business’s profitability despite the rising cost of inflation. If you’d like more help strategizing content for your business, contact us today!