Posted: 18th November 2015
Home-made is the new vintage and the sewing bug is everywhere; TV programmes, celebrity interest, clubs and books are helping sewing, knitting, quilting and embroidery make a welcome return. So now is the perfect time to make a great business out of buttons, bows and bright shiny things.
To build a big customer base take some time to think about your brand and your business name. Your customers will buy more if they can identify with you; retro, vintage Scandinavian and country style are very appealing and complement the products on sale. When customers are excited by your brand and understand your product range they will keep coming back for more.
It is a growing market so you shouldn’t feel the need to be constrained by a particular craft. Quilting, knitting and haberdashery do sit side by side nicely, but you do need to be consistent with your stock and products. Think of it like a sweetie shop, customers intend to buy chocolate but leave with cherry lips, humbugs and sherbet dabs as well. Choose you stock with this in mind, some basic good stock from well-established and reliable suppliers then add some limited addition frivolous, quirky or vintage pieces to reflect your personality and entice your customer. Two words of caution: 1) your products will be beautiful and unique and you love them – take care not to spend all your time at vintage markets searching for one off fabulous pieces 2) think about your customer when buying stock not yourself, just because you love purple velvet and feathers…
An online shop will attract the widest number of customers and is the cheapest way to start selling. Choose a creative, easy to navigate design for your website which complements your products. Make it easy for customers to buy and to add more products to their baskets, highlight offers and new products. Above all make your customers feel special and part of the whole experience; use Twitter and Facebook to start a conversation with them and encourage them to display their creations. Send regular e-newsletters to encourage them to come back. Tictail.com offer free and stylish online stores with a range of payment options and mailchimp.com makes it easy to create stylish e-newsletters.
By nature your products will be very powerfully visual and tactile so as well as an online presence look at ways of putting your products in front of your customer. This doesn’t have to be a high street shop (which will need fairly large premises to hold stock but may not attract enough footfall to warrant the cost), look at Pop Up shops popupbritain.com/ or campaign your local town council to fill empty shops. Try markets, fairs and exhibitions, they are hard work but attract lots of customers in a short time stallfinder.com/
You also need to make the business profitable so don’t feel the need to complete on price and don’t be scared to charge a premium for gorgeous products; people want their creations to look fabulous and are happy to pay. Most of your sales will be one off, cut fabric or a few buttons, so be very clear about your terms and conditions, you cannot accept returns on cut fabric or one offs. Offer classes and advice sessions to attract both customers and PR (newspapers love an expert) and YouTube demonstrations or classes can attract customers from all over the world.