For many handmade sellers, summer typically the time of the year when sales start to slow down as customers change their priorities to spending time away on holidays, outdoors and with family.
This is commonly referred to as the “summer slump”.
It’s easy to start to fret and panic when the steady stream of orders becomes a trickle, however it’s wise to instead take a breath and look at this situation in a more measured and systematic way.
The first thing to do is confirm if your lack of orders can be accounted for as a regular seasonal dip (which it likely is) or if there is a different reason for the drop (which then may require tweaking your product range, or marketing strategy).
If you have more than a years worth of sales data, create a simple graph that shows your sales from one year to the next. You can do this yourself using a spreadsheet if you know your way around creating charts from data, or alternatively most dedicated sales tracking programs will generate these for you.
Craftybase’s order tracking software (screenshot from the dashboard is shown above) can be a useful tool for your business to identify your sales trends quickly and easily.
If you end up with a chart that looks something like the chart above, then you are most likely dealing with a normal seasonal fluctuation: you can clearly see sales start dipping down in May and start to again pick up in September.
So, now that you know that your sales have a seasonal element, what should you do? Here are a couple of tips for getting the most out of your quiet periods:
1. Don’t panic!
An important thing above anything else is to not panic and make rash decisions to try and get those sales moving again.
Randomly cutting your prices or deep discounting can have little effect apart from cutting your own bottom line, which is exactly what you’ll want to avoid when your cashflow is temporarily decreased. This doesn’t mean you can’t plan out a sale to take advantage of the slow period, but the keyword here is to “plan” and calculate the impact it will have on your profit margins.
A better strategy is to focus on the point that you currently have some breathing space to take a bigger look at your business and see where you can make improvements.
2. Create more stock for the upcoming busy season
If you have the cashflow, it’s a good time to start to get your inventory in place for the next busy period so you are ready for the sales when they start rolling in again. Why? planning your inventory in advance can mean you can place bulk orders for your materials and optimize your making process: these strategies can have a big impact on your profit margins.
How can you know what to make? If you have some previous sales history, taking a deeper dive on this data to see if you can predict which items will sell particularly well is a good idea.
If you don’t have much in the way of sales data, you can use this time to research potential good sellers suitable for selling after summer and during the Nov-Dec holiday period and taking “calculated bets” on new products. Check out our article here about the holidays and seasonal dates you need to be aware of as a handmade craft seller »
3. Optimize your processes
This is the perfect time to declutter your work area and introduce improvements to your manufacturing and packing workflow to make things faster and more efficient. As they say, time is money, so anything you can do to speed up your process will pay some pretty massive dividends during the busy season.
Firstly, document your processes to make your products, from start to finish. What materials to do you use? What steps do you take to make your product (don’t forget any packaging steps at the end?). Are there any ways you can immediately see to optimize these steps?
Check out our article on SOPs for some great tips on how to create documentation »
Consider creating an order tracking system: this should control how an order goes through the process from being placed on your sales channel to being shipped out to the customer.
Take a look and see again as you have for your manufacturing process if you can make any improvements to these steps to make things quicker, easier or cheaper. Consider hiring someone to do some of these steps if they are particularly time consuming and take you off the main aspects of running your business.
Some other quick wins for optimizing your handmade making and fulfilment process:
Stock up on your packaging materials so you have plenty on hand for orders.
See if you can make your products in components so you can assemble them in advance up to the point of customisation or adding variations. As an example, if you make body butter you might store your base butter in bulk, and add the fragrance at a later point to create your different scent lines.
Get your automatic messages honed and configured on your sales channels, and have a library of responses ready for common questions your customers ask.
4. Get your inventory in order
This is also the ideal time to sort out your stock. Having a disorganized approach to your inventory can lead to overstocking on materials and losing track on what products you have to sell so it’s worth the time investment to create a system.
Stocktake everything you have on hand so that know how much you have available right now for your manufactures and how much you have to reorder. You can use a paper notebook, a spreadsheet, or alternatively a dedicated inventory management system for handmade sellers for this task. Getting your inventory under control now and keeping on top of it throughout the year means much less stress when tax time rolls around.
5. Improve your product line
Use the opportunity to refocus on your product line - analyse what sold well in the past year and what didn’t sell so well so you can plan your production for the upcoming year.
Look into adding new products: contact some of your past customers to get feedback about what sort of products they would like to see in your shop next.
Spend time defining who your target market is so you can cater for their needs better and plan more effective marketing.
Take the time to do some market research to find out more about similar products and current trends.
Refresh your product photography and make improvements to your packaging.
6. Work on your conversion funnels
Make some tweaks to your Etsy SEO and listings on your sales channels.
Analyse your traffic to see what people are searching for and see if you can improve your product listings so that more people viewing your listings convert into happy paying customers.
Learn more about how to increase your handmade product conversion rate »
7. Reevaluate your pricing
While you should avoid the temptation to reduce your prices to try and get the sales moving again, it’s a good idea to take the time to analyse and assess the prices you are charging for your handmade products.
Adding some higher priced items to your current offering can work well in times of low traffic: if you only make a handful of sales, then it can be a useful strategy to try and maximise your average sale price.
8. Work on Marketing
Focus on your online social presence and make sure that you are active and visible. Progress shots of your manufacturing process can be a good way of keeping your twitter, facebook and pinterest accounts alive.
Reach out to bloggers and influencers with news of your product range and get involved in online communities.
9. Don’t Panic (again!)
We know we mentioned this one as our first point, but it’s so important that we thought we would mention it again. Although it’s easy to see a drop in sales as the “beginning of the end” for your business it’s the most unhelpful thing you can do in the long run.
Breathe, then take the time to improve on your business during this quiet period. Remember also to take some time out for yourself while you can!
See also: 10 Podcasts for Craft Entrepreneurs »