Colourful Friday

I’d really like to ignore Black Friday. I’m not even sure how this even became a thing in the UK. I mean, I totally understand about snagging a bargain – I love it when I can save a few pennies on something I was planning on getting; who wouldn’t? But I’m a firm believer that a bargain is only a bargain if you needed it in the first place.

But for the last 24 hours my inbox, phone and internet surfing seems to be pinging with offers for today… oh yes, it’s that weird non-day again. sigh

Sales are a hot potato for small independent businesses and craftspeople. Without the margins of big businesses there simply isn’t room to shave off money without it hurting or being counter-productive. There aren’t such things as fat profits, mostly it’s a delicate balancing act between charging a fair price for the customer and a fair wage for the maker and the juggling act between such things as break-even, turnover and profit can be surprisingly stressful at times. I’m sure I’m not the only one that agonises about setting price points; did I get it right, am I wasting my time on this particular product because it’s not cost effective, am I charging too much? It’s inevitable I’ll get it wrong at times – both ways – no matter how carefully I do my sums. The added pressure of “should I be offering a % off” is really unwelcome – no one wants to be thought mean or greedy but the reality is most craftspeople really aren’t in a position to undercut themselves no matter what day of the year it is or for bulk purchases. It also sends a really undesirable message that I might have been overcharging in the first place or that I don’t think the item I’ve made is worth it – neither of which is true.

My friend Katie wrote an excellent blog post on this last year explaining why she doesn’t do sales except at the end of a season to sell off old stock to make room for new – the same reasons I have.

This year, I’ve just read a really excellent article written by an expert in consumer behaviour, retail and marketing explaining the reasons why Black Friday sales are in fact actually bad for the economy as a whole not just for individuals. One paragraph really stood out because it resonated so strongly with my own experience.

He said:   In fact, a small minority of loyal customers directly and indirectly drive the bulk of sales and a disproportionately high share of profitability. These “apostles” sing the brand’s praises and will encourage their friends, family and colleagues to give their favorite brand a try. These consumers typically buy without discounts and do so year round.

Michael Silverstein

This is absolutely true of the wonderful customers who buy the things I make. I see the familiar names in my order list and bless them for helping me earn the money to pay my bills, run my car, buy the things I need, feed my animals each month. Their repeat custom tells me I must be doing something right – which reassurance is vital for someone who worries as much as I do! For a goodly number  of customers, I also interact with them online on Ravelry or Twitter, gaining valuable feedback and seeing and hearing about the wonderful things they make. Some are my “in real life” friends whom I already knew before I started BarberBlackSheep. Sometimes I hear that one customer has recommended me to another for which I am very thankful. In this kind of small business, the loyalty of customers is most noticeable and one of the things I never take for granted. In return I feel it’s my duty to keep prices as stable and fair as possible so that nobody misses out – how irritating to buy something one week and to find the following week you could have saved yourself 10% if only you’d known it was going to be knocked down.

So I was going to ignore Black Friday and hope it would go away if I hid for a day. But actually having just had my own gut feelings confirmed, now I think I want to celebrate Colourful Friday. Not by giving you a discount or slashing the prices of the items in my shop. I do however promise to strive to always price the things I make with integrity – for you and for me.

And I want to say a big, warm, heartfelt, colourful THANK YOU!!!! for supporting me all year round, rain or shine. I know who my repeat customers are. You know who you are. We may never mention it but we both know it. A thousand times thank you

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