Pricing Crafts – When to Mark Down

You’re at a week-end long craft fair. Some items are selling well, others not so well. You look at the items that are not selling and begin to second-guess your pricing and even the item itself. What should you do?

The answer is a great big “It Depends”. Yeah, I know not very helpful.

Before you grab your pricing pen and slash prices, you might first want to consider your options and if slashing prices on the non-selling items might hurt sales on your money-makers.

Before you do anything, evaluate what you and other crafters are selling and the venue.

We were recently at a Firemen’s festival that also had a craft fair. It was very hot. There were fun firemen’s contests to watch, great bar-b-q plates, and live music. The crafts were primarily inside. Most of the festival-goers were not buying. When we went to the same event last year, there was also very little being sold. Had any of the crafters reduced their prices, it probably would not have made a difference. And besides, overall the prices were on the low side in the first place. This is a case of the venue being poor, not the prices.

We’ve all been at those shows where things just don’t sell. Or people are only buying paintings, or jewelry, or clothing. It can be for any number of reasons – even prices. In the long run for your business, it is better to let the show be a loss and move on.

Marking down items that are fairly priced because a show only draws the nickel and dime crowd will more likely than not only lead to bargaining and not generally increase sales.

Call the day a loss and mark the event off your calendar.

If your non-sellers are similar to your money-makers, by reducing prices on one, you will draw more attention to them. The question is at what cost? Will marking down the no/low-sellers suddenly make your good-sellers look over-priced?

Can customers tell what is different between the items? If not, you may spend a lot of time explaining which are on sale and which aren’t. And it does make your normally priced items look more expensive.

If your low-sellers are marked down and one of those folks who purchased the same item earlier in the day returns to your booth – do you think they’re going to be very happy?

Trust me, you don’t want to be having this conversation in front of other customers. This is why Sear’s and other major retailers will refund the price difference to customers if an item is marked down shortly after they purchase it.

If you mark stuff down at the end of the day – desperation selling – will people come to think you are wishy-washy and will opt not to buy early in the day knowing you will only mark stuff down later? Will customers try to barter the price down to get the discount when selection is the best?

This tactic works great at yard sales and flea markets. Why? Because once in desperation mode, the seller will often make mistakes and sell a $100 item for $10 just to sell it. If you are making your crafts “just to sell it” why not just give it away – it’ll be less painful and it could lead to something interesting. – Pay It Forward anyone?

Yes, the show may be a loss, but you have to think about your business long-term. There will be good days, awful days, and days where your feet won’t touch the ground. Don’t let a good or bad day negatively impact your business long-term.

And what about when you have only one more of something, should you mark it down?

When you have only one of an item left, that usually means that you sold the others. Now that there is only one left it becomes special – there are no more to be had. Why would you mark something down people want simply to clear the last one out of inventory?

This is reference to a virtual sell-out item. If you have stuff left over from another sale, it might be a good idea to mark it last one and mark it down – but, not at the same sale where the others were sold.

Generally speaking, the only time items should be marked down is before the show. You will be making decisions without an audience and at a time when you are not rushed and interrupted.

Think about the ramifications of marking all of something down 50% – will people think they are getting a bargain or are they going to think the price was too high in the first place?

If the mark-downs are permanent, why not swap out the tag? Think about when you’ve attended craft fairs as a customer. Booths with stuff on sale may get more traffic, but do they get more sales? As a rule, I haven’t seen a marked difference.

Of course, if items are selling like the proverbial hot cakes, it might be time to raise your prices. But, always do this in such a way that those being presented with the higher price do not know they could have purchased the same item earlier in the day for less.

How do you handle non-sellers and pricing? Do you mark down at the show, after the show, or hold firm?

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One Response to Pricing Crafts – When to Mark Down

Thanks for the article. I agonize over pricing but it always seems when I mark things down to make a sale they still sit there. My prices are fair to begin with so I sit there scratching me head asking “what gives?”


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