Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trying a New Market

We started our summer by setting up at Provo's Farmers Market. The advantage to that market was that it was closer to home and it started earlier in the summer than some of the other markets. Unfortunately, patrons are often disappointed when they come to a farmers market and there are very few farmers. We toughed it out for roughly two months, but business was very slow. This area is notorious for people wanting to buy things cheap or just scoping out your stuff so they can copy it.

When we learned about a new market in Highland, we decided to give it a shot. The Highland Town Market is in its first year and is pretty small, but people who live in the Highland area seem to appreciate handmade items better. I've enjoyed having people like our creations and not turn their noses up at the prices. The first weekend was slow and most people were stopping by to see what was going on. Even though there weren't more people yesterday, there were more people buying.

This market feels like a good fit for us. One of our young customers event recommended that I do more tatted items in orange since she has lots of friends who would buy stuff that's orange. So cute! I took her advice and I hope she's right. New markets seem to be popping up all the time and I'm glad we were paying attention.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tophatter just isn't my cup of tea

I'm generally willing to try new things for our business. Etsy has been slow and I heard of a new site called Tophatter. Tophatter is an auction site. Unlike eBay, the auctions happen live and sometimes go very quickly. As a buyer, you are represented by an avatar in the "auction room." There are a variety of auctions at different times of the day - supplies, artisan, artisan jewelry, daily bazaar, night owl bazaar, jewelry, etc.

Because the auctions go quickly, selling on Tophatter takes a different approach than selling on eBay. I already made the mistake of pricing something too low and having it sell for the $1 starting bid. The fees vary, depending on the auction room. Most items can be listed for a 10% fee or $1, whichever is higher. On my pricing mistake, Tophatter got the entire $1.

Listing your items isn't too difficult.  Once you have your items entered into Tophatter, nothing happens until you schedule them for an auction. There are two scheduling options. The best is when you can schedule it directly into an auction. You will be able to choose an auction for a particular time and date and your item will be up for sale. The other option is Standby. The scheduling for Standby is much like the direct auction scheduling. What makes it different is that your item won't be put up for auction unless somebody places the minimum bid first. There is an indirect way to do Standby instead of scheduling it in advance. You can add items to Standby while in the auction room when that option is open. It opens up every couple of hours. Click on "add to Standby" and it will tell you how long it will be until Standby opens again. If you list an item and someone makes that minimum bid, your item will be moved into the upcoming list for that auction.

When I first started playing around on Tophatter, I noticed that things weren't always going for great prices. Supplies seemed to do really well, so I mostly listed supply items. After a few auctions, though, there were never any slots for me to list my items directly into auctions. Plus, your sales record determines how many items you can list at a time and how far in advance. It was beginning to be a fight to get my items into an auction at all!

Another thing I've noticed is how items sell much better when the seller is there during the auction. Tophatter brings your avatar up to the front of the auction room and you get to tell people more information. Some sellers even add bonus items at certain bidding levels ("I'll add 25 more of these charms if the bids reach $10"). Unfortunately, the difficulty in getting my items scheduled has resulted in me not being there any of the times my items went up for auction.

I'm not the only one frustrated with Tophatter. Kim's Knots gave it an honest try and finally decided to cancel her Tophatter account. She experienced many of the same things I did. Difficulty in scheduling auctions. Problem buyers who leave negative reviews. Having to devote a ton of time to being on Tophatter to try to get items into auctions and then to wait around to promote the items on the auction block.  Is anyone happy with Tophatter? There must be a core group of people who are making it work for them or the site is just surviving on a fresh group of suckers on a regular basis. You might do fine as a buyer snapping up some cheap deals, but I wouldn't recommend selling on Tophatter unless you need to quickly get rid of your inventory at clearance prices.
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