Over the weekend I was set up at a craft show; the weather was humid, threatening rain in the afternoon but I knew that it was a popular event and was looking forward to the day. As I was setting up my tent, I looked across from me and noticed that out in front of a tent selling mainly jewelry, there was a display of Tooth Fairy pillows. A crafter's worst nightmare is to be placed directly near someone selling the exact same item. Even worse: that item selling for a way lower price. And so I eyeballed the garishly bright felt creations from across the aisle until I could get a closer look. When I went to move my car I was able to read the sign: "$3.00 each or 2 for $5.00" and I swore a little to myself.
My Tooth Fairy pillows are priced at $15 - five times the cost of the ones across from me - and I can tell you exactly why: each one is a customized labor of love. Each piece is traced onto felt and cut with scissors. Embroidering the pocket alone takes about 15 minutes. The washable ink marks need to be removed from all the pieces. The pocket needs to be sewn onto the tooth with matching thread, and then tooth needs to be sewn and then stuffed and then sewn shut. When you buy one of my teeth, you are buying a child a keepsake.
To be faced with a $3 version of what I make (albeit not customized with an initial) is a slap in the face to all makers trying to make a living with their products. This woman could not possibly be making a profit when you take into account just the materials, not even considering time it takes to make it. And so you say, well, it's no big deal - maybe she's just selling them for fun and isn't worried about a profit - here is the danger in that: she is dragging down the market for everyone else. When someone is shopping a craft event, they should not come to expect Walmart prices. The vendors there are selling things they have crafted with their own two hands. Cashiers at McDonald's want to be paid $15 an hour to stand there and ring up your burger, while I'm producing something completely unique by hand as perfectly as I can and not making near that. There is a weird mentality regarding the value of handmade goods.
I stand by my pricing because I know the value of my product - this is not meant to be a cheap throw-away. And I know it's a good product because almost everyone who walked by my tent either picked one up or made some kind of comment about cute and clever they are. I also know they are not going to be for every buyer, and that's okay. The shopper who knows the value of the pillow will be the one to make the purchase, and they will also treasure it and know how special it is.
Are you a maker who sees something similar in your industry? How do you deal with it? Do you struggle with your pricing. Buyers- do you balk at the cost of handmade goods?