Ideas for the Off-season

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The official blog of The National NeedleArts Association - news and notes of the association, our members and our industry.

By TNNA Blog posted 05-03-2019 00:00

  

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Ideas for the Off-season

By: Stitchcraft Marketing

To paraphrase a popular fantasy series slogan, “Summer is coming.” Summer means crafting will soon do battle with the lure of warmer weather. The siren song of sunshine and outdoor activities draws many crafters away from their hobbies around this time of year, and it’s not surprising that craft businesses see a drop-off in sales. But don’t curse the sun just yet: The off-season provides a unique opportunity to expand your understanding of the crafting landscape and develop new techniques for neutralizing the slowdown. The following tips may even prove useful as you’re looking at the crafting year at large.

Clean House – Online & Off

Summer is a good time to turn a critical eye towards your business website to ensure it’s up-to-date and easily navigable. Crafters are on the move in the summer season. Whether it’s taking their annual vacation or simply spending more time outdoors, chances are your customers are far more mobile as the months heat up. That mobility translates to accessing your business more frequently via their cell phones rather than their computers.

It is of the utmost importance that your business website remain sharp, clear, and cell-phone friendly. Use your own cell phone to navigate to your website to see how it looks on a mobile screen (Opera’s mobile view covers this). We also test client websites using Google’s Mobile friendly testing tool. If you aren’t utilizing a mobile platform, now is the perfect time to implement one. If you have special summer hours, make sure they are the first thing a visitor sees when they land on your web page, along with your phone number and location. Refresh any imagery that relates to fall and winter to reflect the change of seasons.

Similarly, be sure that your local search results listing (on the right side of the main search result on Google) are up to date, accurate and verified. If you don’t know how to manage this listing, contact us for help.

Turn a similar critical eye to your brick and mortar store if you have one. Clean house offline by refreshing merchandise and changing storefront displays. Swap out winter crafts for warm weather-friendly alternatives. It’s time to move from cozy to airy—anything you can do to brighten and lighten your space will help boost the summer mood. Embrace florals and brilliant, vivid color palettes to send the message that winter is over.

Markdowns

Slashing your prices will stimulate sales, and smart implementation will ensure markdowns don’t hurt your bottom line.

If you’re a B2B wholesale company, it can be difficult to convince retailers to restock their inventory during the slow season. But the slow season presents the perfect opportunity to ease your retailers into accepting the inevitable cost increases that come later in the year. Discount a beloved item during the spring and summer and give your retailers an opportunity to restock their inventory before you institute a price increase. It is a sensible way to get them to commit to an order during the off-season while also extending a discount right when they need it. Not only will you clear out current stock to make room for your new line of products, but both you and your stockists will now be in a better position to invest in your product lines for the new season ahead.

Offer limited-time markdowns and a set minimum on your most-popular products. This presents a win-win situation for both you and your retailers—they buy at a discount while you recoup on volume what you are sacrificing on price. Putting a time limit on the sale protects you and motivates your customers to make the purchase. Consider timing out sales on your top-selling products so that they are on offer throughout your slowest weeks. Offer each one for a week to get you through July, for example.

The off-season is traditionally a time to discount merchandise or conduct end-of-season sales. Customers are conditioned to expect markdowns. Use the moment to clear out last season’s products and/or those you have decided to discontinue. It’s a good time to clean the slate for the upcoming busy season and also a good opportunity to show an appreciation for your customers with some clearance prices.

Go Global

The internet and the global economy have birthed a worldwide market. Remember that the off-season in your hemisphere is the busy season in your polar opposite. Consider this: a specialty pajama company noticed that they were getting a lot of orders in June, not their typical busy season. When they looked more closely, the orders were primarily from Australia. The lightbulb went on and they began a marketing campaign in selected Southern Hemisphere areas. Studies have shown Australians are more understanding of longer shipping estimates, and like to shop online because it offers them a larger variety of products. For Australia in particular, there are also the advantages of maintaining your English language website and/or newsletter. Expand your global footprint to include stockists in the opposite seasonal regions to balance the ebb and flow of sales. Do your research to make sure your export and delivery costs don’t consume your potential profits. In the case of Australia, many Australians are accustomed to paying higher delivery costs when shopping online, which means your profits could be unaffected.

Product Chameleons

With a little ingenuity and smart salesmanship, many products can be shown to perform several functions. You can expand your customer base in the off season by broadening the focus of your products. Let’s say your company makes organizer and tote style bags for crafters. Brainstorm other potential customers for your products. Are your bags water-repellent? Maybe those pockets and dividers actually make your knitting bag the perfect carry-all for a mom taking her kids to the pool on a summer afternoon. Maybe that same organizer tote is the perfect fishing companion, or beach bag. Perhaps your smaller cloth project pouches are also great toiletry and lingerie cases for traveling. Many don’t think of their laundry when they travel—do you sell lined, zippered craft bags? They would be perfect for separating out dirty laundry in a suitcase. Perform marketing outreach outside the crafting community, whether it’s with a coordinated campaign or tagging your online products so new markets will find them. Brainstorm with your team about how your products solve a problem for different customers and then find those customers.

Create New Demand

Utilize the off-season to think about new products or techniques that can stimulate demand. Dedicated crafters are always thinking about their craft, even if they’re not actively engaged with it on a daily basis.

For knitters and crocheters, part of the issue is dealing with overly hot, heavy materials. Move away from larger projects like sweaters and cardigans and focus instead on smaller crafts like shawls and socks. Sock knitting presents the opportunity to create classes around double pointed needles or the magic loop technique. Current shawl trends embrace multicolored, multi textured patterning. This demands an understanding of color theory and lace. Think about offering classes on picking and pairing colors or incorporating lifelines into lace knitting.

Focusing on smaller, portable projects will draw continued interest from your customers through the summer months. If you’re a quilter, think about smaller projects like these pot holders or travel-friendly projects like EPP (English Paper Piecing). You can kit fabrics and templates to make these projects easy to grab and go. Embroiderers can promote flexible vacation projects like small, freestitched embroideries that can be joined to larger pieces later. Create kits with ready-made templates to encourage fun, mindless crafting that keeps the hands busy in airports, on planes, and while lounging at the beach.

Use your social media channels to show your customers a new way to use your tools or teach
them a new craft with your materials. Create a tutorial on yarn wall art (currently trending) to show knitters and crocheters a fun summer alternative to their favorite craft. Embellished knits are also in, so it could be smart to marry the craft with needlework and post videos on simple embroidery techniques. Needlepoint is one of the few crafts that easily traverses every season, so incorporating it may prove fruitful for your business. Perhaps you create overdyed wool for use in rug-hooking. Rug-hookers may not be keen to work indoors with heavy fabrics during the summer. Stacking and rolling wool fabrics strips is a whole different application for your materials. This Pinterest pin gives you some idea of what it looks like; crafters assemble these stacks and rolls into standing wool rugs, trivets, jewelry, vessels and other things. Why not post a video demonstrating this? It’s a portable craft that could encourage customers to buy your products when normally they wouldn’t even be thinking about them.

If you’re facing a seasonal slump at the retail level, create an event around introducing a new craft, technique, or project. Weather permitting, hold an event outdoors, offer refreshments, and teach the community. Knitty City in New York City hosts outdoor beginner knitting classes in Bryant Park every Tuesday during the summer months. They provide yarn and needles for all participants and the resulting scarves are given out in the park during the winter. Events like these draw customers into your community and remind them you’re there even when the temperatures rise. That brings us to our final suggestion...

Winter Is Coming

Summer may be here, but winter IS coming. Every crafter has their annual moment of panic sometime during Thanksgiving weekend, when they realize there are only 4-5 weeks until Christmas and there’s no way everybody on the list is getting a knit hat, quilt, or hand-embroidered pillow.

Utilize the summer to target holiday crafting early and relieve the inevitable pressure. Partner with your retailers to promote your products during the off-season. Create branded forms customers can fill out that list their gift recipients and intended gifts. Partner those forms with curated project suggestions for specific gift recipients—you can create a list for moms, dads, siblings, and others. This also presents a good opportunity to cross-promote these lists on your blog, providing necessary blog coverage during the summer. Each recipient can have their own blog post. Your stockists can kit the project suggestions and host a Cast-On Party with a Craft-Along (this can easily tie in to your seasonal markdowns outlined above, if your curated kits feature the same popular products you’ve discounted). There could be prizes for first-finishers or most-makers during a specified period. You can even create and distribute Craft BINGO sheets to randomize winners. Whether it’s a quilt block or an afghan square every week from June through August, or a Craft-Along making a gift for their favorite family member, these activities will keep your customers engaged and give them a feeling of accomplishment when they have a finished object (or two or three) by the end of the “off-season.” Plus, it will relieve them of the guilt they feel when tempted by all your exciting new craft materials at the beginning of the fall/winter season.

If you liked these ideas, Stitchcraft Marketing has more where that came from for all craft-based business owners. Contact the team today to learn about how they might make magic for your brand.

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