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Monday, February 8, 2016

Holiday Art – Lucrative or too Competitive?


Many artists and crafters enjoy creating gifts and cards for each season or celebration. Although sales are high for retailers and wholesalers, the competition is keen. Commercial retailers that mass produce at low prices are difficult to compete with unless the artist can duplicate originals and print them in bulk.

I've experimented, but never been drawn to this arena. Our small local art league thought we had the nearby hospital gift shop locked up for our cards, but later discovered that we were dealing with a power hungry novice pretending to have authority which she didn't.

I had produced a shoe box filled with a variety of my own cards for that appointment. Later they sat in my closet and waited for the right time to sell. All that colored ink for the printer and money for inventory. I learned that it's not wise to spend money in advance of sales. More small businesses lose money by stocking too much inventory than through any other means.

I had a friend some years back who was an avid fire truck collector and admirer. He started selling framed photographs of old firetrucks and was doing a great business for a while.

Then his ego got the better of him and he started advertising in national magazines, taking out full-page ads to display his wares. He not only could not keep up with new demand, but he had spent his capital on advertising and had none left for product or inventory. The business quickly spiraled downward.

If your overhead and advertising costs are greater than your profit, you won't be able to dig yourself out of the hole you've made for yourself.

My husband and I decided to change out our kitchen chandelier, a Tiffany-like lamp that did not match our décor. I put the light fixture on Etsy after it had been weighed. What we hadn't anticipated is the size of the box required after the lamp was secured in bubble wrap to protect it from breakage.

The cost of mailing was almost equal to the cost we had charged for the lamp less $35. Of course, our time and the gas to and from the postal station was also not included. We shipped to our loyal customer and sucked up the rest. Lesson learned!


Some buyers may demean an artist's skill and time as they quibble over price and shipping. The hours devoted to learning a skill are dismissed and the professional expertise of the artist are belittled in an attempt to haggle over price.

Once an artist’s reputation and name are well known, they have reached a point where they can produce more in less time. But this doesn't make the cost go down. The cost of professionalism goes up when the artist's work is more in demand.

Whether you decide to focus on the seasons and holidays in an effort to grow your business or not, the most important element in considering to participate or not is to figure out what it costs you for materials and shipping, and what the competition is charging. 

Undercutting may get you a sale, but does it give you a profit? If you're pushing yourself into a box in order to make a sale, it may not be worth your efforts.

"Parasailing Roseate Spoonbill"