Does anyone ever get customers who see something that they might like, that you offer, yet ask questions about "who else does this" or "where do you get the materials to do all of this"? I work part-time at a boutique shop and about once a week to once a month a customer will ask odd questions such as - where are other shops like your shop? Or, where do you get all the merchandise for this shop? As a crafts person who also sells at shows, I get similar questions like "I grow lavender - how do I make my own potpourri" (I make potpourri, reed diffusers, etc.). My question: How you do answer these people? All I do is simply say I do not share my sources or I don't know, I guess through wholesale shows (when it comes to the shop I work in). But this usually leads to more questions - something I want to avoid and get back on track to finalizing a sale. Michelle, By the Bay Botanicals

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  • Many times I will get questions from potential customers like "where do you get your beads?". I answer truthfully without getting specific. I tell them that most of them I buy online from wholesale sellers and others I find in my travels. If they ask me specifically who I buy from online I tell them a variety of websites not one specific place - which is the truth. I have given specifics to other exhibitors who are selling at the same show. I like making friendships among exhibitors whom I may see again. I have also found my "neighbors" at a show have been very pleasant, helpful, and forthcoming with information about sources, other shows, and general info. That has been the greatest joy for me especially in shows with few people or sales. They have also been my greatest help in learning this business and I try to pass it forward.
  • What about other artists looking for resources that may actually end up being your competition?

    I ask because I've never not answered anyone's question about materials and resources, which is why I have one of the most active art show related forums with currently over 6,500 members.

    It's one thing telling them where to get materials and resources and another thing telling them how to use those materials and resources.

    Larry Berman
    Digital Jury Services
    Art Show Tips Blog
  • Even while I am work now, as I am typing this, I am still thinking about this question. A previous post/blog by an art enthusiast/buyer from this site kinda gave me a little food for thought as to why some may ask the questions regarding resources. The most obvious one folks seem to jump to is their desire to copy it. But then I am thinking, what if such people are trying to figure out if they are getting a good deal. In this day and age with material costs being pretty high and do understand it takes time and hard work to make what we make, but when there is less money to spend you really start to analyze things... Learning if an exhibitor uses reclaimed barn wood to make furniture (that he/she just finds and doesn't cost a thing) compared to someone who uses a wholesaler may make a big difference. Who knows maybe they are wanting to be sold - learning where the materials come from may be just part of their thinking process. The root of the questions could be, what is your story behind your work - yet are asking the wrong questions, like 'who are your suppliers'.

    When answering such questions I am always thinking are they are testing me? Like they don't care what the answer really is as long as it sounds plausible. For example, while working at the part time job a customer wanted to know what other stores sold state themed t-shirts. I wanted to say, other tourist shops - DUH! But went with well I am sure there are other touristy type places in the city. I thought that would be the end of the questioning, but they then asked 'what are the names of these places'. It was then I simply had to say I don't know you'll have to look it up on the internet. That is how I found this place, this store!" So I just said you may have to search more in depth, but I have no idea what other stores sell, what they keep in stock at all times, all I know is what we sell in this store and if you need any assistance in finding a size or style, I am happy to help. And this was enough to "shut them up". When it comes to my craft business, I am kinda lucky in that most of the materials I use comes from my own garden - so I tell customers it is the cost of seeds + time in the garden to make sure I get the best crop/flowers. But if I said something that could possibly anger or raise their B.S. meter, then maybe I just lost that sale. Maybe there's no real "right" answer, just being quick on ones toes...
  • We work so hard to find those suppliers and to learn our techniques, there is no way that I am giving away all of that information. I use one box from one of my wholesalers to carry stuff, but I cover it with fabric during the show so that people cannot see it.

    I just tell them that I have several wholesale suppliers that I work with.
  • I've started saying "The best thing about this business is that everybody can cultivate their own sources. That's part of the fun of it."

    When Diane was doing collage she had people asking all the time where she got her materials. She would just smile. One time she did her smile and the customer shot back "Crafts are for sharing!" and walked away in a huff. "Sharing" goes out the window when it's your livlihood.
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