Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Dag nabit, I told myself I would never do it again...and despite the self admonishments and promises to self, I did!

I know there have been lots of discussions about the issue of caving to the patron request for "your best deal (price)" and I've resolved not to do it and I didn't need to (I've got 4 more shows this year) but I did! I guess it was just another opportunity to test my resolve. I don't always think very quickly on my feet so I'm not always prepared to respond to the query. Since the opportunity presented itself I've had plenty of time to come up with and practice some responses I think I can use next time it occurs like, "I have a show coming up next week (month, year...) so I don't need to sell it at a discounted price" or "That is my price" (why else would it be so evidently stuck on my work?)
I guess I've admonished myself enough. Next time I resolve to stick to my guns...Of course it wouldn't hurt just one more time...

...Where would we be without at least one rationalization or justification per day?

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Comment by Frances Fontaine on September 26, 2013 at 3:18pm

Brian, on my blog, I was not talking about new customers who walk up and ask for a discount. I was talking about my repeat customers who already own 5-6 of my paintings and thinking of offering them a small discount as a reward for being fabulous collectors of my work. I think those are two completely different situations. ff

Comment by Greg Little on September 25, 2013 at 1:16pm

I think that with so many of these new TV shows that have price negotiating such as the Pawn shop programs and American Pickers, that it has enticed many people to also try their hand at wheelin-and-dealin. The car dealerships expect this in their sales process also.

Take into consideration that it is the norm at some places and never done at other places makes it even more confusing. I have always enjoyed a good negotiation and it has saved me quite a bit of money in areas such as buying houses and vehicles over the years.

A good negotiation never harmed anyone (except maybe their ego) and it is just as easy to say no as it is to say yes. I find it very simple to explain why you cannot offer a better price.

Comment by Meg Funk on September 25, 2013 at 12:23pm

Also, I just want to point out that haggling has a cultural basis. Not everyone who tries to us talk us down in price is intentionally hurling an insult. A friend of mine got into a haggling war in a Turkish street market and ended up walking - over a nickel! He got caught up in the bargaining experience, while the value of the object itself was never actually determined.

It helps me to think of those haggling situation in terms of who that person is, not how they evaluate my work.

Comment by Meg Funk on September 25, 2013 at 11:54am

Sometimes I get the sense that haggling makes the buying experience more personal for the customer. They interact with the artist more, and put more effort into the purchase. I don't mind indulging that effort, if it's fair enough. Not all hagglers are like that, though. I kick myself for agreeing to discounts that weren't deserved (the ol' "but it's the end of the fair" or "but I only have forty bucks" whines, for instance).

I want people to be happy, that's the problem. It's tough to look someone in the eye and say "NO." The short-sweet version of the speech about my expenses, my time, my dedication to an all-consuming business that does not even pay the bills is still in the works. This year I did say no at least once, that's progress. Practice.

My most common compromise is to take tax off... when I make the offer, it is meant as a gift to friends and best customers. I state it clearly so they know that there IS tax. It's a gesture aimed to please. The up side is that when people are pleased, they don't seem to notice my prices every so quietly inching upward over time.

Comment by Nolly Gelsinger on September 25, 2013 at 10:29am

I simply look at the person, smile and say, "my prices are really good."  Sometimes it's just a game with folks.  My dad had a friend who would go into the old Baltimore department store, Hoschild-Kohn and try to dicker with the salesman at the counter, all for the fun of disconcerting the counter man or woman, and if he succeeded in getting a price, he was all the happier.  We laughed about it at the time, but now that I'm the counterman, it's not so funny!

I've done it, I will do it again, but I really try to discourage that behavior and the best way is just to be honest.

Comment by becky blair on September 25, 2013 at 9:25am
I told one customer who asked for a discount that with booth fee, hotel, gas, etc., I would have to sell 1000.00 worth of product just to break even at that particular show. Many of them don't realize that.
Comment by Donna Sauers on September 24, 2013 at 11:18am

For me I find that the percentage of people asking for discounts depends on the show and area. Funny.. I find that a show in an affluent area has a greater amount of people wanting to negotiate! I did a show on the North Shore and had so many saying "your prices are too high" and also wanting to negotiate for a lower price. It became exhausting. A couple weeks later I did the Geneva Art Fair and not once did I hear that comment and also had record sales. 

I don't discount my work and explain that I have stores that sell my designs at the same prices and can't undercut them. It's a truthful explanation. However, if it is a customer is buying several pieces I will sometimes give them a slight amount off or throw in the earrings "on me". But that is not the norm... it's because I value their relationship with me.  I had a woman this weekend purchasing several pieces for herself and a pair of earrings for her daughter's birthday and she was hedging on buying all of them and asked if there was anything I could do on price. I agreed but didn't say what it would be. She decided to go with all of them and when I rung up her total I told her the earrings were on me and I hope her daughter has a good birthday. We both felt good about it. 

I'm not a proponent of marking prices up so you can negotiate down to make the sale and make the customer feel they are getting a deal. The big box stores have done a wonderful job of training customers not to pay full price (yish). They mark up the retail price so high and then have items 50% off which is where the retail price should have been in the first place! You aren't getting a deal!

I had someone in my booth looking for a piece for his sister. He asked "do you you haggle" and I replied "not very well!" and explained why I don't discount. After a while he did choose a piece and when it came to the sale I told him I just raised my prices because the silver prices had gone up (it was when silver hit its' high point) and told him I would give it to him at the previous price. I asked him if he felt better about his purchase and he smiled. It made me feel good and I knew he really wanted to give his sister the piece. As I started talking to his partner I found that he was a buyer for a store and I was happy I didn't "discount" the piece. It saved my credibility. 

Comment by Mark V. Turner on September 23, 2013 at 11:51pm

Hi Brian,

I'm not debating her strategy... Obviously it works for her and she gets into some decent shows on a regular basis. But her sales techniques are the antithesis of what is often discussed here - i.e." 'set a price and stick to it', because discounting or bargaining - resulting in a lower than original priced sale - sets a bad precedent and all customers will come to expect this sort of bargaining-based pricing....even from those who don't use this pricing strategy."

You have to admit that if you could consistently sell your work this way, you might be tempted to adopt this pricing strategy.

At the "Yogurt/Veggie Burger Marathon - while the Artists Broil Their Buns in Their Booth Event" this summer in Manayunk, PA., I had a potential buyer come up to me and ask me what my best price would be for a 36"x48" highly detailed intricate painting.

I had it priced at $1500.00; the most expensive painting in my catalogue currently. I thought about it for a minute and told him that I would part with it for $1250.00 plus tax. I told him this was a substantial discount on a piece which took nearly a solid month of painting to complete and was a technically complex piece. He thanked me for an 'honest answer' and said he would have to think about it....and walked on. I was hoping to see him again, but did not... I would have taken that for the piece because it was as low as I had ever priced the piece. 

Brian, the karma part in my previous post was my willingness to facilitate an artist patron relationship which I hope will bear fruit in the future by offering a discount... When a patron comes up and picks out 5 pieces and doesn't ask for a price break, I usually offer it b/c I can and I think it creates some sort of brand loyalty...

Deborah, I am with you on giving our fellow artists a break on pricing - it has often allowed me to break even on an event which I otherwise would not have... And perhaps it allows those who have done well selling to the public to spread a bit of the wealth about with their fellow artists which otherwise would not be distributed.

I also have to say that I am always complemented when a fellow artist buys one of my pieces. They have the pick of all the other exhibitors and they chose my work to spend their money upon. It is a high complement IMO...

Comment by Erica Wagner on September 23, 2013 at 10:03pm

I really really really can't stand when people try and nickel and dime artists.  No other career has to sit there and hassle with selling their items for a different price, and I hate that people think that we should.  I have, however, come down to a lower price for a customer before because of it getting late in the day, or not have making a sale yet and really wanting to get the ball rolling, but nothing of a serious offense (about a $10 difference on an over $100 piece).  If someone is going to haggle over $10.00, then they probably need it more than I do.  I just find it kind of ridiculous that I multiple shows this summer I have had people try and buy large pieces of mine at such outrageous prices... saying of course "I don't mean to insult you, but would you take $100.00 for this?"  on a $750 piece that is 4"x4" and an original... If you weren't meaning to insult me, you did a really awful job, because you for sure did. It jus baffles me when people have the balls to do something like that, maybe that's just me, but it's pretty sad.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on September 23, 2013 at 6:02pm
Mark, "she was being intellectually dishonest with her customers" call it intellectual or whatever you want to call it, you mentioned being karmically honest, I'll go with that. The idea of car dealer strategies in the long run doesn't work for me and obviously has set a precedent I don't wish to perpetuate.

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