Call it what you want, pre-recession, economic down turn, a gas crisis... The US economy is starting to feel a pinch and while I am all for optimism I do think we need to prepare ourselves as artists, especially those of us who make a living with our work.
What can we do? Well I am not an economist or a business major or even really good at business but I do know shopping and I even know a little bit about selling.
The thing about the American middle class is we are trained to be shoppers and show off our great sense of style. All the magazines, tv shows and media has created a pottery barn generation that really appears to be the current strength of our daily economy. These people will continue to shop until they can no longer afford to. Lets help them out, shall we?
1. Offer many items with varying price points. If you are a fine artist, your $2000 painting will get you a lot of attention but not many buyers. A $40 print of that painting will allow the pottery barn generation to buy something that represents value without spending a ton of money on it. If you are a jeweler, instead of only selling diamonds and emeralds also offer semiprecious stones, give your shoppers a way to be affordably elegant.
Whatever your craft find ways to replicate it or scale it down to reach a variety of price points. Keep your top items but diversify your inventory and offer a range of prices.
2. Gas is way too expensive, ths means people will drive less and shop online more. Use this to your advantage. Take the time to get better pictures of your work or rewrite your description. Offer large discounts on shipping multiple items and put your best foot forward. As people shop online more, more people will be selling there as well, now is the time to get ready to compete. Do what you can to get your shop in tip top shape.
3. Have sales if you can afford to. Aside from offering a variety of lower priced items in your store have the occasional sale. Sales are a form of advertising, people buy things because they are "on sale" but if they love them they come back for more and more. Have a sale and do a great job with product and service, make it count.
4. Be open to suggestion. I am not saying customers now have the right to decide what we make for them but offering custom and tailored items can reach a huge market. You can also rightly charge more for custom work which can offset some of the loss from sales and lowering prices.
People don't want to stop shopping and they won't (at least not yet) but offer them a chance to own something of yours that "feels" more affordable, be it through discounted shipping, personalization, a sale or just a smaller version of your most expensive work. Our middle class customers will relish the opportunity to continue to show off their flair and sense of style more affordably.