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Discounts, Wholesale, and Let's Make a Deal~The Business of Lampworking

Once you start selling your lampwork, you will run into the discount question eventually. It can come in many forms: Do you offer quantity discounts? Wholesale discounts (If you do shows, make sure you have this answer handy. You’ll need it)?  I’ve spent a lot over the course of the year, do you ever offer discounts? I’ve seen this item in your store for a while now. Would you consider selling it at X price? If I buy ten of these will you give me a discount?

Let me just say right now, I have no problem with people asking for a discount. I don’t get offended, hurt, or indignant. Many times I have seen artists get riled up when someone sends them a message offering less than the asking price or asking for a discount. But honestly, who doesn’t like a deal? And keep in mind when you sell online, the market is worldwide. That’s right worldwide.

Many cultures thrive on haggling and the “let’s make a deal” method of buying goods. It’s a normal every day thing for them. Other folks are just trying to find the best deal. No harm in that.

Some of the arguments I’ve heard from my colleagues include: But we’re selling art! It’s a piece of ourselves! How dare someone ask me to sell it for less? If I wanted to sell it for $10, I would have put a $10 price tag on it!

We Americans can be so touchy. *grin*

Once you start selling your lampwork, you’re in business. Period. Expect to get questions about discounts. It comes with the territory. Try to take emotion out of it and think with your business hat. (Yes, I know, we artists hate the business end).

Okay, so how do you handle it? Do you have a discount or wholesale policy? If not, make one and stick to it. Do not deviate from customer to customer unless you have meticulous record keeping skills.

Example: early on in my lampworking business days,  I had a regular customer who bought at least once a month. I valued her tremendously and one day she asked for a discount. I said sure. I’m pretty sure I said something like, you’ve ordered so much, each time you order from now on I’ll give you 20% off. That was all fine and dandy, until she stopped ordering as frequently. She was a designer and designers move on to new things and new designs. That’s okay.

But as you might guess, I got busy with other customers and pretty much forgot all about the 20% discount. Then the customer came back to me months (maybe even a year) later and ordered stuff, and of course by then I’d forgotten all about the discount. When she reminded me, I gave her the discount, but yeah, I admit I was a little resentful I had to give a 20% discount on a small order (less than $30). And it was my own fault. I didn’t set terms. I didn’t really have a policy. I was making it up as I went along.

So I made one. A set policy I can refer back to when I get the discount questions:

Designers: 30% off a set amount.

Bead Stores: 50% off a set amount.

And that is it. The amounts vary depending on if we’re talking about beads, marbles ,or murrine. But they are always the same. So when someone asks about discounts, I have a pat answer. There isn’t emotion involved.

Do you offer wholesale pricing?

Yes, my terms are…

Do you ever offer discounts?

Yes, my terms are…

I also run a few sales throughout the year, usually up to 25% off. To be notified of future sales, sign up for my newsletter here.

I’ve spent a lot of money with you over the course of the year. Do you offer discounts?

This one gets a little trickier, because they might be thinking they’ve already spent a lot, they deserve the discount on a small order. I always answer that an order has to meet xxx to reach wholesale levels. Sales are not accumulative. I also again refer them to the newsletter for future sales.

If I buy ten of these will you offer a discount?

See designer wholesale terms.

I’ve seen this in your store, will you sell it for X amount?

This one I am flexible on. It really depends on the item. Have I had it forever and do I want it gone? Am I just in a good mood? Or do I love the piece and am not willing to discount it? Sometimes I’ll deal, and sometimes I won’t. Just be firm (but friendly) and if you do deal, be prepared for them to try it again. That doesn’t mean you have to deal again, it just means don’t be surprised when they ask again. Trust me, they will.

As I said earlier if you do go with different discounts for different customers be sure to keep good records. I guarantee after enough time goes by, you’ll forget. We have different ones for designers, beads stores, galleries, and suppliers (for murrine).  On my website I have a place for customers to sign up for wholesale. I keep all the discounts in there for easy reference. All I have to do is look up their name and there it is. (Their wholesale terms are only visible to me on the back end of the website.)

If you don’t offer discounts of any kind, that’s fine too. My response to all of the questions above would be: Sorry, I don’t discount my work. Thank you for stopping by.

Short, to the point and respectful. Remember, you’re in business now.

How to answer the discount question--Lampwork business extras

Periodically I read stuff on my lampworking forums that prompts a blog post. While customer service has it’s own chapter in my series The Business of Lamporking, I couldn’t resist tackling this topic that came up a few days ago.

As a lampwork seller (or any seller) you’ll likely get the discount question at some point. It comes in a variety of forms. Everything from: do you offer wholesale? To: what’s the lowest you’ll sell this for?

The wholesale question is a reasonable one. Many of us do sell wholesale or offer quantity discounts. If you want to sell in bead stores or galleries, you will need to figure out your wholesale terms. Most of us offer a 50% discount if the buyer reaches a certain retail amount.

I’ll admit, the question, ‘what is the lowest you’ll sell this for?’ can be irritating. Especially if you don’t have a history bargaining with that particular customer. But I recommend responding just as polite as you would to the wholesale question.

Here are my standard responses.

The wholesale question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry.  I offer a 50% wholesale discount on retail orders that reach $xxx. My lead time on such orders is usually two to three weeks from time of order to shipping date.

The discount question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry. I do not offer discounts on individual beads. On orders over $xxx I offer a 25% quantity discount. In addition, I do periodically run 20% to 25% off sales in my Etsy store. Sign up here for my newsletter to be notified.

If you don’t offer any discounts that is fine, too. I still recommend being polite. You never know who is on the other end of your email. There is nothing wrong with writing, I’m sorry, but I do not offer discounts on my work. Simple, easy, gets the point across. No room for negotiations. And you don’t run the risk of alienating a potential customer. Maybe they are used to bargaining. Lots of cultures do it and the beauty of the internet is it’s global.

I’ve seen many people get upset when asked for a discount. I admit I’ve gotten irritated myself. But why is it so hard to just be nice? Especially when we are selling our work online. We have the opportunity to step back and calm down before we hit the send button.

It’s my firm belief that being nice is one of the most fundamental business practices and crucial when selling our own artwork. We each have our own ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t. But lets get real. When you get an irritating question it isn’t like you are entering a relationship with that person. You don’t need to school them on social graces. Stay polite and you won’t run any risk of harming your reputation.

But you don’t care what that person thinks, you say to me. You don’t want to do business with them anyway. Be careful here. There are pieces by lampworkers I used to covet, until I got to know them better. Now I don’t have any desire to have a piece these particular people made in my personal collection based on how they treated other people.

If you are selling your work, always remember this is a business. Your business. Don’t let one or two irritating questions get the better of you.

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