I'm starting to grow a bit concerned over the slow teddy bear sales this year. I've put up some new teds recently, which I'm quite proud of (not to toot my own horn too loudly here :P) and so far, nada, zip, zilch, no sales. Has anyone else been experiencing this phenomenon? Should I take the leap and start a mailing list? Help!
Think most of us have experienced the recession of the last few years in one way or another. The decline in the economy has affected all areas of our lives, and the purchase of non-basic items like collectibles isn't very high on the priority list. Another theory of mine is that the popularity of bear collecting is slowly declining because the generations that loved teddies are growing old and dieing off. Younger people don't seem as interested.
Scary thought SueAnn, though I think you're on point. I have a younger sister, and her life revolves around her phone, clothes, boyfriend and silly reality shows. Hobbies and collections don't seem to be a part of the younger generation. My son (at 11 yars old) still likes plush toys, mind you it's the ones being hyped on t.v. and by his friends, like Angry Birds. Oh, well...hope teddy collecting doesn't die out completely.
I have to wonder sometimes if it is not the overload on the social sites that are somewhat responsible. There are many, many bear makers out there trying to sell their bears. I know for myself that because I like teddy bears and make them that I get lots of friend requests from like minded people on Facebook. When I visit my page I am overloaded with so many teddy bears, so many, and bear groups that I keep getting added to.
When I would come here before Facebook, I would come wanting to look at bears because I wanted to see bears. When I go now to facebook whether I want to see bears or not I am going to see them by the hundreds. It is starting to wear me out.
I wonder if collectors have been bombarded like this too? And if they have could social sites FB in particular be leading to burnout? Or so much in front of them being offered they just do not what to pick, so they pick nothing?
This has really been going through my head for months.
I know times are hard all over at the moment and people are struggling with paying the bills and there is not so much left over money at the end of the day.
Also I think there are collectors out there, like me who can no longer afford to buy, like me and that are trying there hand at making there own, like me.
Shannon, I think you should definitely start a mailing list, and then use it judiciously.
I also agree with the others that the bountiful supply of artist-made bears exceeds the demand, and even some of the best-established artists are seeing slow sales at times. There's no easy remedy except to keep trying if it's want you really want to do.
Good point about the mailing list. How does one start a mailing list?
I use Mail Chimp. It is free. I find it easy to use. I keep a sign up on my website, and blog.
What not to do: Keep it yourself. I used to do that, and today I had my email account hacked, so all the people that I had sitting there in that old list got junk email from me. I deleted them all. I will let Mail Chimp handle it all now.
A mailing list is very important, especially with all of the overload. It is a way to connect to the people who you know want to see your bears. When you post them here, or Facebook or Bearpile things move so fast sometimes it is easy to get overlooked.
I don't own a website, maybe I could put my mailing list sign up on my blog? It is little-used though, as being a bear-making, working single mom (mind, I do have a partner and an 11 year old son, and they're a huge help) leaves me very little time to blog. I suppose this could be the impedus to get me posting/blogging more. I'll check out that Mail Chimp, Joanne, and see how it works for me. I might even hold a raffle for a teddy bear for those who join my mailing list, might help it get off the ground. Let me know if you ladies (and gents, if any are following this post) think of this idea, any constructive comments or suggestions are most welcome.
Too many wonderful bears, too many online sites, not enough money, too hard to make a decision in a flooded market! This is all too true, and there is also fads to contend with. What type and style of bear is selling today may not necessarily be selling tomorrow. But I must say that for most of us, although sales are very important, it is the creating and making that keep driving us. Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive venture, even if you do "donate" your time. Many times it is sell a bear to make a bear! Although I cannot predict the future, I sure can't see one without some sort of soft sculpture bear! Boy, I hope I'm right!
Ivyworks I'm a new collector I have gone a little crazy the last 2 months buying bears.. but I have come across your bearpile and one of yours in in my top 3 want list... I just don't have the bear pennies left.. but I wanted to let you know I have found you before seeing this post..
I, too, experienced the overload on fb and subsequently just deactivated my account. I had over 200 "friends" of which I knew few. It became overwhelming as a few of you have mentioned and I felt guilty if I didn't "accept" a friend request, even though I had no idea who that person was who was asking to be my friend. Only that they were a "teddy bear person." After being off of fb for over a year, I was missing some of the activity there. So, my solution to all of that was to start a "page" and that is where I keep all my teddy bear "friends" and news about my own bears. I keep my personal account limited to family and "friends." It is just easier and so much more fun. As far as the market and collectors goes, I've been in this business for over 20 years. It has its ups and downs, but the one thing I know for sure; no matter what the market says, I can't quit making bears It's just in my blood and won't let me go!
Another theory of mine is that the popularity of bear collecting is slowly declining because the generations that loved teddies are growing old and dieing off. Younger people don't seem as interested.
SueAnn, I don't really think that's true. I have visited many teddy bear shows and it's not as if the crowds are all old and decripit. :D
Of course you're right that you won't find many teddy bear collectors in their twenties or thirties; possibly because they have other priorities at those stages of life.
But, like myself (and although I am growing old -but so are we all-, I do hope I am not yet ready to kick the bucket :lol:), I think that for many people teddy bear collecting is something that comes when you are a bit more mature, and -yes- older, and hopefully wiser. :whistle:
I have to wonder sometimes if it is not the overload on the social sites that are somewhat responsible. There are many, many bear makers out there trying to sell their bears. I know for myself that because I like teddy bears and make them that I get lots of friend requests from like minded people on Facebook. When I visit my page I am overloaded with so many teddy bears, so many, and bear groups that I keep getting added to. When I would come here before Facebook, I would come wanting to look at bears because I wanted to see bears. When I go now to facebook whether I want to see bears or not I am going to see them by the hundreds. It is starting to wear me out.
I wonder if collectors have been bombarded like this too? And if they have could social sites FB in particular be leading to burnout? Or so much in front of them being offered they just do not what to pick, so they pick nothing? This has really been going through my head for months.
I do agree 100 % with what Joanne says: FACEBOOK IS DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD FOR ARTISTS. Seriously, I am a member of approximately 20 teddy bear pages and whenever an artist has made a new creation, I don't see it once, nor twice, but maybe 10 TIMES: teddy bear overload! In the end I have given up on these general "teddy bear pages" and I just take a very quick glance at them and move on. So in my humble opinion these pages won't be around for very long.
As Joanne says, you get to see so many bears (and often the same kind of bears), that the attraction soon wears off.
I realize that this is a total change of opinion on my part, because when I first joined FB, I was convinced that it was the ideal way for an artist to make his or her work known to a big audience. But now the sheer number of bears being offered is destroying what used to be it's strength.
I agree 100% about Facebook...it's invading everything...my mailbox is chock full of emails from several artists who post to about 8 groups..and each time I get an email. I purposely now don't post on them because is it annoys me to get 8 emails about the same bear I am sure it annoys collectors. Plus I did not sign up o receive these mails either.
That aside I will find out tomorrow is the bear industry is on the slippery slope aS I am doing a fair...eeek. I don't think it is actually...I have had a really good half year so far..and I am upbeat about it. I think there are masses of people all competing for the same customers so the way to sell bears is to stand out form the crowd....it's hard to do but I think customers are perhaps a little less free with their cash nowadays
I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow....I might have a few bears to sell myself yet!
Jenny, I belong to groups and turn off all notifications to the group. You have to go to "notifications" click off, then in the same box you have to click "settings" and go in and make sure both boxes are unchecked. Doesn't make sense to have to change that to, but if you do there will be no emails. I do that every time someone adds me. No more emails.
I agree with the overload, Joanne. I particularly dislike it when someone adds me to a group, without permission. It also annoys me when someone asks me to "like" their page. I don't even really know why it bothers me so much except that I feel like someone else is trying to control me. If someone posts that they've made a page and I admire their bears, I will certainly "like" it, but if they ask me to, not a chance. I've avoided making a page, because I'm not a very prolific bear maker. I've actually picked up several new customers from Facebook, which is lovely, but I have to admit, I skim over a lot of the bear pictures, especially if it is posted more than once. I'm not sure what the answer is, because the shows are fewer and there are obviously customers who don't go to the shows. At least Facebook is a free way for them to view the bears, rather than buy magazines.
I recently re-joined Bear Pile after not listing any bears for a couple of months due to family health issues and I was floored at how many new bear-makers are on there now! And I know this may not be kind but I see so many bears that I feel are just being made for profit and not for the craft or "art" of it. Don't get me wrong I like to sell my bears but I also enjoy the process of it and make sure that my bears are the highest quality and workmanship that I can offer. I didn't offer bears for sale until I felt that I had a good product and I still continue to learn how to make my bears better. Not just "let's see if I can sell something that is glued together for a hundred bucks!" I'm sure that is going to sound harsh to a few people. The up side to that is that those "artists" won't last long in my opinion because the bears really do speak for themselves. In the meantime I try not to get too sad when my bears get lost in the shuffle. :P
I'll keep making my little creations because I love it and as long as I sell every other bear or every third bear...or every fourth bear...well, you get the idea.
Talking as a confirmed Facebook person, I would say one or two things. If I put a bear up on Bearpile or Ebay or anywhere else for sale I restrict the posts on Facebook to three groups, not always the same three, but I am very aware that no-one wants to see the same bear ten or more times. That said, most people have hundreds of friends and unless they are very dedicated will not see every post by every person. My advice for those in groups is to turn off the notifications and in particular the emails. That way you are in complete control of what you want to look at when you want to look at it.
This year has been mixed for me, Hugglets in February was one of the best ever, but other times it has been a struggle.
Where Facebook has been brilliant for me is in arranging fund-raising for WSPA. Whether it is local events, or online bear sales there has been a lot more response on there than anywhere else. I honestly believe that if it hadn't been for Facebook, I would not have raised anything like the £7.500 that I have raised for the Sanctuary over the last few years. I am organising a huge sale of Artist bears that have very kindly been donated by artists from all over, and by far the biggest response was on Facebook.
At 22 years of work in this collectible field, I'm certainly not one of the oldest of the oldsters, but nearly there. There have been several (many?) 'generations' of bear-makers/artists who have come & gone during this period as well many styles of bears.
After just a few years working, when there were still only the trade magazines and shows as the means of congregating and communicating—even email had hardly absorbed the masses by the early- to mid-90s—ppl were already talking about "how .. it just wasn't like the old days.." and "..when was it going to recover?" " We'll just wait it out a few more years.. the economy...collectors' tastes... etc..etc.."
And the same things have been said ever since.
And here I'm going to go against the grain but am going to publicly state something I've felt for at least 15 years: that teddy bear creating and collecting is going to end up being a rather short-lived phase, though it may be one that lasts 50 years for the masses, that's still relatively short-lived when you think of classic Faberge eggs or classic cars....those which only continue to accumulate more value internationally with age.
And this is NOT to say that there won't ALWAYS be teddy bear collectors! Please don't misunderstand me on this. But most of the bear makers will have stopped producing when it's no longer profitable for them (or they're working with a negative budget) and the collectors are definitely an aging group with most younger generations beguiled by electronic devices.
While there will always be some who will love these hand-made items and continue to discover them and collect them for many heartfelt reasons, there aren't collectors enough to sustain the industry as we have known it in the past, which actually began with the 19th & 20th century manufacturers and trickled down to the hand-workers like us.
How many blacksmiths and coopers are there working today, (or wooly mammoth hunters - if you want an exercise in the totally off-the-wall but true facts) outside of museums and recreation villages? There are too many job skills that simply became obsolete as the world's needs changed. This is a reality seen in many areas, not just ours. (Holly Hobby, macrame, Cabbage Patch...)
And ours, as has been said, is not a needed object for subsistence or sustenance but a decorative item that fills the creative 'heart and soul' for the maker and the collector.
We came in at the tail end of this phenomenon (after the 75+ years of manufacturing) and all of us together weren't enough to create an industry any larger than what we have had for the past 35 years. It has been a fantastic ride so far and I certainly don't know when it will trail off, but it has felt like riding on the path of a shooting star to me—blazing at the beginning and gradually lessening over time.
It has been a fantastic ride so far and I certainly don't know when it will trail off, but it has felt like riding on the path of a shooting star to me—blazing at the beginning and gradually lessening over time.
Thanks for sharing your perspective on the collector bear business, Bobbie. Your thoughts are well taken, and you've given me courage to say some other things that might go against the grain.
I think everyone here would agree that bear making is not only a part of the toy industry--it's a true art form. And while any kind of artist needs to make a living, only some (painters/musicians/sculptors/weavers/bear artists) are able to make a living from their art. That doesn't make the art less worth pursuing, but many artists are forced to decide how much energy and resources to devote to their art if it's not very rewarding financially.
I hope I don't offend any of the "full-timers" here. I appreciate the talent, hard work, and persistence it takes to be successful in an art career, and I would love it if more artists were paid what they deserve. On the other hand, personally, I'm prepared to pursue bear making for its own sake, just as other people compose music or paint pictures. My focus is on learning and improving and on the aesthetic pleasure that I can enjoy and share. The wonderful people I've met are also a real bonus. (In order to pay the household bills, though, I'm keeping my day job. )