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Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

Many of the ones who express concern about a recent decrease in sales are the ones with what, in today market, would be considered high prices. Others with prices that cater to today's economics are still selling well. The posts in this thread are proof of that. A look around the internet will show this as well a walk around a teddy bear show.

As an artist my simpler, lower priced bears sell first. Both at shows and online. The higher priced bears sell but not like they used to.

As a show promoter I see collectors tightly clutching the only money they have for the show, going round and round to be sure they're making the right choice as they can only afford one bear. I'm seeing a lot of artist who have lowered their prices slightly... anywhere from 5-15% and they are selling well with many people stopping at their tables.

As a collector I am much more cautious about my purchases. The world and our economy is shaky and I'm not spending like I used to. BUT I still love to buy bears and if I can get two nice bears at a reasonable price I'll do that over 1 high priced bear.

I'm seeing many well known artists offering free shipping or a percentage discount or a holiday sale...

Dropping prices isn't the answer for everyone. But if you're experiencing a decrease in sales that has you concerned it might be worth offering collectors something to encourage them to buy. We sell an expensive luxury item that people don't need and many can barely afford. Many other industries are having to drop prices or offer incentives... look around... retail stores, auto manufacturers, restaurants... they're doing it too. The argument that handmade teddy bears are "art" and can't be lumped into the same category is valid to a degree. But let's face it... anything.. antiques, art, houses, cars... they are only worth what you can get paid for them. Their value goes up and down with the economy and demand.

Just some food for thought. bear_original

peterbear Boechout, Antwerp
Posts: 4,755
Daphne wrote:

We sell an expensive luxury item that people don't need and many can barely afford.

Hmmm, I frowned when I read this, Daphne : "an expensive luxury item that people don't need"  bear_shocked

I know I am not representative of the "general public" (and thank heavens for that, the world would be in a terrible state  bear_laugh ), but in my opinion most people have at least one passion in life, which makes their lives worthwile.  Some people live for their jobs, some people are besotted by cars, some people want to travel around the world... and some people are arctophiles. 

This passion gives people's lives meaning, it adds value to people's lives, even though it sometimes entails doing boring and numbing jobs to make enough money so they can spend at least a small part of it on their passion. 
(I sometimes wonder what I am doing at the office as well  bear_whistle ). 

So for me (and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this) teddy bears have become a passion.
Sue (Fenbeary Folk) put it very nicely when she wrote : "its true whenever I look at my collection I just smile and it lifts my day, no matter how sad I am"   I couldn't have said it any better myself.

And although the "artist" part in bear collecting may be luxury (after all, you can buy a teddy bear in any cheap toy shop for EUR 10), I know it has given me tremendous joy and pleasure, chatting with artists and collectors on the internet or at shows, showing off photos of my hug, writing articles for Teddy Bear Times, ...  and I have never before received so much affection, support and friendship in return.

So just for the record : for me artist bears are not a luxury that people don't need ! 
Hugs,  :hug:

Peter & the bears

ThomasAdam Thomas Adam
Southampton
Posts: 310
Website
Aleta - The Silly Bear wrote:

I was told awhile ago that once you drop your prices you can't ever go back to the prices they were.  With all the costs the same (if not more) how do you justify dropping the price?  Is it all about the sale?  I would imagine so if it's your sole source of income.

It was Bob Dylan who sang:  "You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows", and I think that's applicable here.  It's important to remember your target audience in this -- and the expectations they're going to have when considering adopting a teddy bear.  This isn't confectionary -- where it's so mass appealing, there really would be mass riots if the price of a chocolate bar fluctuates [1] and people notice.  The chocolate bar is something people don't care about in the same way as a teddy bear, but the point of it is that there is no attachment to a chocolate bar in the same was as a teddy bear -- the mindset of the thing is different.

Aleta - The Silly Bear wrote:

Collectors, if you are reading this, how does it make you feel when an artist you've followed for awhile drops their prices?  Giddy with delight or are you disappointed?

With most collectors -- and I'm talking about the ones who've perhaps adopted more than one teddy bear from an artist before, tend to look beyond the teddy bear itself.  To me, I care just as much about the artist as I do the teddy bear -- and that's the key-point, you get more than just the teddy bear from artists -- you get an expression.  So, lowering prices, potentially to make a sale, might be needed in the artist's eyes, but I would hope -- I would expect prices to fluctuate.  Besides which, each teddy bear is different, so prices will always differ.

So no, it doesn't disappoint me -- and I do understand it, but I would advise artists to be careful -- wanting/needing to sell is one thing if it's a livelihood and sole point of income, but don't go overboard -- there has to be a good price on such a unique thing as a teddy bear, and to disrespect that to get a sale, to me, is doing yourselves an injustice.

-- Thomas Adam

[1] I cite here, the "Curly Wurly", but am painfully aware such references are even before my time.  ;)

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

Peter......

In reality it is not a necessity to buy artist made teddy bears. It IS however a necessity to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, college tuitions, medical bills, etc. and for many they are struggling just to do that in today's economy, job market, etc. As a show promoter in touch with hundreds of collectors I hear a lot of sad stories about why they can no longer buy but come to shows to have a "fix", see friends, etc. For artists it is indeed nice to see these collectors but they don't pay the bills and some artists need to do just that.

Aleta began this thread as a concerned artist questioning the pricing of her bears. Taking in the reality of many, many collectors helps to gain a better perspective. While many feel as you do about our dear friend teddy, they have had to cut back on the number of bears they buy none the less and some have had to stop altogether. Why? Because paying bills IS a necessity, the bears are not. You said yourself you have had to cut back. With so many collectors doing that very thing it changes the teddy bear industry.

Yes, we all need something in our lives that makes us happy when the world around us is not... but not at the expense of loosing the roof over our heads or starving. The cost of a bear is a week's worth of groceries for some who have lost their jobs, have children, etc. Many of our aging collectors are now on fixed incomes, have had adult children move home with them because of job loss or loss of their homes. Some have lost their spouse meaning loss of pension money. Artist bears are not a necessity. In fact I see a lot of bears up for rehoming on the secondary market because collectors need the money now more than ever. Ebay descriptions say "selling to pay the bills" or "I've lost my job and need to save my home".

I have 30+ yrs of collecting, 10 yrs of designing and selling and 5 years of promoting in the teddy bear industry. Don't think I LIKE how things are! I wish more felt at you do. :hug: The good news is.... teddy isn't going any where... there will always be artist bears for those who want to collect and one day artist bears will be more popular than ever!
bear_original

KJ Lyons KJ Lyons Design
Seattle, WA
Posts: 1,413
Website

I feel I must add a little footnote to the discussion,
*There are collectors who, apparently, have not been badly hit by the economy. And who are very active and engaging with artists on a regular basis. When I attend a show it's my highest price pieces that sell first to collectors. Granted, I don't attend many shows but when I am going to be at a show I am sure to inform all my collectors and I let them have a sneak peek at my newest designs that will be at the show. I have a fairly long list of internet buyers and over a third are from other countries. (In a few countries our pieces are considered a bargain because of the strength of their dollar against ours.)Travel is so expensive and difficult nowadays. Shows are just not getting as many high-end collectors traveling long distances for a show. I believe it is up to each artist to decide which market they want to approach. It does take a lot of thought, planning and hard work and there is no, one way, to approach your potential buyers and collectors. But I firmly believe that lowering prices to attract buyers is frequently a losing proposition and it is difficult to hold the respect of collectors, especially, if they see you selling a piece that is similar to one they had purchased but at a cut price. I think there is nothing wrong with having a few less expensive pieces, i.e. for me my kittens, but I will not design according to price points.

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

I agree with you Karen - I would be upset if I paid a lot for a bear, only to find one very similar, discounted a few months later.  I think the way to go is to make a few smaller or more simply designed pieces, that you can add to your product line, rather than lowering prices.  But as we know, everyone as their own valid opinions and should do what is right for them. :o)

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

Dog lovers and cat lovers are a breed all their own. bear_grin  It's harder to find dogs and cats than it is a teddy, especially that looks like a beloved pet. I have no problem selling my dogs when I make them, to owners of the breed I make... they are fanatics and it's wonderful! And most of my dog customers are online, no, all of them are actually... not at shows. Do you think, Karen, that perhaps sales in that speciality market are a little different than general teddy bear sales? I'm just curious.

Indeed heavy self promotion is a very important factor in one's success. It does take effort, time and money to build and maintain business... perhaps now more than ever. I wish all artists realized this.

KJ Lyons KJ Lyons Design
Seattle, WA
Posts: 1,413
Website
Daphne wrote:

Dog lovers and cat lovers are a breed all their own. bear_grin  It's harder to find dogs and cats than it is a teddy, especially that looks like a beloved pet. I have no problem selling my dogs when I make them, to owners of the breed I make... they are fanatics and it's wonderful! And most of my dog customers are online, no, all of them are actually... not at shows. Do you think, Karen, that perhaps sales in that speciality market are a little different than general teddy bear sales? I'm just curious.

Indeed heavy self promotion is a very important factor in one's success. It does take effort, time and money to build and maintain business... perhaps now more than ever. I wish all artists realized this.

Actually all my steady collectors are teddy bear collectors. I don't know of any collectors that are just cat collectors? It may be different for dog collectors? I do create bears and my Polar Bears sell particularly well, but most collectors know me for my cats. I know I do benefit from the fact that there are so few artists creating cats but there are also many teddy bear artists creating very unique and unusual bears that have followers that also collect traditional teddy bears. I believe most artists are always exploring new ideas and I think that keeps the industry vital and the collectors interested.

Aleta - The Silly Bear The Silly Bear
Portland, Oregon
Posts: 3,119
Website

Thank you, dear bearfriends for your input and honesty.  There are so many different, yet valid points of view.  I am struggling to find my way between my love of designing and making bears and the reality that they just aren't selling well for me anymore.  I have tried a simple design, and received a Golden Teddy nomination for the design, yet my collectors just weren't that interested. 

In hindsight, I think failing to keep myself out there in the public eye has hurt me the most.  Pricing perhaps would not have been an issue at all. 

Thank you again, artists and collectors alike.   :hug:

Kidsandteddy The kids and teddy too
Lincoln Ca.
Posts: 1,130

Hi Aleta,
Well this has been a very interesting thread and something I am sure many are thinking about. This economy has been very hard for so many. I have not been able to do to much in the last few months because of our move but I did get a couple of orders that I hadn't expected especially at this time. I have not lowered my prices but I have tried to make some smaller bears that are not so expensive. Like Brenda said you just have to put yourself out there on many different venues. I still do some Ebay and do find that even if I don't get more than reserve price so many people world wide may see your creation. My Blog, Facebook and whatever else I can think of seems to help. I have not done shows in probably four years now. I have a very good collector base and people still do have money, just not as many.  bear_original  It really keeps one on their toes to come up with new designs etc.

Hugs,
Bonnie

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Yes, Aleta, I do think you have the biggest answer - exposure is crucial and the more of it, the better.  So now with Daphne's show coming up, if you can swing it, start updating your blog and maybe do a Facebook page _ I haven't done that yet, but I'm thinking in the new year, when things have settled down and Xmas is over.  Once you can get those gorgeous bears of yours out into the public more, I'm sure it will make a difference.  As for you new designs, I think they are darling but even I have to admit, I am an old fashioned bear gal :o)

rkr4cds Creative Design Studio (RKR4CDS)
suburban Chicago
Posts: 2,044

Aleta, I so agree with you!

Aleta - SO good to see your name appear again!

I've been visiting TT rarely in the past 6 months, as I went back on the show circuit after an 8 year absence. And that is a whole new world - and not one I'm enjoying due to the thing that took me away in 2002 - aging and health. I'm with SueAnn and many of the old-timers like Pat Fairbanks and Virginia Jasmer who have been wondering in recent years how long we can keep this up as we near or cross over that 70 year mark...

And now that the internet has changed the way sales are made there is no going back. The newer exhibitors don't understand how it was for the pioneers (of the 80s & 90s) who weren't present with those of us who cut our teeth on the show calendar before the web - they don't understand how it was to have to build up stock for a whole show, and not just sew one bear, offer it online, sell it, make another, sell it, etc....
There was also a Good News/Bad News part of the show method however: you either had $$ in your pocket and had to get sewing like mad for the next show - or you had bears left over as base stock for the next show on your calendar!

But you have hit-the-nail-on-the-head; it's the absence that has been your biggest disfavor. Collectors have changed (come & gone) more rapidly than ever in the past and even a 6 month period sees a different group of people viewing our creative work. So staying in the pool catches the crossover ppl - coming back presents you as a newbie.

Of course, they are also newbies, and for that reason they are even worse at `Sticker Shock' - as you may price your work at approximately where your skills, talent and experience lead you up to - - and they will not understand why a 'new' [to them] Seller will be asking such high prices for their work, not knowing that you have some History under your belt, but they don't have the experienced eyes yet to recognize that.

I too have been offline for a year while I've been selling at shows. I'm going to focus on writing for the next year or so and selling from my blogs. I have only one real customer (addressed in another thread long ago) which is not a good thing because other bidders know that they will always be trumped. I don't know any other ways to encourage people to purchase the work if it doesn't interest them enough to bid. But I like my work well enough that they can all stay home with me!

I look forward to reading you often online and I hope your life has smooooothed out!

hggzzz
Bobbie

Aleta - The Silly Bear The Silly Bear
Portland, Oregon
Posts: 3,119
Website

Bonnie, Brenda and Bobbie, thank you.  I appreciate your comments more than you realize.  In the end, I did answer my own questions.  I suppose we all know in our heart of hearts what we should be doing.  And Brenda, you're right.  I need to start updating my blog again.  I will.  Hopefully soon. 

I've decided to hold the line on my pricing.  If I hold on to some bears for awhile I'm okay with that.  It's another hug to get me through this bump in the road.  Sometimes a girl needs lots of hugs!  When they start selling is when I won't need them so much anymore.  bear_original 

Again, thank you all so much for such great food for thought. 

Warmest bear hugs,  :hug:
Aleta

K Pawz Guest

Great topic Aleta! My soft sculptures are my bread and butter! so what I have been doing in the economic downturn is making less complicated pieces with lower prices that take me less time. Instead of all singing all dancing creations that used to take about a month to finish, i am spending about 2 weeks on simplier creations and charging less for them. It is working for me so far. fingers crossed.

Hugs,
Krista

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