I’ve had a passion for furniture design for a long time now. After doing extensive sketching, concept development, and modeling I finally decided on a form language that I liked and partnered with a local woodworker to bring my ideas to life.
I’m attempting to sell them on Etsy, but so far am having no luck. My prices are pretty high end, unfortunately, and think that this might not be a good market besides it already being pretty saturated.
Do you guys have any ideas where I could sell high end mid-century style furniture?
Here’s my etsy store to see what I’m working with.
In a previous life, long before etsy, I sold studio furniture through galleries and art shows. I would never go back to a gallery (I had a bad experience), but I really enjoyed the shows. I still have my 10x10 white tent (I think pretty much still required today). The people watching is almost worth the price of admission.
What I found to be the best strategy to to offer goods at three general price points. This was a while ago, so maybe adjust for inflation, but the ranges were $50-$100, $400-$500 and $800-$1000. I’d have 20-30 pieces at the low end, 10-20 at the mid range and maybe 5-7 at the high end. And of course I would give quotes on the fly for anything and I did receive a $5K commision once.
Once, I did a show in quite a wealthy area, so I came in with almost exclusively in the high range. Didn’t sell a single one. While at other “lower income” shows, I would always sell at least one and typically 2 or 3. The next year I tried the usual mix, and wouldn’t you know it, I sold a lot at the high end.
I really believe if you offer them something low and compare what you get when you spend more, and the difference is significant, it generates business. I look at your site and see an extra $200 will get me longer legs. Where’s the value? I know we can get into a pissing match about “value”, but when you offer a singular style or function, it is easy to call you on petty things. Consider adding clocks, coat racks, beds, mirrors, shelves and even tiny things like bookends and candle holders. Expand the empire, a “single” offering will get passed by quickly.
I had honestly hoped that the nightstand would be my “cheaper” stuff, but the cost ended up being higher than I had hoped and then the costs for the other pieces weren’t dramatically higher, even though they’re much larger. I guess this makes sense when I consider labor costs a lot more than material and they’re all pretty similar build, just longer cuts.
But either way, what you’re saying about offering something else makes a lot of sense. Even if my nightstand came in where I wanted it to be cost wise, it would be good to have something different, style wise.
Unfortunately I don’t have the time/equipment to make them myself and can’t afford at this point to make the furniture before its bought, so doing different things is difficult. I’ll take a deeper look into it.
I had the distinct advantage that I was my own manufacturing cost, and I was young and didn’t value my time that much.
But as a designer, I was able to develop the designs at the pricepoint. For example, take your “+” symbol. Mount it to a 1x2x6 bar of aluminum, it is a bookend. Take your “+” symbol, lay it flat, drill 5 holes, you have a candle holder. A CNC router will cut those “+” symbols all day long at the cost of depreciation, floor space and electricity - cheap. Then have those candle holders on your tables and offer both. All large manufacturers stage with a range of products, look at C&B, Ikea, etc for inspiration.
Not so bad, I was just about to go all in before I got a “real” job.
Figure the art fair circuit is 16 weeks, I was doing 4 per year. Going all in would have been doing at least 12/year. I was projecting that gross sales would be at least $60K and likely $90-$100K in show sales. Then, on top I was estimating another $40-$60K in gross sales from commissions.
100% agree with what iab said. I build custom live edge coffee tables (http://www.lowedesignco.com) as a hobby and did my first show in December of last year at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The show was huge (600+ vendors) and I didn’t really know what to expect going in. I brought three coffee tables with prices between $1800 and $2500 and 20x machined stainless steel bottle openers retailing for $30. Sold out of bottle openers; didn’t sell a coffee table. I did give out several hundred business cards and got tons of positive feedback, but still took a big loss on the show.
I’ve since designed and sold smaller pieces, like side tables and serving tables. I realize now that I had a more diverse offering of products at different prices points, I would have done far better. People are far more willing to spend $200 on a live edge serving platter than $2000 on a custom coffee table. At least that was my experience with this particular show. The live edge market is also extremely saturated, and I don’t know how much my differentiation (machined aluminum legs/ bases that you can flat pack) ultimately mattered to potential buyers of live edge pieces.
Congratulations on your designs, they are playful and would fit right into a Muji catalog.
However obviously being high end, I don’t think Etsy is the right platform to sell these on.
I bet you will have more success with a dedicated website, shopify integration and intense Facebook marketing campaigns.
As far as the Plus signs go, they determine your design and often people desire a more modern, flush type of look for their interiors to keep things calm and clean. To avoid associations (Kermit eyes, dead eyes etc.) it is good to stick by a philosophy. In Europe, people often live by ‘calmness, cleanliness, regularity and discipline’ and we want our interiors to reflect these life principles. You would have to research the aesthetic preferences of your market a bit showing them alternatives, and also offering alternatives (materials, colors, details, premium add-ons) in your web store to show that you understand your audience. That is when people will connect and as a result, purchase.
Also retargeting strategies are important especially in markets where people do not buy on first contact, but need some time to decide.
I think these are wonderful and if you approach your marketing well, you will sell.
similar to iab, I had a previous life apprenticed to a furniture artist. 25 years or so ago.
He sold in galleries in Boston and NYC and occasionally museum shows. I helped build one-off product in the $5- $15K range.
Galleries take half of any sale from a show but only 10% off any commissions that result from the show, and that’s where the real money is and why it’s worth playing their game.
never let collectors or gallery owners know you’ve ever showed at a crafts fair, lowers your brand equity.
you cold also look at Dakota Jackson as a role model, but he’s an expert self marketer.