After the Jump: Understanding Retail

by Grace Bonney

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For the past two weeks on After the Jump, I’ve been exploring the world of independent design through the lens of artists and designers. My goal was to try to connect makers’ stories with their goods and let the buying public in on some of the hidden costs and difficulties associated with handmade and independent work. So often people comment about wanting to see locally made, handmade goods, but also wanting to see price points be below $25- but those things rarely go together. So I invited artists to join me to explain the cost of doing business, from the time put into a single piece to the cost of finding ethical local labor and materials to the cost of promoting and creating a sustainable business. My hope was that having more information might make it easier for people to at least understand why those costs were what they were.

The story wasn’t quite complete with only designers talking, so this week I invited two successful shop owners, Michele Varian from NYC and Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia in Oxford, MS, to discuss independent design from the perspective of the shop owner. From tough discussions about the realities and necessities of price mark ups, to the way online selling platforms have not adequately prepared independent designers for the world of wholesale. Their points and feedback were fascinating and are so eye-opening when it comes to understanding why the handmade work we love so much costs more than what we see in fast-design and big box stores. Thanks so much to Michele and Erin for joining me- if you’re ever in NYC or Oxford, please check out their shops and say hi. xo, grace

LISTEN: You can download the podcast on iTunes here, or stream it here on Heritage Radio

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  • It’s been lovely to hear the ideas and reasons so articulately explained regarding the economics of hand crafted. Thank you for inviting smart, independent business women to help educate on this much needed topic. These last two episodes were some of my favorites!

  • This series is really, really great. My husband and I just opened a store in Puerto Rico where we build custom furniture and we focus on selling handmade housewares items from around the world and we’ve had a lot of anxiety about our pricing and our business model in general. Are we charging too much? Too little? Will people appreciate the weeks of work that goes into creating one piece of furniture and pay accordingly? Hearing from other shop owners and artists has been hugely helpful. Plus it’s helped us ID some new wholesalers :). Please keep this series going!

  • EAA is one of my favorite brick and mortar resellers. She is so lovely, profesh & FUN. I am SO PUMPED to listen to this podcast when I get back to the studio after NSS. Thanks for the reminder of how awesome it is to work in an industry filled to the brim with seriously smart & talented ladies.

  • This was such a great listen! I have loved getting to know Erin from afar over the past year and was lucky enough to spend the morning with her before your podcast talking over so many of the highs and lows we experience as small-show-owning women (and moms). I loved your the prior podcast with of a kind and lf jewelry about the cost of making goods and so appreciate you highlighting the life of shop owners – it really makes a difference to our businesses when customers understand the value of shopping with small boutique owners who put the time in, personally to curate and develop relationships with our vendors

  • This show was amazing. These two women have so much wisdom, and I love how observant they are about retail, running a business, social media’s role in business, and independent design. It was interesting to hear the thoughts on Etsy and small designers who make the move towards wholesale. It’s a whole different business model, not just halving the price, and it’s great to hear that amazing retailers like these also support that essential education for designer/makers. Thanks so much!