Why You Shouldn’t Ditch Your Slowest Seller

by Luann Udell.
(Keene, New Hampshire)

Luann Udell with her big $5,000 wall hanging (from Niche Magazine, April 2006)

Luann Udell with her big $5,000 wall hanging (from Niche Magazine, April 2006)

How Your “Slowest” Seller
Could Actually Be Your Best Marketing

There are two tenets in business that everyone accepts as true:

  1. You should figure out what your most popular product is, and sell the heck out of it.
  2. You should figure out what your least popular product is, and get rid of it.

Here’s a little story about why you should reconsider step 2.

I’ve been a long-time CVS fan. While waiting for prescriptions to be filled, I would wander the aisles shopping. (In fact, once our insurance company switched to Medco’s online pharmacy, our “miscellaneous” expenditures dropped enormously.)

CVS is losing me as a customer to Walgreen’s. Why?

They no longer carry three products that I love:

a) They no longer carry Physician’s Formula make-up remover lotion
(I LOVE this stuff because it isn’t runny and doesn’t drip like oil versions);

b) Dr. Scholl’s pedicure file (probably because their store brand is cheaper, though not nearly as good);

c) and they don’t carry dental wax (which I want to use to position jewelry for photography.)

Probably because they were slow sellers. Or they had a store brand they wanted to push. I dunno.

But guess where I’m finding these products now?

Yep. Walgreen’s.

Okay, to be perfectly fair, the makeup remover is getting harder to find anywhere. I suspect the product is going through a makeover.

But my point is, wherever these products are, that’s where I’m going to go to get them.

Our local grocery store does the same thing. It introduces new products which I love, and discontinues them when they aren’t big movers.

Other grocery stores pick them up–and that’s where I go to get them. One carries my all-time favorite fruit-infused vinegars. (People, these are amazing to use in homemade salad dressings.) I go to another for my Ghiradelli hot cocoa.

So every month or so, Hanniford’s does not get my $200-$300 grocery bill.

So sometimes your slowest seller can be a draw to very passionate users/buyers. People who will look elsewhere if you drop it, like my favorite pear infused vinegar.

Sometimes an item sells slow because it’s really expensive, or very unusual. It can still be a huge draw to your other work. And it can make the rest of your work seem more affordable. I don’t sell too many $5,000 wall hangings (see photo above). But when I do a) it’s the equivalent of selling a hundred $50 items, and b) it does a bang-up job of publicity.

Sometimes a “slow” product will come back around. I hadn’t sold much fish jewelry in years. Maybe their time was over? When I put my “business hat” on, I considered dropping it. When I put my “artist hat” on, I realized it still had a story to tell. And guess what? I’m now selling more fish.

Fish necklace, back in demand!

Fish necklace, back in demand!

Or perhaps it just hasn’t had time to catch on yet. I hardly sold any sculptures when I first started out. Just when I was about to lose hope, sales took off. Plus, turns out they fill a major niche as a gift for guys. I would have lost that marketing opportunity if I’d given up too soon.

Maybe your slow seller is something that sets off the rest of your products. Years ago, a friend had a yarn store. She didn’t carry any yellow yarn, because “it didn’t sell.” I showed her an article by a color designer for a local yarn mill. The designer said every line should have a yellow “because it fills out the color wheel, and makes other colors sing.” The store owner added yellow, and her sales rose.

Maybe your slowest seller is a dog* because of very good reasons. It’s out of fashion, you make a better one now, or you can’t even get the supplies to make it anymore.

But unless you’re sure it no longer serves any purpose, consider it a small price to pay for a few very special, very passionate customers.

Because any customer who is passionate about your art is sharing that passion with a lot of other people.

And that’s a good thing.

P.S. I apologize for calling any part of my/your art “a dog”. Just trying to give some good business advice here, as well as good artistic advice.

Luann Udell
Luann Udell’s website
Luann Udell’s blog


by: Sue Runyon/Sue Runyon Designs

My most expensive item gets the most clicks and inquiries and yet it never sells. It draws people into my shop though so I keep it. Thank you for writing such a carefully considered article.

Thank you, Luann!
by: Rena

Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Luann!

Excellent points about slow-selling items being ahead of their time, or having a temporary lull in popularity, or being out of most people’s price range.

Or sometimes it’s the right piece, but it’s being seen at the wrong venues to be appreciated properly.

A jewelry artist friend once told me, “There’s a buyer for every piece of jewelry – but sometimes it takes a long time for them to connect.”

Several years ago I created a one-of-a-kind, mid-priced pendant that sat in my inventory for about six years. I displayed this piece at countless shows, home parties, private showings, and to dozens of shop owners.

People often commented on it, but no one ever bought it.

I have no idea why nobody wanted it – but finally at a holiday art show, a young man came by my booth and clicked with this pendant immediately. He bought it as a gift for his wife, without even looking at the price.

I realized with surprise that I actually felt a little sad to see it go after having it around for so long.

The pendant did have a buyer – it just took them six long years to find each other!

Thank you also for sharing your insights on slow-selling pieces that are a huge draw for the rest of your work.

to ditch or keep slow seller
by: Philonese

I appreciate what everyone is saying about keeping slow sellers and it makes sense, but my question is do you ever take a piece and take it apart and re-use the items? Am I to understand from one of the comments that the only time you do this is when you can no longer get the parts to make another or similar piece? What about if it’s a piece that didn’t quite turn out as you wanted and you decided to just leave it because possibly someone will like it?

Taking jewelry items apart
by: Rena

Hi Philonese,

Gosh, yes – I often take apart my pieces of jewelry (especially beaded items) to re-use the parts for other projects.

Often it’s because, as you mentioned, I just don’t feel happy about the way the piece turned out.

Or it might be because an item isn’t moving and I’m tired of having it in my inventory – so I don’t hesitate to “unmake” it and repurpose the components.

I don’t think there are any absolute right or wrong approaches to this.

Whether you do this when you’re not satisfied with how the piece turned out, or even for no reason in particular, I think it’s each artist’s personal decision when to unmake or re-make their work.

Only you know what feels right for you, your artistry, and your jewelry business! :o)

Slow Means it’s Waitng for the Right Person
by: Patricia C Vener

Sadly, I have to admit most everything I make is a slow seller because I’m pretty bad (still!) at marketing myself and my work. And my work is, for the most part, fairly pricey because I love making the time consuming, labor intensive one of a kind art pieces. My philospophy is that there is a person for every piece, they just have to find each other.

As far as taking my work apart, I very rarely do this. Mostly because I have little patience for pulling apart the thin, multiply threaded beading thread from each and every one of the tiny beads in a bead woven piece. On the third hand, I love taking apart old, broken, or badly used crystal jewelry to reuse those beads in my work. 🙂

Slow sellers can be you savng grace
by: Lily Blanc Designs

Yes Luan I have also experienced the ‘slow seller’ item, as I a sure we all have. But you are correct, that particular piece is either the drawcard to get customers to look and buy something else, or it is just there waiting for a wonderful new owner. After only a couple of years of travelling around Australia and selling my pieces at local markets, I find that there is always one piece that I start to dispare in selling, and what do you know? Along comes a customer at the next markets and poff! the same piece is sold. And most times that piece is sold without hesitation, discussion or dithering. So yep, keep up the great work and remember every piece you do is a work of art and that someone else has great appreciation for it just like you.
Lily Blanc Designs

Thanks for the fresh perspective
by: Cindi

I really appreciated reading your article and it has made me go back and look at my products and think about why people buy or don’t buy them.
I realized that customers really comment or rave about these pieces but may not buy them. I now believe that they have helped round out my collection and will not back away from creating this balance for future also.
Thanks so much

Slow sellers show others what you can do
by: Lina

Hello, I have a few slow sellers mostly because they are the more expensive pieces. They are also the ones that get picked up the most and commented on the most. I am not really worried if they don’t sell as they show the quality and depth of my work. If they were not there, perhaps i would not get many people coming by to admire them. Often whne they are drawn to look at them , they will buy a cheaper priced item.
I don’t like to undo any piece I have made – although I have done this once or twice and it has been because I wasn’t 100% happy with it.

thanks for your article.

Thank you!
by: Luann Udell

Just checked back in and found all your lovely comments. I’m delighted the article gave you another way to think about those “slow sellers”. And a big thank you to Rena, for pointing out there’s no right or wrong way to think about these things–just what works for Y*O*U! :^D (And yes, I’ve taken apart designs because I’m not happy with it or because I desperately need one of the components for a special order.)

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