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Why are Craft Products so Expensive?

Updated: Jun 4

"I'm not paying that......" It's a very sad fact that I have heard this remarked to me in relation to some of my small and large products. Not too often mind but often enough to sting a little. I'm sure the thought has flashed across some other people's minds too but they are too polite to openly come out and say so. You get good at reading people after a while when you sell to the public.

Why are Craft Products so Expensive?

Why are Craft Products so Expensive? Why does a Craftsperson charge so much for their work compared with other products out there? Why can I buy something in a supermarket or big retail store so much cheaper than from a small craft vendor??? You can almost hear the Customer think these thoughts every time a piece is picked up from your market stall table. The price tag is seen and the piece put back on the table carefully like a primed grenade. To answer this question we must first look at our spending habits and attitudes where we currently shop vs where we used to shop.

The Death of the Small Shop

Firstly, the small corner shop has been replaced by the monster international conglomerate retail company that can buy in bulk, dictating the price they want to pay to manufacturers big and small. We in turn buy these goods at a price that seems less than it is possible to make them, warping our sense of value in each item. The giants can push and undercut wherever they wish and if you are a small business selling to them, god help you.

Several big companies operate in this country that sell knock down goods at a price you can't really walk away from. You know who they are and yes, I have used them too and I still do from time to time. I still try to support the small businesses when I can. The big chain stores can offer cheaper prices by buying sometimes millions of units at a time direct from the manufacturer. A small store has limited budgets for bulk buying and limited shelf and storage space. A small crafter on the other hand can only create a handful of items per day or week. Which do you think is more special?

The small retail shop would have offered you a more local choices but at a higher price. It is this margin that we have been uncomfortable with long enough to go to the giant stores more & more and support them instead of the local shop. That has backfired against us all by the way.

what chance do smaller business have against big business?
Small local store under pressure from bigger retail stores

Delayed Consequences from the 2007 Recession

Secondly, the recession from 2007 was a major kick in the teeth for all of us in Ireland and the hurt is still there today in 2019 Tralee. I have seen people walk away from my table (back when I was selling at markets) over the last few years when the cheapest item was €5. They love the look of the products but just don't have the disposable income to justify even €5. Everything has gone up in price in Ireland except peoples wages and there's a tax on everything. The only thing the Irish government haven't come up with is a tax that we would continually pay as a corpse........yet.

So here we have a change in attitude about spending and spending only where we get the cheapest deal (even without quality or guarantee) and a lack of disposable income. Two big issues. Think back to every item you bought on the cheap that broke within a short space of time. You didn't care enough to take it back to the shop because you paid so little for it that it now isn't worth your time and effort to return it and look for a refund. Is this a good thing or a bad thing in your opinion?

The Effect on a Small Craft Business

Now the Craftsperson (someone like me) is working in this economy where everything is at a higher price (from insurance costs, tools, materials all the way down to petrol for the chainsaw) and is up against prices from the far east. One cannot lower the price to compete and probably cannot create more product because of how time consuming the work is. The shops also take their cut from you which is when starting out, an unfortunate and necessary evil.

From my own point of view, for my business I have never worked so long and so hard for very little reward. In any job I had previously I would have walked away after a few weeks of no wages but I persist here out of a love for what I do. Each piece I make has to be sourced at source (where the tree fell) and had to be cut up and each log dragged back to my van and then on to my workshop to process without the aid of any heavy lifting equipment. Rough processed, sealed and then dried over many months. Finally ready to finish, only 2 or 3 more hours to go. Finished now, inventoried, stored and then finally brought onto the market table only to hear "I'm not paying that....."

A Happier Ending Note

To move away from the bleakness of that last bit, Viking bowls that are 1,000 years old have been unearthed, cleaned and are now displayed in a museum in Dublin. They are far from perfect condition but they give a clear indication of how they were made and what they were possibly used for. My own hope is that at least one of my pieces makes it in good enough condition to be discovered several hundred or even 1,000 years from now and someone from that future date marvels at it's creation, by hand, by an Irish craftsman. As I've said on my other posts, Buy smart, buy local!

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