17 October 2013

Is 'handmade' really that important, honestly?

 Look at the owls above- the one on the left is €7 and the one on the right €12.50 

Which one would you buy ? 

I asked this question on facebook yesterday ...

I'm asking the same here ... what do you think?

I have had several conversation online and offline since and to be honest it's a little worrying that the majority of people say price is more important.  It's hard as I am in the process of finalising Christmas stock and am torn between selling at a lower price just to compete with cheaper stores or at a reasonable price for what it costs me to make my stock.  Of course this is ridiculous as we all know they purchase huge amounts of stock at a fraction of what I pay so I really cannot compete.

Take for example this owl cushion below from a popular store Penneys (trading as Primark in the UK)

I myself think this is really cute and when I saw it a few months ago I have to say I almost bought it myself!  It's only €7 !  That's nothing, the equivalent of a coffee and cake with a bit of change. 

Then look at this guy below, and the first picture at the top of the post.  These are my owls that I have been making for about 3 years now.  I charge €12.50 for mine which are slightly smaller than the one above but 

I make them by hand.  

I pride myself on them being handmade and made locally.  My tagline has always been

  handmade, homemade and made with love 

but nowadays I barely even print that on my labels because I honestly think people couldn't care less.  

Am I wrong?  What do you think?

I buy my fabric at retail prices.  For my owl it takes 4 different pieces of fabric so let's say I buy a minimum of half a metre of each fabric at an average price of  €11 a metre so that's approximately €22 for the fabric, not to mention  the stuffing, the ribbon bow, the time it takes for me to cut each piece and sew each piece and do the applique - approx 2 hours per cushion.   Let's say I was earning €25 p/hr (yeah I wish"!) that's €50 for two hours and we've not even gone into my electricity, heating, insurance, tax etc - looks like I should be charging about €80 for my owls!!   I then make my own labels and have to advertise my makes on my facebook page (more time) take pictures and post them on my online shop at etsy (more time) if I sell it online a commission is then taken from etsy and then from paypal so I'm losing more money. 

In comparison to mass produced items like the owl above 
which costs €7

I'm guessing that their fabric cost a maximum of 50c for the owls they make and according to reports (one here) they employ child labour at a cost of 76c and hour.  They also use industrial machines and production lines which is much faster so they probably make a cushion complete in under half an hour.  So I'm pretty sure it costs them much less than €2 to make these cushions, it probably barely costs 50 c if we're being realistic. 

We all remember the story in April of the factory (that supplied garments to Penneys) that collapsed (article here) where hundreds and hundreds of peope lost their lives. Or do we?  I certainly do.  I have to say I have only been to Penneys a handful of times since but prior to that I would have been there a lot. 

pic source RTE

The picture above shows a factory that supplied Penneys which housed thousands of workers in extremely dangerous conditions.

This is where I work from.  Just me myself and I with my home insurance, my business insurance, registered for tax and doing it all by the book. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not a plea to buy handmade or anything like that.  This is me questioning out loud the validity of my business in current times.  I appreciate this is an age old dilemma, the small maker competing with the large shops but at least, one time, there was a true desire and need for handmade but nowadays price seems to be ever more important.

So I'm asking the same question again, look at the owls below.  Which one would you buy?

Do we really care whether something was made in a factory in another country and mass produced or whether it was made in a country cottage in the West of Ireland by a local person???

Which one would you buy ? 

What do you think?  Would love to hear your comments below.  


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