• Karole from Kimberling

Sewing for 18" Dolls -- How Hard Can It Be?


Donating to Charities, Gifts, Selling

Today's Post: Part 3: Selling

S - E - E - E - E - L - LING !!!!!

Picture Marlon Brando yelling "selling" instead of "Stella" and you'll get some idea of my feelings about selling. It is my least favorite part of finding homes for Kimberling Couture Small World Fashions, so I hope you will forgive the soberness of this post.

Early in 2017, I began exploring options to sell my small world fashions. Selling implies that I wanted to make a profit, in my case in order to have my hobby pay for itself. Two major choices I made for KimberlingCouture had a major influence on what the most feasible selling channels/options would be.

  • KimberlingCouture was going to be my hobby, a one-person, part-time activity. I would be creating outfits as well as selling them, so I needed to minimize the time spent selling in order to create inventory (outfits.)

  • KimberlingCouture was going to offer one-of-a-kind outfits for 18" dolls. This choice meant that I would spend a lot of time experimenting with different patterns, and that most of the time there would be a learning curve that never reached the optimal level of efficiency because before I got to that level, I would be moving on to something new. Bottom line: if I sold outfits at even a slow rate, I would never have a large inventory of outfits to sell. And, because I was selling outfits (not single articles of clothing), the prices I would have to charge for them would limit the number of customers they would appeal to.

My observations of handmade doll clothes being sold online have led to the conclusion that my choices are not the best way to maximize profit.

  • More profit can be achieved by making one type of item (dresses, sweaters, hats, jewelry,etc,) for 18 inch dolls, and using just one or two patterns/styles in order to maximize the speed of producing them.

  • Given a seamstress' talent and skill of working with fabric, and the variety of fabric colors, prints, and materials, a single item can just as beautiful as an outfit. By selling an individual item of doll clothing and not an outfit, the selling price will be less and will, therefore, increase the number of customers able to purchase it. Due to the speed gained by sticking to a few patterns, one person can produce many more individual items of doll clothing than a person making one-of-a-kind outfits. And from observing the selling of items and outfits online over the past ten months, the the percent of profit for a single item of clothing (based on the cost of materials and the time to make it) is often much greater than the percent of profit for an entire outfit.

So, my choices for KimberlingCouture Small World Fashions limit my selling channels. No flea markets or craft fairs because I will not have enough inventory to cover the traveling and booth rental expenses. Given that prices for an outfit would limit the number of my potential customers, a wider net would be needed to find them -- the Internet.

In the past, I have designed my own websites, set up shopping carts and payment processing, and performed all aspects of shipping, so I am aware of the time, costs, and fees of selling products online. Without reservation, I think that Etsy and eBay are almost always the best selling platforms for a hobbyist, or small one-person business just starting out, that will be selling small quantities of doll clothes. These selling venues reach a broad audience, provide integrated platforms to sell, handle payments, and assist in shipping items at discounted rates. Their fees for selling relatively low ticket items are reasonable. Here is a link to an article published online in July 2017 comparing eBay and Etsy from a seller's perspective:

Ten months of experience selling on Etsy, and eBay's auction channel led me to these conclusions:

  • Etsy is more friendly and protective of home businesses in terms of fees and restricting competition to handmade (vs. manufactured items) items. eBay's inclusion of manufactured items from China lowers customer's expectations of what they should pay for doll clothes.

  • Etsy has a reputation for offering well made hand-crafted merchandise, and although it attracts a smaller audience than eBay, customers expect to pay a little more. Although eBay reaches a larger audience, it's audience includes large numbers of peoples in countries I am not selling to. (Because of shipping challenges overseas, I am only selling in the United States.)

  • With only a small number of items to list, Etsy's listing fees are low -- 20 cents per item for four months. eBay's listing fees for 50 items would be zero without the cost of setting up a store.

  • Etsy's selling fees are much lower than eBay's.

  • For selling my outfits, Etsy was a better platform. At different times I tested selling several outfits first using eBay's auction format with little success; items that later sold on Etsy (same price points.)

My experience has also taught me that the competition on Etsy is fierce. There are many talented people making clothes for 18" dolls. Getting a buyer's attention on Etsy is dependent on many things. In addition to the right tags and item titles, Etsy has algorithms that determine which items will appear first when keywords are entered in the search box. I have not read enough about how these algorithms work to increase the probability that my outfits will be presented in the first few pages of a search; it is my next priority. But, it cannot hurt to have your family and friends search for your shop by name on Etsy every once in a while and favor your shop. (These are other things I have not done and plan to do.)

No matter where your online shop is, posting pictures of your doll clothes on Pinterest, Facebook and other social media with links to your shop will increase your exposure to prospective customers, and they're FREE. I have less than two months experience on Facebook, and am still learning. I have been on Pinterest for about three years, but only registered as a shop about six months ago. Pinterest provides me with statistics on how often my pictures have been viewed and saved -- all at no cost. I advise anyone selling doll clothes to take advantage of this free exposure. There are other mobile apps I have yet to try to get free exposure for my fashions, but I will, in time. (Need to get some sewing done first!)

Ah, Selling -- One Step at a Time.

I promise my next post will be more light-hearted. Hope to see you next week -- .....

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