While at the Dartmouth Farmers' Markert, I was thinking: what makes a vendor successful?
First it begins with the product. Is your product one of many similar products available. I am fairly lucky at my market. No one has else sells crocheted toys exclusively. There is one other person, and she crochets 3-foot long snakes, finger puppets, a few other toys, preserves, dish clothes, etc. A sort of mixed table. Every week Tara selling her croissants, sells out, and my competition, expands on to two tables. Sure this may seem like an advantage, however, our style of dolls is very different: I have sewn on limbs, hair, bright colours, and a wide variety of options (just look to the right to see some of the items I have for sale on ETSY). But I also must point out her finger puppets are amazing (about $1 each).
We also target two different markets. Her prices on average are half the price of mine, but more basic. Her cotton dish clothes are 3 for $5, averaging $1.66 per cloth. Given that the yarn in each costs a minimum of $0.60, her profit on each is about $1. I charge for time, not materials, at about $5-$7/hour (still below minimum wage in our area, but I take breaks, watch TV, chat while crocheting, so I am not as efficient as I could be), and I ignore the cost of yarn.
I am using Red Heart acrylic yarn for less than $4/ball. I can make about 10 toys from that ball, putting my base cost close to hers. But for me to find selling crocheted toys worth the time, and perhaps make a small business out of it, I need to be compensated for my time. While my competition, probably sells more items than I do, we probably make the same overall profit.
Other competition I have include, other crocheters, although they are no longer direct competition, since I no longer make blankets, slippers, etc, and the baby products table which has toy cubes, but again don't really make toys. I probably lose some customers to the baby table, but our prices are very comparable, so I don't worry about it.
I don't make jewelry, but at my market, there are probably 7 or so jewelry vendors, comprising about 15% of the market. There mostly assemblers, some (3-4) can sell a pair of earrings for about $5, one specializing in chunky jewelry selling sets for $20, and one selling handmade glass beads and using sterling silver who because of the quality and time of her work sells her earrings for $20-$25, a fantastic price for the amount of work and cost of production. At first it looks like the different jewelers are targeting different markets, but this is not always the case. Probably only 3 jewelers do extremely well. Many people don't. I have chatted with some of these vendors and some are considering changing their specialties- much like I had to stop with the purses, slippers, clothes, and blankets, but keeping the parts they love: making beads, matching colours. Some of the areas of change that are being considered include, making stitch markers, selling individual beads, paper weights, etc.
Being successful selling means being flexible and finding your own unique niche!
(an old picture showing the variety of items I was selling, at this point I was making the shift towards toys)