A reader asked why she sees the same canvases on every shop site she visits. It can often seem as if everyone is buying from a very tiny pool of products when we know there is lots more out there. I think it’s important for us to be smart consumers. We do this by understanding how the business works.
Although it may seem that shops all buy from just one source, in fact, needlepoint shops buy directly from designers or from a number of small companies that represent designers and artists. These small companies do the majority of their business at wholesale needlework markets where they meet their customers in person. Both parties are businesspeople and make decisions based on their plans, mission, and their sense of the market. A shop may decide only to buy canvases painted on 13 mesh. A designer may only sell to shops in a certain group of states. Both are legitimate business decisions even though I, as a consumer, may not agree with them.
Shops will often buy and display the canvases that the designers say are “most popular,” or that their experience with their customers says will sell. For example, shops in Minnesota will have canvases for UMinn, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a canvas for the University of California. Here in Northern California, it would be just the opposite.
It takes time and lots of effort to put up a canvas on a website. So shops only select some canvases to put on their sites. The default for most sites that show products is to show the newest things first. With only a limited number of canvases coming out at any one time & only some of those being popular (i.e. bought), you will see the same canvases over and over.
This is just the way business works. All businesses have a limited amount of resources (money, shelf space, time, server space) looking at a limited industry, even if seemingly large. The trick for a business is to use their resources to carry things that people will buy. You won’t stay in business long if you insist on only carrying Coke in a town where everyone drinks Pepsi exclusively.
Yes, there are many desires of customers that are not satisfied this way. It’s called the Long Tail. I may love black cat canvases that are not for Halloween, but shops won’t get that request very often. Do they buy the Halloween black cat canvas which many people might buy or the Easter one I may buy if I happen to visit that store?
There is a need for shops and sites to serve the Long Tail and different industries handle this in different ways. In the needlepoint business, this is handled by the designers showing their complete catalog & encouraging shops to order as needed. This was true 30 years ago when it was paper catalogs in notebooks and it is still true today.
This is good for all levels: consumer, shop, and designer. The consumer benefits because she can see everything on the designer’s site & then order what is needed from the preferred shop. The shop benefits because their “inventory” is multiplied by their ability to order. The designer benefits because she gets sales from the Long Tail by making it easy for shops to order & gets greater exposure directly to the consumer.
Please note: My nativity with the last animal for our series isn’t out at the time of writing. I’m hoping to put up the elephant post tomorrow.