The Silly Season is upon us.
Silly Season, in case you don’t know, is roughly that period of time between November and Christmas when many businesses do the bulk of their sales. Add that to the busyness that most of us find ourselves immersed in with friends and family obligations and other activities, and you have a Silly Season, indeed. Even hobbyists find themselves in a similar situation with their desire to create lovely gifts for all of those fortunate people on their lists.
We all need to cope with this season and create ways to make our way through and come out the other side, victorious, having neither damaged theirs or their families’ health and sanity, so ideas to get the discussion going follow:
1. Plan ahead. Take a bit of time to sit down with your calendar and plan what you can do between now and the date you want to cease production by. Take into consideration your other obligations and your health and sanity. Even those among us who find planning to be sheer agony can benefit. You might not write, “Nov. 4, make Peppermint Soap,” but you might make a list of what you want to make and think about how much time it will take you to accomplish it and then decide how much fits into your timeframe. If you need supplies, order now. Don’t put yourself in the position of stressing over whether your order will arrive in time for you to make the products your customer wants. Allowing two weeks for shipping to you is a good idea at this time of year.
2. Bring in holiday help. Every retail store that is busy during the holidays does it. It may be worth the cost in order to have the product your customer wants. If you’re lucky enough to have good friends and family who will help, don’t be a hero. Let them! Reward them, of course, but take any good help you can get.
3. Encourage your customers to order early. Don’t expect that they will automatically take into account your busy schedule or the fact that you have limited supplies. Instead, head those last-minute shoppers off by making it attractive to order early. Offer a coupon for a November purchase, feature weekly sales in November, or promise a freebie with their order, anything that will compel them to order now rather than later.
4. Limit your offerings. I know, I know, you want to offer every holiday scent candle or soap shape that you and your customers like, but resist the temptation. Instead, offer just a few holiday products. It’s less confusing for your customers and for you, and keep in mind how much easier it is to make three large batches of scents/colors than it is to make thirteen. Even for regular stock, you might consider cutting back to your most popular products and scents for the season. If you find that you don’t have time to keep up with your regular line, don’t bother to offer holiday products. It’s better to end up with twenty lavender candles after December 25th than to end up with twenty Balsam Fir candles that are in low demand the rest of the year.
5. Set a “last date to order” date and a “last day to purchase” date, along with any other rules that will make the season tolerable. Set specific times of the day for phone orders, a cut-off date for special orders and gift baskets, or an “in stock products only” date that will work for you. Don’t find yourself stressing and losing sleep for a bar of soap!
If we think about it, we can brainstorm a multitude of ideas to keep us on track and sane through the holiday season. I’m not suggesting that we can make the next two months stress-free, but I am suggesting that we exercise some control over the season and not let it defeat us by looking realistically at our individual situations and planning how we will deal with them to only do what we can reasonably do and by finding ways, big and small, to make our goals attainable.
What do you do? How do you manage Silly Season? We’d love to hear your ideas. Let’s help each other get through 2012!
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne for the Saponifier
How do you dress to make soap or candles? Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?
If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way. If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.
Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances. We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax. To be sure, things happen. Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed. A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on. The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear. A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.
If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was. What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap? What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear? I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.
Chandlers, think you’re off the hook? Not so fast!. Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes. Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.
Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed. The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs. The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.
Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart. We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.
My advice: get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!
Until next time,
May your days be filled with bubbles & wax.
Remember back to the days when you first began to make soap or candles. For some of you, it’s a distant memory. For others, it’s easily recaptured. Regardless of the time and path traveled from then until now, try to remember how “green” you were– maybe far enough back that “green” only meant the color or that you were new to the craft! Are you remembering how confusing everything was, how many terms you had to learn, how to procure the equipment and supplies? Remember carefully studying the safety tips others gave you? I want you to put yourself in that place again for a moment.
Why? I have a couple of reasons in mind; one of them is empathy. If you can remember how much there was to learn and the trepidation that you felt at the beginning, you can feel empathy for the newbies you run across. Yes, it may feel as if you’ve answered a certain question a hundred times and yes, it might seem obvious what the answer is to another. Nevertheless, you can answer that question or help the person figure out the answer, paying back what has been given to you.
I don’t have to tell you that soap and candlemaking have been serious industries and crafts for centuries, their secrets closely protected and passed on to future generations. Just as in the past, this vital information must be passed on to others now, so the crafts will be preserved for the future, which is my second reason for asking you to think about where you began. I personally remember many teachers I had–Rita Scheu of TLC Soaps and many others I “met” online who taught and encouraged me along the way. Indeed, I’m not finished learning. Just a few days ago, I asked a question which other soap makers helped me with, and that knowledge will make me a better soapmaker.
Potential and beginning soap and candle makers these days face a different challenge than many of us faced. Before the explosion of the internet, instruction was difficult to find. Today, they are barraged with information, much of it inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst. If you can lend some encouragement along the way and show newbies where they can find good information (Saponifier), you’ll be doing them, the craft, and you, a world of good!
Until next time, bubbles up!
Scents of summer. . . what are your most popular scents from June – August?
I have a two-pronged purpose here. The first is to get an idea of what’s hot; the second is to put scent selection into perspective.
Some soapmakers and chandlers like to offer special scents for seasonal sales. Do you make product with special summer scents, for instance? This tactic can be a great way of creating anticipation and consequently, demand. It may offer you a chance to test out scents for a permanent place on your scent list. On the other hand, however, it could distract you from your core business and become an expensive proposition if you’re always chasing after new scents to offer.
I have seen fellow crafters of scented products own so many scents that they can barely count them all, and they strive to have product for each one in stock! Their goal is usually to make sure they have whatever scent the customer might desire. Of course, we all want more business and we want to make our customers happy, hating to turn away a sale. While that’s understandable, it isn’t likely to be part of a smart business plan. Even large companies limit their offerings.
That’s not to say that offering a seasonal scents is a poor idea , just that taking a good look at your business plan and checkbook should be number one on your list!
So, tell us, what do you do?