Monday, November 17, 2008

For The New Online Shopper

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Today’s post is directed primarily toward the new online shopper.
Instead of doing a store review this morning, I wanted to relate the results of a little experiment my wife and I did last weekend. For some time now I had been wondering just how competitive handmade products where with commercially produced products. It is pretty well understood that handmade items are usually better quality but do they really cost more than commercially produced products?

What we did last weekend was take random items we had purchased online over the last year from stores listed in the directory and do a comparison of pricing and perceived quality. We choose items from the Jewelry, Pottery, Clothing, Bags & Purses, Quilts and Candles & Soaps. We were going to also include Art but art being such a subjective area we choose to exclude it.

We took pictures and their prices of several items from each of the above mentioned categories and visited a rather wide range of retail stores. From the Walmart and Kmart type of chains to the smaller individually owned stores, from the discount type to the high end such as Sacks & Macey’s. We tried to use a wide variety of sources to obtain a good picture for our comparison.

Without going into each store results for each category because this would make this post unbelievably long, our results where exactly what I felt in my heart we would find. In the area of pricing, across the board, the handmade products we used as our base were priced very comparable and in several instances a little lower than the retail stores we visited.

From our experiences last weekend, I believe it is safe to say that in most instances the majority of online handmade product sellers probably have their pricing about where it should be. If anything, there is a strong possibility that some stores are under pricing their products.

When it comes to quality, the handmade products we used as our base, far surpassed that of every piece we compared. Like I said, that I expected but I was a little surprised of just how much better handmade products really were.

The whole purpose of this little experiment was to justify in my mind scientifically what I already believed and what I have been saying for years. Handmade products are almost always a better buy than commercially produced similar items. Now I’m not saying that there are not really good commercially produced products available in normal retail stores. What I am saying though is that in most instances, to match the actual quality, you are going to be paying more than you will online.

I haven’t even entered into this the fact that most handmade products are a one-of-a-kind item and a degree of exclusiveness is associated with the purchase that doesn’t exist with commercially produced products. Just how one places a value on this element has got to be in the mind of the shopper themselves and I can’t address that.

If you are relatively new to shopping online and still have some reservations, hopefully our little experiment will help elevate some of those reservations. For all those experienced online shoppers, all I’ve really done here is reinforce what they already have learned first hand.

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