I enjoyed the comments on my Get Smart (About Manufacturing) post about economy of scale. Yep, that’s what that post was about, but I tried to make it more interesting than that phrase sounds! The comments from other designers, small business owners and manufacturers illustrate how universal my experiences are. Here are a few excerpts (all links go to the authors’ blogs/websites):
I’m dealing with a similar situation domestic manufacturing vs Asia. U.S. quality is top notch and more expensive then a regular “inexpensive”/cheap Asia manufacturing. Good Asian factories charge a lot more for quality. As they say: You get what you [pay] for. — Sabina Les
Sometimes my clients ask me why a particular estate piece costs so much and I have to carefully explain that I’m actually selling it for less than what it would cost to manufacture in today’s economy. — Belle de Ville
We’re in photography in the U.K. and find that a lot of customers don’t get why prints cost so much. I think everyone tends to discount the value of labour. — Nicola
The offering of goods available worldwide is adversely affected by the economic demands created by the influence of the largest players in the market. Customers do benefit from lower prices, but at what cost? — Susan
At least a few times a week somebody tells me I should just manufacture in China, because they don’t know all of the complications, costs, and downsides to doing so. — Jesica
The Vegetable Assassin wrote about her struggles to get a fair price for her artwork, Brie wrote about her photography and Lady Smaggle wrote about her jewelry. Sara made me laugh by telling bitches, “Get your hands out of my wallet.” Ha!
Sher has manufacturing experience AND owns my silver Cleves ring. Here’s what she has to say about the ring:
To mass produce that in Asia, first of all they would cut the thickness of the ring (reducing quality). Then there would not be the depth to the engravings. (reducing the look overall) And last of all, they would not continue those engravings completely around the ring. They would only carve (maybe I should say stamp) the face of the ring.
Sher knows her shizz. She also gets at another burning question:
Why don’t you do less complicated designs that can be made for less money?
As a matter of fact, I started out with jewelry designs that were less detailed, less weighty, less ME. Unfortunately, those designs weren’t special enough to appeal to retailers, press or clients. They looked like jewelry you could find anywhere at a lower price. Back to economy of scale! Even if I made the overseas factory’s required minimum of 100 units, Walmart was making thousands so Walmart got price breaks from its factories. Walmart can sell a simple 10K gold and diamond necklace — apparently inspired by Elsa Peretti’s famous Open Heart design for Tiffany — for $57. I could never match that price even if I did the exact same design.
A few years ago, Toys R Us was nearly put out of business by Walmart’s purchasing power, which allowed it to sell it toys at lower prices. Toys R Us hired Gerald L. Storch to run the company. Storch formerly worked at Tar-Jay, another low-price chain, so he knew what he was dealing with: Toys R Us was never going be able to compete with Walmart on price. Storch decided to concentrate on getting cooler toys, like Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters. Success! I kind of want a Zhu Zhu myself.
My strategy is the same as Toys R Us. As long as I can’t make a $57 necklace, I’m going to do the coolest, heftiest, most detailed and best-made jewelry you’ve ever seen. When Walmart hires me to do a special line, I’ll do lightweight, less detailed jewelry and sell it for a song. The quality will be lower, of course, but by now you should know that you get what you pay for!
UPDATED TO ADD: Check out Denise’s wonderful post about me on The Swelle Life. Thank you, Denise!
It should be fairly simple to see why this works the way it does, but I think people (americans) are too used to shopping at the likes of walmart, mervyns, dollar stores to want to shell out money for the good stuff, real stuff. they dont understand quality and the price of labor. and then we wonder how we got into this economic depression. look at the value of food, its all underpriced too because of modified foods and produce kickbacks. its so frustrating, I’ve decided to not be a consumer anymore. Im only spending my money on food.
So I shouldn’t try to sell you jewelry, Eli? 😉
Denise (denisekatipunera) says
hmmmm eating or shopping? eating or shopping?…. God it’s so hard. hihihi.
love all your designs. You are very intricate, so should your designs. Plain is just plain blah and you’re not those.
i love these posts. my mother has owned a boutique most of my life (where i used to work as a buyer) and one of the most annoying, but most frequent, questions we received is why we charged so much and how our clothing could possibly cost so much. this should be required reading for consumers.
i want a cleves ring! it’s my second favorite piece out of all your collections!
Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen says
Quality jewelry is what I buy when I love something so much I want it to last forever. I also factor in per use price (omg I just did the math on my swear rings, basically the price of a tall latte per ring for as many times as I’ve worn them thus far!) Sometimes I look at the piece as something I can hand down to my daughter, and perhaps for her to hand down should she have children (she’s not allowed to date until she’s 30, so we’ll see.) I look at your designs as those types of pieces. They will be passed down for generations to come due to the quality, intricate design, and fine crafting. Not to mention the artistry and thought that goes into each piece. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly they will be worn often with the smile that comes to your face when wearing a WB piece!
Suzanne <~who wants more WB jewelry and is already plotting…
10K gold? Really? Why bother? Just keep doing your thing girl… gorgeous, heavy, detailed, clever pieces. Wal-mart is going to come banging on your door one day!
sharon rose says
Hi there-I adore your jewellery, its unique, stunning and so very covetable-long may it all continue!!
The Clothes Horse says
Walmart definitely kills a lot of businesses…and they’re super shady in partnerships.
I definitely don’t think people should have to justify their prices (I know they do sometimes and that “customers” complain), but ultimately most creators aren’t out there to rip their customers off. Like you said, this is what is takes to make designs more “you.” It’s the details (and the way pieces transform, reverse, or change) that make your pieces special and worth the price.
…even you captchas are assaulting me with demands to buy a ring…I’M GETTING THE SWEARS! I promise!!
But seriously…guys…my Mud Flap Jill necklace has two defined legs, a round derriere and ruby-tipped jugs. You can’t get that at Wal-Mart. I can’t even imagine how tragic that necklace would be if mass produced.
The prices for Wendy B’s jewelry are more than fair when you factor in how high quality her pieces are. If you ever get the chance (i.e. go to a meetup when she’s in a town near you), just put one on. It will all make sense.
I might never be able to afford your higher-end pieces, but I lovelovelove that you create them and make people dream of them! I showed your website to one of my editors once and he was absolutely dazzled by the wit and beauty of your designs.
“Economies of scale” isn’t an interesting enough phrase? I suppose it’s not as sexy as “stagflation.” Mmmm, stagflation.
To continue with the economics, I think it’s important customers are educated about the tangible and intangible results of using higher cost manufacturing. Tangible being the high quality product as Sher notes and the intangible being the support of the artist and other warm fuzzies. Educating on tangible is easier and probably sells more.
Sweety P says
Great post! I love how you make your post so fun to read
Hi again Wendy, I’m just getting around to adding some new links to my blog, including yours – though perhaps we should be selling your jewellery on the ShopCurious website?
As mentioned above, we are being trained to buy cheap disposable “stuff” made and sold for pennies using poor laborers. This is not just the fault of overseas manufacturers but the companies here who sell it and we who buy it. This is also why we have horrible factory farming.
I think also that people think prices should be lower because the luxury brands are skimping on their quality too while raising (then later deeply discounting) their prices. So people see they have huge margins and are also trying to pass off less well made products at the same time. Both not true in your instance.
And lastly, I don’t think, and this is a broad generalization, the masses like “smart”. Many people gravitate toward simple. That’s why QVC and Zales sell tons of circle pendents. Have you noticed that people don’t like to learn and aren’t interested in history etc. Obviously they aren’t your target audience but it makes it challenging, I would think. Walmart better not dumb down a piece of yours and rip you off like that piece above. Grrr!
The Maiden Metallurgist says
I think your work is incredibly special and I’m looking forward to the day whan I can afford one of your amazing pieces. Keep it up Wendy B!
Wendy I certainly hope I can take a couple hour drive to NYC to finally meet you. And we are gonna have FUN!
Alice Olive says
People who question prices do not understand the meaning of the word invest. Rarely does one get something (worthwhile) for nothing.
Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese says
Very cool post! I avoid the big box stores as much as possible (haven’t set foot in Wal-Mart in 10 years). I buy handmade and buy from local small businesses whenever possible. I think that everyone should be required to watch “Wal-mart: the High Cost of Low Price” to get an idea of what America’s demand for low prices and cheap goods is actually doing for to this country.
Rant over, that being said, kudos to everyone who will not compromise quality and craftsmanship in order to sell more of what would be an inferior product!
Make Do Style says
I’m polishing up my cv so I can be a WendyB collector. You know how amazed and bowled over I was with the quality and weight of your pieces. Your designs are a joy and more will be mine!
And this is why I love quality locally-made products! Thank you for the excellent explanations and quotes, Wendy. Although you shouldn’t have to defend either your quality or your prices, people are so enured to buying cheap crap that when they see beautiful pieces like yours, they just don’t get it.
Still lusting after YOUR beautiful jewelry…
i love those swan rings-they’re so pretty and elegant, and remind me of grace kelly and audrey hepburn! =)
Couture Carrie says
Really interesting post, WB!
Love those rings!
love that ring so much!
I am loving the toy hamster analogy..
You know, I really think you’re more of an H&M girl. I can just see your “inexpensive” line flying off the shelves! In the meantime I will continue to admire my own WB originals. 🙂
AsianCajuns (Lauren) says
Thanks for the lesson, WendyB! It totally makes sense to me! One day I will buy the real deal WendyB jewelry (first on the list? Marie Antoinette ring), but for now I will cross my fingers that Walmart does hire you out. I can do $57 😉
Don’t walk away from a fine piece and buy a cheaper piece because you think you can’t afford quality. A jeweler who wants to build the relationship will offer various payment options. Some of my stuff sat in the jeweler’s safe while I made payments. Don’t assume you can’t afford it, talk to them! (Am I right Wendy)?
Duchesse, you are right. I certainly have been known to work out special arrangements with special customers. It’s worth it to me in order to establish a long-term business relationship, which is always more desirable than a one-time sale.
Style Artisan says
As I wrote in my comment on your last post, sadly this country has been Walmartized to the point that price too often trumps quality.
Wal Mart monopolizes so many areas of our lives now. Perhaps our government should subcontract out our healthcare system to them. We would get price rollbacks and smiley face stickers to cheer us up.
I can hear it now. “Please pass the KY jelly from aisle 7 and bend over. This won’t hurt a bit…”
Brilliant brilliant well written post. You something darling, we live in a society where people want a quick bargain over quality that will cost more but stand the test of time.
it must be incredibly fraustrating for creators of quality like yourself.
amazing post Wendy.
belle de ville says
Wow…I was quoted on Wendy’s blog!
I for one can’t wait until you step up to having your own line in a big box store.
When you get that huge contract with Target/Costco/Walmart and you need a full production line, don’t forget that part of our extended company is a manufacturing plant in Asia and we make really nice quality stuff.
You see, this is why I haven’t had the nerve to start my own business (yet) 🙂 Do you read Fashion Incubator, by any chance. Excellent blog (pertaining to textile design and manufacture, specifically) that addresses many of the issues you face.
Elizabeth Marie says
You know what happens to jewelry I get from F21 for 8 bucks? I wear it once and then throw it in my purse and forget about it, break it, loose it.
You know what I would do with one of your pieces?! Wear it, feel like a badass all night, take it off when I get home and place it in an actual jewelry box, clean it when needed, and REPEAT.
Special > Cheap
Tall Poppy > Short Poppy 🙂
deja pseu says
Great posts, Wendy!
I think people have sacrificed quality for quantity when it comes to personal consumption. In my grandparent’s generation, they would save up and buy the best they could afford, even if that meant buying less of it. 2 pair of shoes instead of a dozen…I mean, look at the size of closets in older houses. We’re always inundated with the message that everything has to be a “bargain.” It’s wrong-headed thinking, but can also be very hard to overcome.
Such amazing posts WB. It just proves that we are willing to pay for something special and one-of-a-kind and that’s what you are.
Hi Wendy, great posts, very very useful and makes me think hard about my former purchases. I am especially sick of clothes that literally fall apart at the seams. Take Tory Burch, for example. Love the designs, but it’s all mass produced and anyone who’s sewn or appreciates quality will notice the clothes are not nearly worth the price for that kind of quality.
I am aiming more for the artisanal things when I can afford them, also at the principle of having one pair of quilted Chanel or Prada flats and to hell with the rest. I want stuff I can treasure, not trash after four months like I often do.
I would so treasure anything from your beautiful collection. I’m looking for a panther or a dragon someday….
Wow Wendy, these posts are SPOT. ON. I go through the same thing with my hats; there’s no way I can charge adequately for my time and then waste it on cheaper material such as wool. I doubt anybody realizes how many hours go into producing just one item.
I’m enjoying the ongoing discussion on this issue.
I know that I love my WendyB pieces because they give me beauty, quality, and bragging rights: “my friend designed this!”
^^You can’t say that about a piece from Wal-Mart.
these past few posts have been fascinating, buisness is such a different ballgame from anything I’ve had to deal with, you prove that sometimes the investment is worth much more than a flimsy knockoff.
Loving this get SMART posts darling…
my IQ is getting higher now~
The dude would let you play with his Zhu Zhu!
Very informative post!
loveee your designs…been following your blog ever since…
savvy gal says
well, people talk about saving the economy and their jobs but they also want cheap goods made in china. well, we can’t win both way.
How are you such a righteous b? Please keep posting. I’m a Wendy Brandes fan more than ever!
I just encountered your blog and this was a very interesting post! I enjoyed reading it and the applications of business strategy in a creative field. Thanks for the insightful post!
Yes, we def get what we pay for at Walmart (why I never shop there and also their labour standards). I’d much rather shop at the thrift, host clothing swaps and (hopefully) one day afford a luxury piece like you offer.
I love that swan ring (forgot the name)! Absolutely stunning! I agreed about cheaply-made jewelry being generally horrible. Most of mine is from bead shops, craft shows, etc. for just that reason….