We're still working hard on new products and a new look for Big Cartel's shop, so it's time for a little note from the trenches.
If you're just getting caught up: We're working on a complete refresh of our own shop, and we're sharing some lessons along the way that you might find useful when developing your own product line.
Hey! We turned off the lights and closed down our merch shop. We're leaving this here so you can read about the process of relaunching it with all-new products and collaborations. Give us a follow on Twitter and Instagram for future updates on merch.
June and July
Over the last two months, we moved from planning to getting down to business. We've been nailing down details like a new theme design, in-house product designs, and working with a few artists to create special products for our shop.
With so many moving parts in this project, it's a balancing act to make sure that they all progress in a roughly similar time frame. We need the products to be ready when the store design is updated, but not ready so far in advance that product photos don't fit with the shop, or that we're selling tank tops in winter. It can be a lot of fun to get momentum rolling with one part of the project, but we're reminded that you can't let excitement cause you to neglect the rest of your operations.
Narrowing down choices
As we start on the production of new products, we're realizing how closely it's tied to other areas, like design, shop goals, and company values.
Before our designers get too far into creating their vision, we need to make sure that their plans are possible. And that means tackling a lot of questions like these:
- Can we have the product made in the sizes and colors we want?
- Will any manufacturing restrictions affect our design choices?
- Are we outsourcing or making our products by hand?
- How does a specific style affect the cost of materials?
- Does the cost of production fit with the price point that we want for our shop?
- Is a fancier material worth the added cost? (It might be!)
- If we were to sell the product wholesale, can we afford the necessary discounts?
- Does the product make sense with the rest of our shop?
If a product can't be made within most or all of those guidelines, it may be best to put the idea on the shelf for now.
While answering those questions, we also carefully consider the sorts of people we want to work with. We prefer to support local companies, small businesses, and products made in the USA. There may be trade offs in terms of price, order quantity, and turnaround times with different manufacturers - so we'll evaluate how our choices impact our costs, logistics, customers, and the communities we support.
What we've learned
Stay calm. Sometimes you have to wait to hear back about pricing, or another member of the team hits a snag and needs extra time. If you've allowed some wiggle room in your timeline and are doing your best to keep track of it all, you can relax and trust your plan.
Be flexible. Always be aware of your schedule and do your best to stick to it, but if something needs rearranged, be prepared to adjust.
Why are we doing this?
With so much to consider in our current phase of the project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of why we’re doing this. Our main goals with this project are to create some great looking products, get a better understanding of what our shop owners experience, and come out of the whole thing with some stories to share.
Now that we're seeing the product designs as well as the design for the shop come together, we need to start thinking about how to photograph them and brand our shop. This is also a good time to think about final shop colors. Will it match bigcartel.com, or give a little contrast? How does the look of the store impact the photography style and photo dimensions?
And even though it's not the most exciting part of the process, it's also time to think about shipping and storing products. Do we need to order new sizes of boxes or envelopes? How much will shipping cost for each item? Do we need to reorganize our stockroom for the new products?
Up next is finishing designs and making products, taking some pictures, and building our shop. Although the to-do list can seem endless, checking things off one-by-one will get us to the finish line. If you want to see more, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat - we'll be sharing our first sneak peeks soon!