From the Desk of Dusty Henson:
Bonnie and I have been trading merchandise everyday for 50 years and we pretty much know what sells well for us, but we have to always kept our eyes, ears, and noses open for new products. Merchandise is much like the weather in Texas - it changes constantly. What sells today won't necessarily sell tomorrow, and that means you should jump at the chance to make money today.
When we consider adding a new product from a vendor or manufacturer, we have to consider a few basic questions. Will the product sell? Will the product sell at the right price? And is there a good supply of the product? It's always important to ask yourself these questions. Sometimes it's a leap of faith when adding a new product to your inventory line, but if you gauge your customer demographics, your budget, and your year to year projections correctly you can be pretty spot on.
I have many ways of getting a hold of merchandise. We have people who stop by the warehouse and present me their handicrafts and wares. Many manufacturers contact us directly and vice versa we do our research and contact manufacturers when we are looking for a particular product. We have business relationships with people all over the world.
Although I have many different arrangements with suppliers and traders all around the world, I am always amazed at the similarities between the social systems in small craft villages. Whether I am setting up a trade arrangement with a village in Guatemala or a village of potters in Mexico, I always set out to find the "Mr. Wonderful", as I like to call them. Who is Mr. Wonderful you ask? They are the villager who is a little more successful and a little more ambitious than their neighbors. They are the villager whose home is a little nicer, and whose workshop is a little neater than all the other villagers. Mr. Wonderful is the one who runs a store in the front of their home or who has collected some surplus inventory which they are eager to sell. Almost every craft village in the world has a "Mr. Wonderful", and they are the person with whom I set up my trading relationship with.
Even though the "Mr. Wonderful" is the best person to deal with in these small villages you will inevitably come across some type of a crisis in dealing with them. The crisis usually comes six months to a year after the product pipeline has started to flow. They begin to feel more confident in their craft and will probably start to demand higher prices or threatens to sell all of their inventory to another trader. Whenever I set up this relationship, I warn them in advance that this crisis is going to come. I let them know that I will always treat them fairly and that it is in their best interest to treat me fairly as well. That kind of understanding right from the start has allowed me to build many successful relationships with "Mr. Wonderful's" in villages all around the world.
Now when you have decided on a product and are ready to go, the most important thing to do when introducing it is to start off with fair prices at both ends. I really like to pay as much as possible to the vendor and sell as low as possible to the customer. There is usually still plenty of room to make money. My process always starts at what I can sell something for and then I work backwards making sure everyone can make as much money as possible. Also, I seldom look at or care about what the competition is doing and the prices that they are selling. You need to concentrate on you and your business, don't listen to the white noise of others.
With all the products we've sold and all the deals we've made, we've stuck to one rule: always listen to your business. Being successful is easy if you simply listen to your business. Too many people try to sell merchandise that they like instead of merchandise that their customers like. If people keep asking for black saddles and all you have are brown ones, get some black ones. That's listening to your business. Many customers already know what they want and what they are looking for. Eventually you will see trends in your customers buying habits and then you can base your purchasing off of that.
Just remember, business relationships with both your vendors and customers are very important. Treat everyone with the same respect and fairness that you wish to receive. Be upfront in discussions and don't B/S. Sure you'll come across some cheats every now and then, but just cut them off and move on. Do this and your business will surely lead to success.