Things you should know about selling hand-crafted toys in the UK
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a small wooden railway engine, bright red with a set of smart carriages following on behind. Next, picture a knitted rabbit, just the right size to fit into a small child’s hand, it’s sparkling button eyes giving it a surprised but friendly look. Or what about a rag doll, dressed in a freshly pressed pinafore, her knitted plaits neatly tied with sky blue ribbon? Next, imagine a couple of children poring over an exquisitely made wooden puzzle of the British Isles, learning the counties and cities as they carefully set each piece in place.
What do these pictures conjure up for you? Good quality, something that will last, an investment and a good dose of nostalgia.
This is a good place to start for those who are considering making hand-crafted toys. Your products, although more expensive than their factory produced counterparts, will exude confidence, reliability and value for money. Buyers who are willing to spend a bit more will do so because they want to give a gift which will last, and the very uniqueness of your product will be a selling point.
Where to begin?
Below are some practical points to consider about selling hand-crafted toys.
Firstly, allow yourself to dream and your creativity to go wild! What would you love to make? How do you see children playing with your toys? What comments would you like to hear from the adults who buy them?
Then rein it in and do some research. Is the market already flooded with the hand-crafted toy you are planning, or is there a gap? If there is a gap, is it because there would be no market for it, or have you hit upon a great new concept? Can you give your product a twist which makes it stand out from other similar toys? For example, if your customers are ordering online, could you paint the engine’s name on the side and call it after the child who will own it? Or give the new owner of the doll an opportunity to choose its name and then embroider it on her dress?
Next build a business plan. Here at Craft Insurance we can give you individual advice to help you work out the best insurance product for your hand crafted toy business.
Have fun choosing a name and logo for your business, something with strong brand potential. Practice photographing your products and if you’re selling from a website or through social media, find ways to make your site stand out from the rest.
It’s worth mentioning pricing at this stage. While you obviously have to be competitive, don’t undervalue yourself and your product. Take into consideration your time, costs of selling and marketing, electricity bills if you’re working from home or rent if you’re in another building, and materials. As your products will probably be small, you may be able to source raw materials at a reduced price, eg offcuts of wood.
Next there are the legal requirements which might seem overwhelming but if tackled methodically can be achieved as part of your set up strategy. Check out the legal requirements in the UK regarding registering with HMRC and ensure you register within the required time framework.
Similarly, you will need to research the process around CE marking, a requirement for those selling toys within the EU. This is a self regulating process and can be completed by yourself at little or no expense. There are some helpful websites to guide you through the process in addition to the government website which lays out the requirements.
If you have come up with a completely new concept for a toy…how exciting and well done…you will probably want to consider patenting your idea. For this, it must comply with several requirements; these are around the novelty aspect and it’s ability to be replicated. Check out the official websites if you think this might apply to your idea.
Consider your marketing strategy. How will you be selling? Online, at craft fairs or at other venues? You will probably be asked for public liability insurance to sell at craft fairs, and it’s worth picking up the phone and speaking to us about both this and product liability insurance needed for face to face and online selling. We are confident that, as a friendly, family run business we can help you to find the best insurance package for your business, and we look forward to speaking with you.
Consider the seasonal aspect of toy selling. Obviously Christmas is a high point for toy sellers, but could you adapt your toys to appeal at Easter, as an alternative to chocolate? What about modifying your product around the seasons? Using warm red and rich green colours for that toy engine in the winter time and blues and paler greens in the summer? Or use colours and patterns to reflect the seasons as you dress the rag doll or knit the rabbit.
Finally, your customers will be drawn towards your product because of its uniqueness, it’s quality and the sense of nostalgia it brings. In a fast paced world, a solid, well made toy brings with it a sense of a bygone era, when life was less complicated and more stable. Customer care is thus a big part of the buyer’s experience. If you can convey a feeling of reliability in both your marketing and customer relations, this will enhance the whole purchasing experience. By selling your hand crafted toys you are giving your customer so much more than the single purchase; the gift of imaginative play, opportunities to develop problem solving and interpersonal skills through play and the making of memories that will last.