have lived by this credo and believe it is fair to all. As your business grows, you will come to appreciate reliable vendors who don't cheat or play games with prices.
What mix of products is right for your store?
A well-rounded mercantile can combine a few expensive pieces, some obligatory postcards and souvenirs and a wide range of middle-of-the road standard items that the
majority of your customers can afford.
If you have traveled to the Southwest or have started studying the market for Southwest goods, you may already be familiar with the most recognized merchandise.
Hand-woven rugs and saddleblankets
Hand-woven tapestries and wallhangings
Hand-woven runners and table mats
Hand-woven serapes, ponchos, sashes
Hand-carved kachinas and wood carvings "santos"
Handmade jewelry of silver and turquoise
Hand-crafted good luck shield--mandellas
Hand-crafted dream catchers
Hand thrown or coiled pottery of native clay
Hand woven baskets of native reeds, palm or pine needles
Hand painted pottery
Hand painted leather shields
Hand-crafted replicas of Indian tools or ceremonial artifacts
Hand-crafted drums and tambors
Hand-crafted sand paintings
Hand chipped arrowheads
Hand tooled leather goods
Hand braided rawhide lariats and horsehair hat bands
Hand tooled saddles and riding whips
Handmade Indian dolls, fans and miniature looms
Hand-crafted decorations of horns, hides, fur and beads
Don't ever tire of saying HANDwoven, HAND-painted, HANDmade and HANDcrafted because this is the very essence of what makes Southwest merchandise so
special. Thank goodness computerized machines cannot spit out likenesses of these products 10,000 per hour.
No matter how sophisticated technology gets, and how far the world reaches into cyberspace, people will
always have special appreciation for works of beauty that were shaped in the hands of artisans using centuries-old skills and techniques passed down from their elders.
The reproduction of age-old craft fulfills two
very important goals that connect the past to the future.
1. It is a powerful transmitter of culture from one generation to the next.
2. It allows the primitive artisans to improve their lot in life
with better health care, education and improved communications with more advanced segments of society.
You, the merchant, hold this chain together. While you are fulfilling the needs of consumers, you make a good
living for yourself and also send money down the line to support hundreds of artists and craftsmen .
There is something very unique about the sales process with Southwest Goods
You're not just selling a product to a
person. Somehow, the environment you create in your store taps into people's inner dreams and ideals. You don't need a high pressure sales pitch when you observe a customer...
... wrap up in an Indian Chief's blanket
... beat a primitive rhythm on a crude drum
... climb up on a saddle or twirl a lariat
... smile in the mirror as they put on a brilliant turquoise necklace
... sink their fingers into the deep pile of a thick fur or woolen decoration
... hold a delicate clay pot gently in their hand
... pensively study the intricacy of a dream catcher
You don't' need to know the customer's exact thoughts but you need to be aware that a sale is
eminent. Once an item is selected, then you start a sales pitch for related items. Don't worry about matching colors, textures, styles or anything else. Remember, the 'no fences" mentality of the southwest allows
for all sorts of things to blend together in their own special way.
Along with all the beautiful handmade art we have mentioned above, we need to now examine the plainer side of the old West and how
"collectibles" can accent your inventory.
The best sellers include:
Branding irons Horseshoes
Old milk cans Bits and spurs
Harnessess and Hames Tractor seats
Ox yokes Wagon wheels
Old hats and sombreros
Horns and hides
Household decorations crafted from horseshoes
Carts, crates and barrels
Pack saddles and saddle trees
Old saddles and tack
All this old junk - OPPS--l
mean ranch collectables, sells like crazy to Americans and foreigners go absolutely bonkers over it.
Recently a Japanese merchant came to El Paso Saddleblanket for a container load of merchandise to export. The
shipment, among other things, consisted of 50 mounted steer horns, two full taxidermy shoulder mounts of Mexican fighting bulls, 500 tarantula paper weights, 100 freeze dried Brazilian piranha fish and 1,000 rusty
horseshoes. As a merchant, you have to realize there's just no accounting for taste. But we did encourage him to also pick from the more traditional items such as rugs, mandellas, kachinas and pottery. I guess there's a
market for everything somewhere in the world.
Beyond handcrafted Indian goods and western collectibles, there is another group of products that rounds out the inventory for a southwest store or trading post. This will
be the 'low end" of your product line but is very worthwhile because it adds interest and returns a good profit. Approximately 5% to 10% of your start-up inventory should be used for
Post cards, greeting cards, paper goods with southwest themes
Old West Wanted posters"
Famous Indian portraits
T-shirts with Cowboy and Indian themes
Refrigerator magnets of chilies, cactus, and other Southwest objects
Packaged candy--chili pod or tequila worm suckers
Cactus candies and jams
Chile products, salsas and cookbooks
This is merchandise that is not produced or manufactured by El Paso Saddleblanket, but we will happily provide you with the names and addresses of the most reliable wholesale vendors to deal with.
Whatever your budget
for merchandise, remember you can't sell from an empty wagon". Make a commitment to your store that you will put all your profits back into inventory building for at least a year. This will keep your shelves
stocked and your store will perpetually look fresh and interesting.
We at El Paso Saddleblanket would like the opportunity to be your primary supplier for merchandise. We can provide approximately 90% of what you need
to open up your trading post and keep you supplied regularly.
What not to buy
Now we would like to offer some cautions on what not to buy so that you don't make serious mistakes on inventory.
1. Don't buy
new saddles unless you are already in the tack or ranch supply business. Cowboys don't buy their saddles in gift shops.
2. Don't buy expensive bits and spurs. Stock an economical line of decorative ones.
3. Don't stock genuine Navajo rugs unless your starting inventory exceeds $200,000. High-end items are slow sellers and you risk creating the perception all your merchandise is too expensive.
take anything on consignment. As soon as your store opens you will be bombarded by local hobby artists begging you to display their knickknacks. Some of these whiners might even be your friends or relatives, but you
must say "NO" to absolutely all of them.
Your shelf space is too valuable to give away to your overpriced, inferior, amateur hobby craft. If your policy is "no consignment" you will not offend any
craftspeople. Make one exception and everybody's mad at you. Don't risk it.
5. Don't buy anything from traveling salesmen. Traveling salesmen are sometimes called "road warriors". They are very
professional in their sales pitches and have dozens of ways to get the best of you. Some are outright cons and criminals. Particularly watch out for ones selling Navajo or Zuni jewelry, fake Rolex watches or copyrighted
goods like Disney characters on T-shirts or caps. You could end up getting in trouble on Federal Trade charges and the salesman is scott-free --gone -- on down the road.
Even if the merchandise is legitimate, don't
get charmed into paying top dollar for low-grade merchandise that may look good on the surface but, in fact, may be "seconds".
The typical sales approach of a road warrior is to play on your own ego. He will
be very complimentary about your shop and toward you personally. He will ask if you did the buying of all this splendid merchandise. What he's doing is challenging your importance and your power to make buying decisions.
Don't fall for it. Keep your wits about you and politely decline. Rarely, rarely will you have ever passed up a good deal. Road warriors are not direct manufacturers or distributors of their wares. You
could say it would be a little like buying seafood from a truck with Kansas license plates.