Please Help Me On Some Customer Wording...please!

Business By 4Gifts4Lisa Updated 10 May 2009 , 3:27am by 4Gifts4Lisa

4Gifts4Lisa Posted 8 May 2009 , 9:14pm
post #1 of 21

I own a cake supply shop. I sell lots of basics, and lots of fun stuff (hence the name Cake Stuff...icon_smile.gif). I also teach classes, my own cookie/cupcake/cake classes, as well as Wilton classes. I have no real competition nearby, save for WalMart and Michaels (Michaels is a 25 minute drive).

I tend to not stock the course kits for Wilton, because I prefer to sell things individually. Also, alot of my customers use their 40% off coupon for course kits at Michaels.

Here is the issue...alot of my classes have a supply list. I sell all the supplies. My customers know that...I thought. But for the last several classes, students have come in and unpacked all their MICHAELS purchases! And when a student will go to pick something off my shelf, someone else will inevitably tell them they can get it at Michaels with their coupon! ARGH! I just don't know how to circumvent this or what to say. I CAN"T compete with Michaels. If I honored their 40% coupon, I would literally be in the hole for kits.

My prices are as good as Michaels. I don't carry exclusively Wilton. I don't carry the course kids anymore, and I DO tell my students that for the same amount of money, they can but the kit I put together...which is $25 and includes the cake level, icer tip, but is without the worthless practice board (we use sheet protectors).

I just don't know what to say. I am starting to circumvent this for the rest of my classes by just increasing the price and advising that "all supplies are included", but if I do that for my Wilton classes they will see the $40 tuition plus $25 supply fee and run from a $65 class.

What can I say, and how can I market my stuff so it still makes me money?

And PS, for the record, when I take classes at an independent store, I purchase my supplies from that store, not from WalMart.

20 replies
Ayanami Posted 8 May 2009 , 9:27pm
post #2 of 21

hmmm.... that's a tough one. I get customers at my j.o.b. that say things like that all the time ("Oh, I'll just pick one up at ...") So rude IMO.

I would suggest that when you do your Wilton courses you include your own course description in addition to the Wilton supplied list. Maybe staple your list on top of the Wilton one so when you pass them out the students have to see yours first.

Maybe make your list more like a flyer with a nice photo of "your" course kit all laid out & explaining the quality vs quantity differences. For one thing, your students don't have to drive 50 miles round trip to get their supplies! icon_rolleyes.gif

Then at your first class, be sure to go over only the things that came in "your" course kit. Then when they ask about the Blahblahblah that came in their Wilton course kit you can explain that "OH! icon_confused.gif Well, we won't be using any of that cause it's just not neccesary. You'll never really use that in the *real cake world*" icon_twisted.gif

In the end though your gonna get son cheapo's who will drive all the way to Michaels for the 40% discount. It's inevitable.

Kiddiekakes Posted 8 May 2009 , 10:02pm
post #3 of 21

That is a tough one because when I was a newbie decorater and signed up and took all the Wilton courses I wanted to make sure that I had all the right...(meaning wilton products required for the course) tools that wilton made. We all know different now...Maybe that is the thinking of the students when they come with the wilton kits from Michael's.I would stock the exact same kits as Michael's even though you say you don't want too...and price them maybe $1.00 or so cheaper. Then they will buy them from you. Even though the practice boards are maybe not a necessity...provide them anyway so the students will buy from you.Then advertise your kits as being competitive or cheaper with Michael's without the coupon.Some may just say "Screw it" and not drive all that way to get it .Something is better than nothing!

350BakerStreet Posted 8 May 2009 , 11:01pm
post #4 of 21

Maybe you could educate your customers on the usefulness of each item in the Wilton kit (I'm guilty of buying them too), and then spout on about what makes your kit better. *Wilton has a practice board that you will never need, but MY kit comes with a cake leveler, which pays for itself in it's first use!* Something like that...I don't know. I think beginners are scared that they will end up the only one without a much needed supply, so you might be able to go over ever step of the class with a class description on your sign-up sheet (or whatever you use to advertise the classes) so little susy-homemaker can see that "oh, that's what I need that for (from Wilton's kit). well, that's not very practical when I can get this better kit instead (your's) " icon_wink.gif

1234me Posted 8 May 2009 , 11:34pm
post #5 of 21

I understand you not being able to offer the 40% off but could you possibly offer 10%off for those taking the class? They may buy it form you knowing they are getting a small discount and not take the time to drive further to Micheal's. You could advertise the 10% off on your website and with the materials they get when signing up.

CanadianChick Posted 9 May 2009 , 12:28am
post #6 of 21

I'd offer 10% on course supplies - and if someone buys their kit at Michaels, smile and bite your tongue. That IS one of the reasons, however, that I chose to take my Wilton classes through the local school board instead of at Michael's or a cake shop - I wanted to be free to discuss OTHER places to buy supplies!

(FWIW, I found the practice board really useful - having the easel made practicing drop strings easy, and I use it to keep gum paste cutouts from drying out when I make roses)

And then offer classes that go beyond the four Wilton classes...that will keep people coming to your classes and to your store...

There's a store about an hour's drive from me that I routinely go to. Their prices are better than Michael's shelf prices, not better than coupon prices, but because they carry so many OTHER cool things, as well as knowledgeable service, I keep making the drive out there. Make sure you offer that and you'll get more repeat customers later, rather than just your $25 kit fee.

pattycakesnj Posted 9 May 2009 , 12:38am
post #7 of 21

sorry, but in this economy, I will go for the better price

all4cake Posted 9 May 2009 , 12:56am
post #8 of 21

I'd stock the kits and offer a percentage off when signing up for the course. The practice boards do come in handy for a multitude of things...not just the sheets. I've got several that I use for putting images under for help keep petals from drying out so quickly, and they can be picked up and set to the side...a damp towel over them will further help them from drying out too. If you're a WMI, promoting Wilton products is definitely part of the plan. Although, I know you don't have to be a wmi to teach wilton methods.

KookieKris Posted 9 May 2009 , 1:09am
post #9 of 21

I agree with others ~ even a small discount is a discount and in this economy, a lot of people are just looking to save a penny. So, compete a little bit with a coupon or discount, but not enough to hurt yourself.
Your a small independently owned shop that offers more of a one-on-one approach and style I'm sure ~ you can't, nor should you, compete with Michael's.
Good Luck! icon_smile.gif

3GCakes Posted 9 May 2009 , 1:23am
post #10 of 21

I agree that...on atleast the COurse kits...try to match a 40% off price...when ASKED.

Nowadays...people WILL drive elsewhere...even if the gas it costs to get there is more than the money saved!! They want to feel like they are actively participating in the money saved. If you can...maybe offer an equal discount on a future course...if you can.

PieceofCakeAZ Posted 9 May 2009 , 1:24am
post #11 of 21

Kiddiecakes is right on about the Wilton kits! When a newbie starts decorating, they have the most exposure to Wilton. If all of your favorite stores carry the same brand, people tend to assume it is the best. So what do they call the thing that looks kinda like the best but is a little different and made my someone else? A knockoff!

If I were brand new to decorating and wanted to take classes from you... if you didn't offer the Wilton kit, I would get it elsewhere... even if I regretted it later because your kit was better. IMO by not offering the Wilton kit you are leaving most people the option of buying what they likely consider a knockoff or buying the real thing cheaper elsewhere. It's kind of a no-win situation.

I think you need to stock both your kits and the Wilton kits but you need to come up with a way to add value to buying either one of the kits from you.

How much do you charge for classes? With the Michaels 40% they are saving $10 on a kit... and some are driving 50 minute rountrip to do it? That's crazy. Could you offer $5 or $7 off of your next class to everyone that buys the kit from you? That way you have them more interested in additional classes and the total they are out is only $3-$5... which is well worth an hour of their time + gas money.

There are tons of other ways to add value, just find something that works for you... the most important part is how you pitch it to potential students. There's a huge difference between saying "if you wanna take more classes you can save $7 on the next one" and "as your skills grow and you want to perfect more advanced techniques, part of your next class is already paid for when you buy your kit at Cake Stuff!

Best of luck with whatever you decide!

all4cake Posted 9 May 2009 , 1:35am
post #12 of 21 your classes with your kit and your list

Basic Cake Decorating
Everything you need to know to be able to create cakes like these...(and show some examples)
Supplies needed:
1- "Basic Cake Decorating" kit or

Tips: 1,2,3,5,12,16,18,104,789
cake leveler
sheet protector
4 couplers w/rings
and just list whatever is in your kit

just another thought

varika Posted 9 May 2009 , 1:48am
post #13 of 21

When I took the Wilton I course, Joann's didn't have the turntables in stock--just one that was more expensive. So I went and got it at Michael's. Honestly, I figured that I didn't even know if I'd like doing this stuff, so why waste money on good-quality stuff that I was just going to toss out? I've done that too many times in the past.

I would bet you that's what many of the people taking your classes are doing.

Also, $65 for a class is still cheap. I wouldn't run from it, ESPECIALLY if it advertised, "all supplies included."

indydebi Posted 9 May 2009 , 2:04am
post #14 of 21
Originally Posted by varika

Also, $65 for a class is still cheap. I wouldn't run from it, ESPECIALLY if it advertised, "all supplies included."

Me too. I would MUCH rather just sign up and show up, and NOT have to feel that I have to ALSO either drive an hour to feel like I saved money, or ALSO buy more stuff. Whatever makes it easier for me! thumbs_up.gif

When I've looked at ICES schedules of classes, I always zero in on the ones where the cost includes all supplies. The thought of having to pull everything together (either from my inventory or run to the store) and MAYBE forgetting something or getting the wrong thing .... I just want to sign up and show up. Period.

-K8memphis Posted 9 May 2009 , 2:10am
post #15 of 21

Do what everybody said like make yours $1 cheaper--stuff like that.

Then what about offering a 20% coupon off a future purchase if they buy their class stuff from you? I mean and make it off the entire purchase rather than the 40% off one item from Michael's.

You're not gonna make too much on the future purchase, but they will come back & use that coupon. So that's building some loyalty. With friendly helpful knowlegeable service, you'll keep them as customers.

Or give a free gift like a tube brush or something with the purchase of the supplies from you. Or do both--goes a long way.

auntmamie Posted 9 May 2009 , 2:13am
post #16 of 21

This might be a bit devious, but......

When I took my courses (finished 2 weeks ago) we were given the wilton supply list, basically showing the contents of the kit and what to bring for frosting. It didn't give the additional items. So, if you were to just list the basic items that are required by wilton (ie the kit) and then on the first class, explain how helpful the "additional" items are, you might get night-of sales right there, even if you don't get the kit sales.

MACakes Posted 9 May 2009 , 2:19am
post #17 of 21

Amen to that! I would love to show up at class and have everything ready to go. I have spent too much time gathering what I need for the first day of class only to sit a wait for others to go out to the store and purchase their stuff before we can begin. It's frustrating. icon_confused.gif I would definitely go for a class that offered all supplies included.

margaretb Posted 9 May 2009 , 10:51am
post #18 of 21

Or if you think that some people will want supplies included and some not, then how about $40 per class or $60 supplied, and point out that your supplied price is cheaper than the regular price of the kit purchased seperately. E.g. Class $40, requires X kit (retails at $25) OR Supplies included $60 (savings of $5). You don't have to point out that a competitor might offer a bigger savings on the kit.

Ayanami Posted 9 May 2009 , 6:14pm
post #19 of 21
Originally Posted by margaretb

Or if you think that some people will want supplies included and some not, then how about $40 per class or $60 supplied, and point out that your supplied price is cheaper than the regular price of the kit purchased seperately. E.g. Class $40, requires X kit (retails at $25) OR Supplies included $60 (savings of $5). You don't have to point out that a competitor might offer a bigger savings on the kit.

Very good idea! thumbs_up.gif I like this one!

chassidyg Posted 9 May 2009 , 6:45pm
post #20 of 21
Originally Posted by k8memphis

Then what about offering a 20% coupon off a future purchase if they buy their class stuff from you? I mean and make it off the entire purchase rather than the 40% off one item from Michael's.


I was going to suggest that or even 10-20% off your kit if they book a class with you, then it wouldnt just be when michaels had a coupon, I think Ive seen 1 Michaels one in the last few months.

4Gifts4Lisa Posted 10 May 2009 , 3:27am
post #21 of 21

Thank you, thank you , thank you for all the great suggestions!

Want to clarify...I understand that in this economy, some will go for the cheaper item, no doubt (although driving an hour round trip to save $10 smacks of stupidity to me); my main problem is how very, very rude it is to steer OTHER students away from MY store items right in front of me, ESPECIALLY when I have every item stocked at their table for them to try out before they buy. That is just plain rude. I am finally learning, due to this board, to NOT underprice myself, and have finally started NOT doing classes for just one person...things like that.

I tried something new for my Wilton 1 class this week, and I really liked it...I had the students bring a cake and the icing ingredients, and instead of me just talking and demo-ing, they did it all with me. It was great! I think my classes are a little better than what Michaels offers...

I think the thing with the kits...I have to purchase them in certain amounts, so it ties up my working capital. It may be worth it, though, to just order them and offer even a 25% discount. That would keep them in my store. I just feel so guilty selling stuff that I see as worthless...such as the pans in the course 2 kit, and most of the stuff in the course 4 kit. BUT...I hear you on the students thinking I am trying to sell "knockoffs"...I had never thought of that before, but it really makes sense.

Another thing for me to consider...Wilton may not allow me much additional markup, but they don't charge me shipping, so that is a savings. They package things nice, and they ARE recognizable.

So this is all something for me to consider.

Again, I really appreciate the feedback...thanks!

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