Bringing Alpaca Products to Market
It is important for alpaca farm owners to embrace direct sales channels that will allow them to realize the highest return on the processed or raw fiber and will educate the general public about the benefits of products made with alpaca fiber, the animals and the lifestyle. There is only so much information and branding that can be put on a product label or a website. A direct line of communication with the end user of alpaca will help to grow awareness of alpacas and their products. There are a variety of ways to get your products in front of potential buyers.
When choosing the farmer's market that is right for you and your goods, consider the following: population density, distance to a major city, average income, number of vendors, variety of vendors, average traffic and sales, and the rules and cost of becoming a vendor. Not all farmer's markets are created equally, so it is important to seek out the closest one that fits all of your criteria. Markets that cater to areas with higher population density, with above average incomes and markets with large variety of existing vendors tend to attract more visitors willing to spend the most money. Progressive consumers who have been early adopters of the green and organic movements sweeping the country will also be eager to embrace the all-natural fibers, especially made with local alpacas. They want to support local, natural, handmade items.
For us, when we go to a farmer's market, we bring our goods, nice fixtures and our alpacas. This helps people associate the items they are looking at and why there are different than all of the other hats, gloves, and scarves on fifteen other tables in the market. You will need to help them understand why your products are often 2-3 times more expensive than others they have seen.
Whether or not you want to sell online, you need to have website. It is an absolute must. People need to be able to contact you, see what you are about and know that you are worthy of making the effort to call and / or email. Having an online store is surpisingly easy, just takes some time to set up. Paypal is a great one for this.
Community Supported Ag:
We are often present at the Fairgrounds for the county fair, local events (college, seasonal gatherings) and farmer's markets. Our town has the "Christmas Stroll" where we celebrate the holiday season the first week of December and have our alpacas in tow. Our local alpaca organization - YABA - puts on a community event in the Fall as well that we support and connect with others in the business.
Local Stores & Markets:
It can be expensive to wholesale your products, but you can often receive great awareness and consumer momentum through this process. If it is attractive and labeled correctly, people will be wiling to buy your product again and again - through the retail outlet or directly.
Consignment: In this same train of thought, we have some of our items placed on consignment in local shops. This could help your products fetch more money in the long run, but you are also put more financial risk in holding on to the items longer compared to selling for a lower cost.