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Wanna buy a new car?

Posted by Dave Bull at   4:17 PM, July 6, 2014 [Permalink]

We're very busy here in the planning for the giant step we want to take this autumn - opening the new shop down in Asakusa. We still haven't got a lease yet, but we're working on that, and in the meantime we're trying to work out as many other details as possible.

Up to now, because pretty much all of our sales have been made online - people browse the site, select items, and go through the shopping cart - it hasn't been necessary to think about such things as price tags. But now that the prints will be on display in a retail environment, we have to work out how to package them, arrange them, and of course let people know what the prices are. And we have to do it in an attractive and easy-to-understand way.

When I wrote the long 'vision' piece - Mokuhankan in the Year 201X - some time back, I proposed a system something like this:

... as good a time as any to suggest that you take a look at the price label for one of these prints. Not your typical price tag, I think!

The guest pulls a print from the browser bin in front of them, and turns it over to inspect the price label on the back. It is indeed 'different', being quite long. One's first impression is that it looks like one of those price 'labels' you see in the window of a new car in the showroom.

At the top is the price, in large type so that it is clearly visible to the shop customers. Below that, in list form, are figures showing the amount (and percentage) that will be paid to the various craftsmen who worked on this print, along with their names. This particular print has an entry for a carver, who is being paid 10% of the retail price, and a printer, who in this case is receiving 20%.

Well, it's now time to work out the dirty details, so I made a rough Photoshop mockup this afternoon, trying to get down on paper that admittedly vague image that I have been carrying in my head:

Before I make much further explanation about this (I'll post more into the comments section below), I would like to ask our regular fans and readers about their reaction to this. My staff here is almost totally against showing these details, but I myself find it a compelling idea.

If you saw this sort of thing in a shop, what would you think about it?




Added by: Dave on July 6, 2014 5:56 PM

Here are the extra comments I mentioned above ...

The particular print that this would be attached to is one from the 東京土産 series that young Kaori Seki has begun to prepare for us. Being a contemporary publication, our costs for this one will of course include a designer's fee in addition to the other 'manufacturing' expenses. If you know anything about manufacturing in general, you will look at our production cost of nearly 50% and start counting the days until we close our doors (and they're not even open yet!)

But the very high labour costs are simply part of the world in which Mokuhankan lives, and wishing/hoping they will go away is foolish. This simply isn't the kind of venture that can run around the world chasing the lowest labour costs. The carver and printer expenses in that price tag are exactly reflective of the time taken to make the print, costed at a level that allows the workers to have a basic standard of living. If we can't find a market for our work within those parameters, we have no business being in business.

So given that the top part of the price tag doesn't have much leeway for adjustment, our future is going to depend on how well we can manage and control the numbers in the bottom section. For the past year or so we have done (I think) quite well at that, but this is about to change dramatically. The mortgage on my Ome home finished around four years ago, so we have been living basically rent free for these past few years. Come September 1st - when we pick up the key to the Asakusa building - we will be faced with a tsunami of new expenses, both 'startup' and 'ongoing', and it will be interesting indeed to see how the numbers on this section of our price tags change to reflect that as time goes by ...

Also ... In the 'Mokuhankan in 201X' story I outlined another aspect to the price tags, something that I have not addressed in this post. Let's do so now ...

What if the tag were even longer?!

Added by: Dave on July 6, 2014 6:43 PM

Another note about the price tag: you might be wondering why the carver is paid at such a high rate (12%) for this print. We aren't actually paying 12% for any particular sheet; our system works like this:

  • advance payment to the carver on completion of the blocks, covering the first 200 prints to be issued:
    • first 100 sheets @ 16% (100 x 560 = 56,000)
    • second 100 sheets @ 8% (100 x 280 = 28,000)
  • further 'royalties' to the carver are made as print batches are done, at an ongoing rate of 8%.

There is no way that we can identify in the shop just where that particular sheet comes into the equation, so we'll just use an average of 12% for the initial batch, switching this to 8% for later printings (if any).

Added by: Julian on July 6, 2014 7:26 PM

Hi Dave,
I'm from Germany and a huge fan of the work of yours and Jed's. As a student of Japanology it makes me really happy to see that you can carry on the legacy of this beautiful craftsmanship.

I think your idea is great! This kind of transparency would me make buy it even more, as I would know how each Yen is spent (Is this proper English? ^^"). I can understand your Japanese staff and their concerns about it, as it is quite a direct approach with things customers normally don't have to deal with. But I think that the reaction from both foreigners and Japanese would be almost 100% positive. This lists will make the customer to understand your pricing. And in doing so make them appreciate the item even more, as you see the whole process of making this things. Especially someone who is not into this subject, like a foreign tourist who just wants to buy a nice souvenir, might think, without this label, that this "high" price is just made up to fleece tourists.

The Trainee Premium is also a good idea. I however would be confused with the percentage. It would bother me to calculate the percentage and thinking about the exchange rate etc.
I think it would be easier with some kind of "round it up"-option. So in this case pay 4000Yen.
The customers get a beautiful item, do something for the sustainability of this craftsmanship and don't have to deal with loose money in their wallets ;). So win-win-win-situation from my point of view.

I wish you all the best! Looking forward to visit the shop in Asakusa during my next stay.


Added by: Slawik on July 6, 2014 8:55 PM

Hi Dave,

I have to say I find it a little confusing: too many information on these price tags...

Plus, I think it's REALLY important to know who's been working on a print I want to buy, but I totally understand why your staff is against giving too many details. What about a price tag with the price and the names/ of the people who worked on it? I definitely think it's the only information worth knowing.

However, and to finish in a positive note, I love the trainee premium thing. Yet, I totally agree with Julian: I don't like percentages and would rather see directly how much I would donate.

Hope you find it helpful. Whatever your choice, I have no doubt people will get used to it!

Added by: Dave on July 6, 2014 9:17 PM

... the only information worth knowing ...

I see that I neglected to mention one thing; this label will be on the back side of the package, but the front side will have a larger 'flap' to the package, and this will have a title label ...

... with the print title and the names of the people involved who made it. There will also be a barcode, which our POS system will read to 'ring up' your selection.

Added by: Julian on July 6, 2014 10:28 PM

Hi Dave,

so this label would be on a already ordered item?
I thought you came up with the idea again because of your shop-opening, so my point of view was from the displayed items there.
It sure is interesting for someone who ordered a print to see the calculation, but I think he would have bought it anyway.
But showing this in the shop (maybe just once on the box/folder containing the prints) could foster a purchase decision.

Added by: Dave on July 6, 2014 11:54 PM

... so this label would be on a already ordered item?

This label would be on the reverse side of each package in the shop - on display in browser bins for people to look through. The packages are going to be similar to the ones that we have been using for a few years ...

... and these new labels would be on the back side of each one.

Added by: Barbara Mason on July 7, 2014 4:24 AM

I generally like the idea but agree that you should use an amount instead of a percentage...that makes my head hurt and trying to figure it out takes a lot away from an enjoyable shopping experience.
I suggest you just break it down into yen instead of trying to make the customer figure it out. And I think you could lump all the shop costs into a few less categories...only a printmaker will know or care about all the nitty gritty...and I think you need to give yourself a little more profit or you will not be in business long....grocery stores do this with 10% but they sell all day every day...so a huge volume. Maybe you should rethink your profit a bit.

Added by: Serge on July 7, 2014 4:55 AM

Hi Dave,
The price tag reminds me of the food with all the nutritional information. Too much information kill the information. It is interesting, does it bring any value?? I would not bother with the percentage or the figures, nor indicate your margin. This is a BUSINESS and there are things you keep for yourself (or the taxman :-)). I would suggest to indicate:
When you purchase this print, note that over half of its price will be redistributed to the designer (xxx), the carver (yyy), the printer (zzz)and the paper-maker (aaa).

Added by: Franz Rogar on July 7, 2014 5:51 AM

I'm with some of the posts here (last one mostly). I'd follow KISS methodology (Keep It Simple, Silly).

BTW, it looks fantastic but should be clean & clear and have a purpose. IMO, I'd use it to mark that the shop works with the creators and help people to learn the Art. Of course, the [asterisk note] is just a quick idea ;-)

I've present the info as follow (were xx, yy and zz are numbers):

TITLE: ----
AUTHOR: --- (xx %) [asterisk symbol]
CARVER: --- (yy %)
PRINTER: --- (zz %)
PAPERMAKER: --- (Awards...)

[asterisk symbol] This design is in Public Domain. This percentage will be redistributed between the other creators or be used to train new artisans.

TRAINEE PREMIUM: We train here at Mokuhankan the next artisan that will keep this Art alive. If you want to collaborate, please indicate the amount here: _____ JPY

Added by: Anita Cage on July 7, 2014 6:49 AM

I'm just repeating myself here but, please, more margin! I think you have to be seriously concerned about a healthy contingency fund.

Also, I'd vote for less information on the label. Too much information reads as if you think you have to justify your existence or else you're pleased about not making enough to profit and at the same time reinvest in developing the business. I think in pricing this like a manufactured product, which in one sense it is, of course, there is an implicit suggestion that we should not be buying it as art. But we do buy it as art and therefore the price we pay is, in our minds, less dependent upon your production costs and more upon the aesthetic value to us. I don't think your label should discourage us from valuing it as art. Certainly one cannot promise or expect an increase in value and you are not doing that but one can expect continuing aesthetic value. Leave room in your strategy for it to impress us as art.

I like the credits to the artisans and the opportunity to donate to the trainee program but please don't ask people do arithmetic or to comb through yours-- they will hate it!

Added by: Lam on July 7, 2014 2:16 PM

I think the idea of transparency is great, but I agree with others here that sometimes less information will go a long way. Consolidate a bit and make it a bit easier to read. People understand overhead is a huge expense and I think it can be one line. I also think your margins are too low. Especially in a retail environment, a 20% margin is considered the bare minimum. Nobody will think this is gouging, and it still keeps prices within an affordable range.

I think the most important aspect in all of this transparency are the artists and workers. For myself, I'd love to see a bio/profile of each, along with an easy way to find other works they've done for Mokuhankan.

Added by: Slawik on July 8, 2014 8:33 AM

"For myself, I'd love to see a bio/profile of each, along with an easy way to find other works they've done for Mokuhankan."

THAT is a great idea!

Added by: Dave on July 8, 2014 8:54 AM

... love to see a bio/profile of each ...

Actually guys, that's already on the site. Head to the main URL [http://mokuhankan.com] (without adding index.html, or index.php) and you'll be presented with some options. If you have a wide monitor, select the 'Wide-screen' site ...

The staff information there hasn't been updated for a few months, but anyway ...

Added by: Antony on July 8, 2014 9:55 PM

Hi Dave,

This is a great idea and has sparked my imagination, I am a graphic designer. I agree with a few of the other comments though, the label needs to be simplified somewhat. I would approach this from a more illustrative angle, using perhaps a stacked bar chart to show the relative percentages of where the total cost goes. And uniting the other ancillary costs into a couple of larger sections.

As the Carver, Printer etc. names are labelled on the front, you could lose those to anonymise the label a bit. I think I'd be uncomfortable in someone knowing exactly how much I was earning from a particular print.

Finally then the 'top-up' for the trainee programme could be another section to round up the 'bar' to the next round number.

Going down a more visual route should give the average shopper a quick understanding on how the price breaks down without bombarding them with a tonne of numbers. I'll have a think and if I get a spare moment, knock up an example just to satisfy my own curiosity of what I would do!



Added by: Amelie on July 9, 2014 1:20 AM

Hi Dave,

could you display this info in a generalized way in a very visible place of the store? That way, you'd

-not need to create detailed price tags for each print

-don't enable your customers to compare your employees based on their shares/rates(which printer gets more etc?) [I assume this makes your employees uncomfortable]

-Have it easily accessible for all customers

-don't give out too many details about your business [which could well make your employees uncomfortable, too]

-potentially avoid discussions about your cost structure with visitors ("why is this position of this print so much more than on that other print?")

To get the values to be displayed on this general price tag, you could simply average the positions over each print, or pick a typical print (without naming it), or from the suggestion below.

You could consider presenting this not on a price tag or a sheet of paper, but on a print on its own. This gives you the option to put it on display among all your other designs, without directly drawing attention to it.
I am very sure that most everyone who would value the transparency will notice it, study it, and appreciate both the information and its presentation on a print. Plus, you can use the pricing data for that print as the one that you use for the example (if that makes sense..).

Added by: Franz Rogar on July 9, 2014 1:58 AM

Based on what Antony wrote about privacy (which I endorse), I've made a mockup... (sorry for using your logo without permission, it was just I missed it in your mockups).

Added by: Michael on July 17, 2014 6:20 PM

Hi Dave,
I think the idea of showing people where the money for a purchase goes is great. For myself though I wouldn't put it on the price tag.

On the price tag I'd probably just say something like 'Your purchase of this print supports a group of dedicated "insert-your-preferred-wording-here"'.

You would also have a poster on a wall that lists the various people/groups/business and their contribution to the production of the prints and maybe even a bio for them. I personally wouldn't include how the money is spent where as it's sufficient just to 'remind' buyers how much work and many people are involved in the work.



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