A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 6, 2008

Marketing Our Wares


Yesterday was spent visiting local stores to try and gauge their interest in carrying some of our products.  Until this spring we had a booth at a store in downtown Clovis, NM that carried all sorts of unique gifts and products.  Sadly for us the owner decided that she needed to do something different in life and closed the store down, taking away our outlet for local product sales.  As the holiday season is rapidly approaching (I know, it’s only August but before we know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us) we want to get our products into the stores to increase people’s awareness of them.


In the past we tried running a small store at the farm, but with two of us and close to 60 alpacas at any given time it becomes quite a juggling act.  Retail customers often don’t understand that you are in the middle of chores and not really attired for selling fine alpaca products, after all they don’t encounter that situation in most stores they visit.  So the farm store is now only open during events such as our Open Farm Days.  That works for helping deal with the workflow at home but does not provide our retail customers with easy, convenient access to our products.  Hence our current expedition to find another local store or two where we can place our products in addition to our online store which is still in the works.


Funnily enough when we first started to raise alpacas I never envisioned having to deal with retail sales of product.  I knew the alpacas would need tending to, I knew that there would be bookkeeping and other paperwork to do and I knew that there would be a need to do marketing, but the penny didn’t quite drop that I would need to retail our products.


Not long after we purchased our first alpacas I started to realize that it would be beneficial to us to be able to sell products made from alpaca fleece.  It’s not an obligatory part of alpaca ownership by any means, but it does bring additional income to the business and tends to be a more steady flow than the sales of the alpacas themselves.


Our journey into the world of alpaca end product sales has been an interesting one.  We now have a better understanding of why it takes so long to have product made from our own fleece (an average of seven months turn around time), we have a better understanding of what grades of fleece are best for which products, we have a better understanding of production costs, and we have a better understanding that end product retail sales are a whole business and education in themselves! 


At the end of the day we know we don’t want to become a full time retail product operation, our love is managing an alpaca herd and selling alpacas, but the hands on education we have received while learning how to sell alpaca end product has given us a greater understanding of where we need to be headed with our breeding goals and along the way our end product sales (even with our novice understanding of retail) have proved profitable.  Additionally our experience in retailing alpaca product has helped us to understand how important it is that the alpaca industry focus on further development of the fiber side of the business.


Personally I feel that the alpaca industry is at an exciting time in it’s development, the market for North American alpaca products is most definitely there, the challenge now is to continue to build interest in North American alpaca products and bring those products to the consumer at price that is acceptable to them while still putting profit into the alpaca breeders business.  With the development of fiber cooperatives and joint end product ventures the ability to meet that challenge is within our grasp.  How exciting to know that the fleece from our herd could one day, in the near future, be in a product in a major department store or in a piece of couture clothing.


While marketing our product locally is only a small piece of the puzzle, it is a piece all the same.  The customers who purchase our products often tell their friends and relatives how much they enjoy them, or send our products to friends and relatives as gifts.  Slowly but surely the word spreads and the demand grows.


So albeit that at the start of our alpaca business I never envisioned that retail product sales would be something I would be dealing with, here I am today doing just that.  Meeting interesting people, learning from the information they are willing to share with me, and doing my little bit to promote alpacas. 



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