handmade vs. store bought

I would like to start this out by letting you know that I purchase many store bought items, obviously it would be quite the task to only make handmade purchases.  I'm not telling you to not make store purchases, I in fact purchase gobs and gobs of things from stores and I'm not ashamed of that.  I'm just saying with some items there will be a difference and this post is about purchasing from a handmade small business rather then a big box store and seeing a difference in quality.  After this post I hope that you can appreciate what handmade business owners create, why we value our work so much more and why we ask for your continued support!

We have been trained to find a good bargain, believe me I'm all about a good deal.  I'm also all about supporting other small businesses like my own, finding quality goods that I love & that I know will last and purchasing items that mean something (special gifts, customization or sentimental value).  I can fall in love with something at the dollar tree or something at macys.. but I will know the difference.  I have had an enormous amount of support this year with my business and I appreciate every ounce of it, but sometimes a few comments here and there can get the best of me.

I did a market locally this last weekend and I heard comments like 'is that just a button on a ring? i can make this myself' or 'is this braided, i could do that!' ... I just smiled politely, when in all reality I wanted to say 'then why don't you!?'  This is my business and I have found it successful enough to make it full time, I take the time to make sure every item is perfect, every package is pretty and every customer (ok most customers) are happy.. to me, thats more then any big box store can promise and my time is valuable! 

{item on the left is from a handmade shop, item on the right is store bought}

Recently I purchased a few items from my friend Dana who has the adorable shop Wonder Forest. While in line at Jo-Anns to grab some buttons & felt the other day, I noticed a little gingerbread man and couldn't stop giggling at how silly & trapped he looked. I immediately knew I had to rescue him from his plastic bag hell and then take pictures and make fun of him here for this post... I'm super nice right??

Let me show you the difference between a handmade item and a store bought item.
This gingerbread man above is $7 from Wonder Forest, he was made with Dana's hands (aka time & love) Afterwards she had to photograph & list him in her shop.  I made my purchase and she then had to print my order, package it all up and take it to the post office.  All of these steps were taken with care and thought as she hand wrote me a note, prettied up the package and carefully sent it on its way to me.  The item arrived clean and beautifully detailed, in fact he is hanging out with all my xmas decor right now!  Think of all the effort on her part to make sure that I as a customer received a great product plus a bit more, that's what most small handmade businesses offer.  We want you to be happy with your purchase, we want you to smile at the work we put into it, we want you to feel special and appreciated and we want you to know how much your purchase allows us to follow our dreams!

small business purchase re-cap:
-professional shop with detail
-beautiful product
-great service
-adorable packaging
-strong brand identity
-business info for future purchases (+ a discount)

.... all of these things made me a happy customer!

Lets look at the store bought gingerbread man.  I worked retail back in college so I would assume that this little guy arrived in a box with a bunch of identical ones, the box was torn open and he was placed in another container conveniently located by the registers for quick up sales.  Priced cheaply at $1, it shows why.  I do know he was born (lol) in TaiZhou Zhejiang China and his little tag even tells me that his batch was made on 8/20/11 and that he is copyrighted by Jo-Ann stores of Ohio.. he is recommended for ages 3 & up and some of him may pose choking risks.  This little guy didn't come with a note, but did come with a bag (also a choking hazard) that smelled of chemicals.  This little guy is currently face down on my desk as a type this and I feel very sorry for him!

store purchase re-cap:
-convenience in location

...and that's it... 
Besides the girl at the register doing her job and telling me to have a great day, did I feel special about making this purchase and supporting this company? Nope.

I know that the economy can make it tough to 'spurlge' if you will.. but in all reality a $1 crap item is completely de-valuing the $7 quality item and its getting tough to compete.  But that's where the loyal shopper comes in to save the day, spread the word and keep us small businesses going!  My friend Gina wrote a great article over on Design*Sponge about the value of our work that you should read, its great to read articles like this as a business owner and a customer.  

In the end it may be clear that as a business owner I would choose another small business as the winner, but in all reality the product was better and that always will get my attention and my business!

I would love to read your thoughts on this topic.


  1. I completely agree! I have just recently started shopping mainly from easy and handmade shops vs big box stores. I find it to be way more rewarding as you are not only getting an amazing product but you know you're helping out the person who made the item by purchasing from their shop. It's so much more personal and I love seeing how each shop owner wraps and sends the package with love!

  2. "Why is my head so big?" You're too funny!

    I completely agree with what you said. I would much rather put my money towards something handmade from a small shop, then something mass produced.

  3. I love this and I agree, handmade is much better. I love Dana's creations! That other gingerbread man is just sad! :)

  4. haha! Oh my goodness. Poor little ugly gingerbread man... BUt seriously, there's no competition! Dana's wins hands down.

  5. i <3 you!!
    i'm so glad my gingerbread man kicked that ugly one's ass!! hahaha. Seriously can't stop laughing at the store bought one. i don't know why it's so funny to me haha it just looks so sad ;(!!

    xox dana

  6. I loooove this post! I have one of Dana's gingerbread men too and they are a zillion times cuter than the Joann one.

    This was all really well said and shows the importance of handmade and WHY it costs more. It should cost more. There is more value in handmade.

    This theme has been all over the handmade community lately and I just wrote a post for Design*Sponge about it. I am glad we are all on the same page :).

  7. THIS IS THE BEST POST I HAVE READ ALL WEEK!!!!!Hilarious (I feel so bad for that poor little guy), to the point, well written. I love supporting handmade and I love receiving pretty packages in the mail too!

  8. Love it! I have recently become addicted to all things homemade & crafty and can tell you first-hand that I 110% agree with you! I made two recent purchases on Etsy and I absolutely adored the personalized service. I, too, received a custom "thank you" note on my order and I loved it! I am trying to become more crafty myself and I'm "trying" to dabble a little in homemade and "re-purposing" items that were once worn and old. Great post!

  9. Love this!! I laughed so many times while reading! :D That store bought gingerbread man looks so lifeless (and does have a super large head!)

  10. This is the cutest post! And SOO true. I've done a LOT of handmade shopping this Christmas and have been extremely pleased with it all! :)

  11. This is the cutest post ever!!!!

  12. I now heart you a little.
    Great post!!

  13. I love this. And the thing is, do we need more CRAP in our lives? Heavens knows that I don't. America loves to buy just because. When we purchase handmade, it's a conscious decision-- and a better decision.

    thanks for this post. beautifully said, perfectly written and it provided me with a good giggle.

  14. hahaha! I couldn't stop laughing during this post!! I'm certainly one who did not need convincing in terms of buying hand made this year (or making myself), but this post warmed my heart, heather. :)

    Thank you! <3

  15. Just like everyone else... I love this post. This year I made it my goal to completely shop handmade or homemade for my family. {With the exception of my babies... yes, they have plastic blocks and cool talking books} But Everyone else got something either a) I made, or b) I knew I couldnt make, so bought from someone else local. I feel great about this, and I know that most of these adorable things are one of a kind... which makes that handmade even more special.

  16. Oh my goodness, I love this!
    I just finished hand making the last of fifteen gifts for our immediate families last night. My husband told me to take a bow... in my pj's, at 11pm, with matted hair, and tired eyes.. I did, I bowed. And I am happy.

    And I bought most of my kids crap online ;-) there is always next year!!

    xx - britt


  17. There's always something to be said about handmade gifts. So much time, effort and the love of making things goes into them. Great post!

    "Why is my head so big?" —cracked me up!


  18. I am really bothered when people say "I could make that". I think "Really? Could you?" A friend of mine said that about a beautiful felt flower brooch I purchased from a little shop on Etsy. I just laughed it off, but I thought "You can't make it exactly like it is. Then it wouldn't be the flower that I have now. And it probably wouldn't be as nice." The lady who made my brooch has taken her time perfecting her craft, and I don't think there is anyone out there who could make it exactly the way that she does. I'm glad I have my brooch :)

  19. I love this post! And I feel completely the same. As a shop owner I put alot of love and detail into every piece I make, and I appreciate it so much when someone gets an item from me and tells me "it's even more beautiful then I imagine". That means i'm doing my job :) Thank you for supporting small business! xo

  20. I completely agree with you, such a great post! I just recently received my very first Just Lovely Things order, and the beautiful package was full of so many wonderful goodies! It was very clear that a great deal of care went into my little package, thank you! I love to make handmade gifts and wish that everyone understood the amount of time and care that goes into each item compared to mass-produced items. Thank you again!

  21. I'm always in a panic when I go to a store and see a similar type of jewelry that my shop has...but then I settle down and remind myself that...
    A) Buyers are supporting me directly, not a big brand
    B) My items are made with stainless steel or silver...no lead, no nickel
    C) I offer cute little boxes and small touches that I hope are appreciated
    D) I compete LIKE CRAZY to keep my prices better many big name stores.

    All in all, handmade is the best. You can buy it, wear it, use it and know that most likely - yours is one of a kind and original.

    Since buying handmade, I've never been happier and more appreciative of my purchases, especially knowing that they're going to INDIVIDUALS, not CORPORATIONS.

    Okay...blabbed enough here.

    GREAT post!

  22. I really love this post. I agree with absolutely everything you said. I know when I first started making some rings for my Etsy shop, whenever I would show friends/some family the first words out of their mouth would be "Oh, how did you make that?" And that's even after I would usually say that I was selling them. I just never can understand why people ask that? How are you supposed to make a business if you let out all the details about how to do it?

    LoVed. This post. :)
    And I had to giggle at the part about the $1 gingerbread's head being too big because that was the first thing I thought when I saw the first picture! :)

  23. This is such a wonderful post!

  24. I totally agree! When you buy handmade it's always like opening a gift. Pretty packaging and a hand written note goes a long way. Plus the quality is SO MUCH better!

  25. you are hilarious! I love this post :) and your gingerbread man in adorable :)

  26. I love this post so much!! Thank you so much for breaking it down and making handmade and thoughtful items winners!!

  27. Fantastic post. You're totally right. I won a giveaway from someone's Etsy for a homemade Christmas ornament of an adorable little owl and it was a perfect little addition to the glowing tree.
    I go to Walmart and I see their ornaments... sure, pretty, but where's the <3?

    It definitely makes a difference.

  28. Thank you for this post dear friend!
    I have been struggling with this as well lately. Pinterest really doesn't help (as much as we all love it) because people see an item and then immediately pin it in a "DIY" folder.

    It's been hard for me lately because I worked HOURS and HOURS on a whole new line and new designs and a big launch for it all....and haven't had a single sale in over 2 months. :(

    It's so difficult (especially when you are offering discounts and rewards) and STILL sales aren't happening.

    But I keep the hope.

  29. lLOVE THIS!
    So true!
    You made me smile.

  30. Love love and love this post! I so appreciate your honesty about yes, sometimes you do shop in big box stores, but comparing and contrasting the two items makes *such* a difference. For me handmade is all about the heart.
    Thanks for sharing!
    PS I would love a pair of your button earrings, even if I could just make em myself. :)

  31. This is HILARIOUS! "Why is my head so big?" hahaha, and you make such a statement with the pictures too.

    Your newest follower,


  32. Ha! I love this, and agree with you 100%. Not even for $1 would I want to buy the one from JoAnns. By the looks of it I'm not sure if he will make it to next Christmas, poor guy!

  33. Yes yes yes! At first when I launched my shop I was so terrified of "imperfections" in my items vs. perfect machine-made items from big box stores. And then I started noticing that my items were made with so much more care vs. all the very imperfect store-bought items I had.
    Anyway, fabulous post. I wouldn't buy that $1 version if he were even 1 cent!

  34. Love this! I do have to admit I feel kind of bad for the poor Jo-Anne's gingerbread man for having such a big head.. he looks so sad!

    Though Dana's looks happy and is super cute!

  35. Wonderful post :) Definitely sharing!