Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FAQ by Makers

Hello, fellow makers! I have been getting a lot of requests from artists wanting to know what the dos and d
on'ts of selling in shops are.

While, I am not the ultimate guru on the matter... I have been on both sides of wholesale/consignment arrangements. So I snagged a few really great questions in an effort to put together a sort of FAQ.

How do I contact a shop about possibly selling through them? Follow shop policy. If they have certain routes of communication in regard to new artists, there's probably a reason... It works best! Call and ask if you're not sure. Call ahead if you are dropping off inventory, sometimes a shop owner will prefer you come in at a time that doesn't interfere with their service to their customers. This also gives you a better chance to get to talk with the owner, rather at a time when they are busy assisting customers.

If a shop declines your pieces, it's not as personal as you think. They may even be looking out for you. They know their customers well, and they wouldn't waste your time if they didn't think your work fit well. Just because your pieces don't fit well in one shop, doesn't mean there aren't 100 more shops that they would fit perfectly in. Also it may just be an issue of the shop not having enough space, they are already overstocked with similar pieces, etc.

Be prepared. Have or know your suggested retail pricing. If you are leaving your pieces with a shop, don't ask the shop to price them for you. We don't know what your supplies and time cost you. If you made an inventory sheet in advance, it'll help you and the shop make the process smoother. It will also speed up the time it takes to get your pieces out on display and available for purchase.

Is there a dollar amount of total pieces you would recommend sending?
It's not really a dollar amount as much as quantity. I will say two things... 1. send what you are comfortable with trying out, the quantity is inevitably up to you, unless a shop requests specific items. 2. our artists/designers do best when they send a small collection (10+ pieces). It tends to draw more attention to their work than if they had just a few pieces in shop. We set up mini displays throughout the shop and keep artists' collections together to promote sales. People love having choices and love variations in a collection of an artist's work. It's the "which one is most "me" " factor.

Would I just send stock that I chose?
Yes, unless a shop owner request specific items. If they are into your work, chances are you are consistent, and they trust you to send them quality pieces. Some shops, including ours, will sometimes send you sample pictures or a list of pieces from your portfolio which they feel work best in the atmosphere of their shop. Trust a shop owner, they work in a face to face relationship with their customers daily.

* If you are not sure from a shop's website or blog (for out of town shops), don't hesitate to ask the shop owner for more details about their customer base/demographic. This could help you send the right pieces.

I read your bio and saw that you have sold your jewelry into boutiques...Is this how you have worked it and
what advice can you offer?
For awhile there I was pretty spread thin selling in boutiques. I think there were 7 shops and 3-4 online ventures/sites. I just honestly felt like I was mass producing pieces that were supposed to be anti-mass production. That's why I backed off and sell in-store at The Dandy Lion and do custom orders (which is making me about the same money as I was making before with 1/2 the hassle). It just gives me more time to do one-of-a-kind pieces and do more of my other arts and crafts.

I guess as you start selling at shops, keep the ones that feel right and that are pretty consistent in communication and hassle free. ALWAYS have an inventory sheet... I had a shop actually "lose"/keep 5 of my pieces before, and I misplaced my inventory sheet and had no consignment agreement. I've had shops that were 2 mo. behind paying me... I've also had shops that I really loved and really learned from my interactions with them. So there are good and bad artist/shop relationships for sure.

Love what you do and do what you love... This also includes the people that you work with, directly or indirectly.

Don't cut yourself short, but don't over price. Mark your pieces up a bit if you have to so that you cover your supplies and time (especially if you have to factor in a shop's consignment %). Don't mark your pieces up so high that they aren't comparable to pieces that use similar styles and materials, because that will hinder how fast they sell, no matter how hard the shop tries to sell them. Don't send pieces that are not selling well for you online. Some artists do that to test new shops out... If that particular style isn't selling for you, you'd be setting a shop up for failure to send those pieces that aren't as popular with your customer base.

Tags help. You can use tags like business cards, send people to your website where you make all the profit. Plus people start to associate your logo/or style of tags with your pieces and your business's name. I used to have people go into one of the shops I sold at and say "has any new Withering Elm Jewelry come in?" People love following designers/artists, and if you can snag repeat customers, do it! Repeat customers give the best feedback, and word of mouth from these customers is more powerful than any advertising.

Communicate. Open communication with a shop will give you the best feedback. I cannot list the amount of daily tasks and responsibilities a shop owner has. We cannot know how each artist is doing with the sales relationship, and we cannot pop in and chat randomly. We'd like to... but we run out of time at the end of the day. Most issues or questions are easily addressed.

Have a question? Send it to us!


  1. Great post, Katy! This information is so helpful for makers. Most of don't know a lot of this information, and you really made it clear. Thanks.

  2. Welcome! I'll try and post more as I find more faq's.