Wholesale vs Retail

Many people have asked me about the advantages of selling wholesale versus selling retail. I have talked a little about wholesale but thought I would take the next couple of columns to discuss it in more depth. This information is based on what I know of wholesale shows in the US and Canada. I am unaware of wholesale shows in Europe or Australia. I would love to hear about wholesaling in Europe or other countries if you have experience in this area.

There are many differences in selling wholesale vs retail. You need to have your pricing worked out completely before you attempt selling wholesale. If you’re just beginning to sell your work, it is probably best to sell on a retail basis until you have a full line of products, a solid pricing system and a business plan in place.

Some of the reasons people sell their work on a wholesale basis is that they won’t have as much selling cost, they don’t have to spend their time selling their work or going to retail shows and they can spend more time in their studio. By selling in large volume, they can streamline their processes and make enough profit without having to do numerous retail shows or sell on consignment. Many wholesale artists do only 2-3 wholesale shows a year and get enough orders to fill their entire production schedule for a year.

If you are planning on selling on a wholesale basis, you need to consider the needs of your customer. Your customer base will now be galleries, stores or museum shops. A buyer for a shop is going to think differently than the average retail customer. A buyer is looking for products that will “work” in their store. This is different for each buyer but most who have been in the business for any length of time have a good idea of what will sell for them and what won’t. Buyers are looking for an entire line to sell. Items that either go together or have something in common. You should consider selling package deals with an assortment of your products in various colorways or styles. It is easier for the buyer to purchase and you will then have a simple way for buyers to meet your minimum order.

If you are planning on selling both retail and wholesale, your wholesale line can be different (and often should be different) than your retail line. The items that you sell on a wholesale basis should be ones that can be made fairly easily and you can streamline the process, therefore cutting down the time needed to make the item. Try to develop a line of products that go together in some way so that stores will buy the entire line.

Next time, I’ll continue on talking about wholesale selling. If you have any questions, please ask and I’ll include the answers next time.

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6 Responses to Wholesale vs Retail

  1. Lyn says:

    I visit a uk crafts online forum and the question of pricing for wholesale often crops up so this is essential information.

  2. josiedb says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I have found your info on pricing to be very informative. I have also been in the apparel wholesale business for years so i get the formula. However, I’m still having difficulty gauging what is fair pricing when it comes to the nuno felt product i’m creating now. It’s the scarves that I’m creating that are labor intensive. If i sell them at the formula pricing it would be higher than what i see when i look at others selling on places like Etsy. On the other hand I know what my time is worth, and even so I’m not charging what i feel is a high labor cost. Do you have any ideas on what others are selling nuno felt scarves for that live in the U.S., not using Etsy? Is $150 too low? Is $250 too high? Your thoughts on the subject would be well appreciated.

    • ruthlane says:

      Hi Josie – pricing is really difficult for items that are labor intensive as you know. I have seen nuno scarves range from $150 – $250 retail but when I have tried to sell them at the low range of $150, I haven’t sold many. It will depend on where you are selling them. I am in Montana and do not have the customer base that spends that much on accessories. I do have a wider base of customers in the summer time but then they aren’t looking for scarves with wool. If you were in New York City, I think the $250 range would not be too high. I don’t think Etsy is a good place to sell high end work. There is too much other “junk” on there and things that aren’t price correctly. You need to be selling these in high end venues such as resorts or big cities. Other than that, you need to figure out a way to make them with less labor involved. Do you have a rolling machine? Or some other way to cut down on your labor such as using the dryer for fulling? Hopefully that was helpful to you. At the end of it all, you have to make a judgement on what price is enough to make it worth selling them and whether that same price will be low enough for people to be willing to buy them.

  3. Once again your input is great. Your key pt about venue is right in target. I guess I have also been reluctant to use Etsy mainly for the reason you stated. I find this very true on many of the nuno product I see priced so low. yes, I recently purchased the Pedro rolling machine and it has helped me reduce some of the labor, but I think I also have to do more research on my materials cost. As you are U.S. based could you suggest places where I can purchased dyed silk which I use for nuno. Unfortunatly This is not an art I have tackled and don’t think I have the time either. So far Dharma seems to be the best for solid white and black.

    I have not used dryer yet, as I more concerned about too much shrinkage. I guess I can try the tumbler portion which is probably what you mean. I do, however, find this part is not too bad for me. The rolling and even my layout time for fiber and embellishment is where I need to reduce.
    Thanks again for your advice.
    Josie

    • ruthlane says:

      Have you tried Thai Silks? I’m not sure on the costs. I have found that dyeing my own silk (which I usually get from Dharma) to be the most cost effective. Perhaps you could find someone who dyes fabric regularly that could dye for you? I’m not sure where you are but I have a friend in Virginia that dyes mainly cottons but she might dye silks for you. http://vickiwelsh.typepad.com/ She does some beautiful pieces of fabric. Just send her a message and she’ll get right back to you.

      Layout is the one of the more time consuming parts, I agree. I think it is great that you are working through this because the more you think about your process and how it effects your pricing, the better off you will be.

      If you join our forum, you can ask other members and might get some more suggestions that would be helpful. There’s a button on the right side bar to click on and it will bring the forum up. You need to join to be able to post.

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