Previously, I discussed finding retail shows and doing research ahead of time before jumping right in and signing up. It is doubly important to investigate carefully before taking the plunge into wholesale markets. Wholesale shows are much more expensive than retail shows and finding the show that is a match for your merchandise is a must.
In the US, there are several major wholesale shows that focus on hand crafted products. The Buyers Market of American Craft is one of the longest running shows and is held in Philadelphia in February. The American Craft Council holds four shows throughout the US in February, March, April and August. Wholesalecrafts.com holds two wholesale markets called ACRE, one in Orlando in January and one in Las Vegas in April. There are many more smaller wholesale shows that are put on at a state level. Most of these are run through the state governments so check to see if your state holds a wholesale market for hand crafted goods. Many of the wholesale markets have an emerging artist program. This allows artists just starting in the wholesale market to have a smaller booth space and a less expensive investment.
I did check to see what was available in the UK and Australia. I found several sites that listed many gift shows in both countries. I did not see a specific show just for hand crafted items but it did appear that there were categories for hand crafted work. The Wholesaler UK has a list of shows as well as an online venue for listing your business. Canada also has several craft wholesale markets that I’ve seen advertised. Canadian artists are also welcome at the US craft markets. If anyone knows of wholesale craft markets in other countries, I would appreciate you leaving the link to these in the comments.
Researching the show in advance is very important. See if it’s possible for you to visit the show and just observe. Some shows do allow interested vendors to check out the show in person before deciding to apply for the next year. If you know any gallery or shop owners in your area, check to see which shows they attend. Find out from the buyer as much about the show as possible. See if they know of a vendor who would be willing to talk to you about the show. If you get to speak to a vendor, tell them what you make/sell and ask if they think your work would be a good fit for the show. Ask about attendance, whether they do the show every year, their likes and dislikes and if they get re-orders from the show buyers. Also ask about any hidden costs associated with the show including things like shipping your work to the show, union rules for the venue, and what is included with the show package. Talk to as many vendors of the various shows that you are investigating as possible.
Contact the show sponsors and ask for an application. Get applications for all the shows that you might be interested in attending. Compare the pricing, what the package includes and also think about how far you will have to travel, the cost of staying in the area of the show and how much it will be to ship your booth to the show. Most of this information is now online so it is easy to compare costs. Figure out what the total cost for each show is going to be and what the resultant sales must be for you to break even. Does it seem reasonable?
Booths can often be shared. Do you have a fellow artist that might want to venture into the wholesale market with you? If so, consider sharing a booth space. This works best if the other artist has work that is complementary to yours but doesn’t compete directly with your products. Sharing a booth space will cut down on your costs, set up and gives you a ready assistant in the booth when you need to take a break.
Another avenue to follow is to try trade shows that are specific to the product that you are selling. Perhaps if you sell supplies or kits, you might sell more at a hobby and craft trade show. Or if you sell items designed for pets, there are pet supplies trade shows. Think about what type of shops might best sell your work and find out where they shop for merchandise. Finding the right wholesale show takes some work ahead of time but will save you a lot of pain in the long run if you try selling at the wrong show for your work.