There are many retail shows based around the holiday season that artists can enter to sell their work. I have noticed some ideas lately for trying out different types of venues or making your own venue to sell during the holiday season. These ideas may take more work on your part but could provide good alternatives for more sales.
One idea is to gather a group of artists and rent a venue such as a grange hall or even a church basement to set up a small artist run show. Running a retail show takes a lot of preparation and you will need all of the artist participants to help run and promote the show. Start early on your planning and logistical details to avoid “rushing around with your head cut off” just before the show. Invite artists whose work is all compatible but those who are not selling the same products. Think about innovative ways to advertise without spending too much money. The cost for the show will be split up between the artists and those guidelines should be set up in advance so there are no surprises. Once you get this type of show up and running, it is much simpler to continue it at the same time each year.
Another way to sell your work is to have a “pop up gallery show”. This will work for an artist that has enough work to fill an entire gallery space. Since the slow down in the economy, there are numerous empty retail spaces available for lease or rent. Many have been on the market for a long time and landlords might be more likely to do a short-term rental for 4-6 weeks. This will take a lot of research to make sure that the location is appropriate. The old adage for retail “Location, location, location” is true. Look for an open spot in a shopping area that is busy with customers already. Talk to the neighboring store owners to find out about special events that are held around the holiday season. Take advantage of those type of events to promote your “pop up gallery”. Make sure to read the lease/rental agreement thoroughly and check that you are following all city regulations in regards to licensing, taxes and any specific business rules. You would also need to staff the gallery and depending on your intended selling hours, you might need to hire assistants.
If the “pop up gallery” idea seems a bit too scary, consider asking a restaurant about using their window or wall space to hang your work. These types of arrangements are usually done on a consignment basis and you should have a written agreement before hanging your work. You could also consider just putting a display of your work in an empty store window with your contact information so that customers could call you directly.
Other possibilities are joining with a group of artists to have a studio tour before the holidays, having a “private show” for invited customers only or doing a “trunk show” at a gallery or store. Again, advance planning is a must. I hope that some of these ideas will get you started thinking about alternative ways to sell your work. They don’t necessarily need to be around the holidays but taking advantage of the “buying season” will improve your overall sales.
I will be taking a short break from Marketplace Mondays until after the new year. I would love to hear if you have any specific questions about your art business so that I can address these issues in future posts. Please leave a comment with your requests and thanks for reading!
In the last column, I discussed ways to start working on your artist’s statement and why you might need one. Did you get started? Do you have a list of phrases and words to use that describe your work? If so, you’re ready to start putting the statement together. Let’s get started.
Keep it Simple – Make sure that everyone can understand what you’re saying. Use simple language, keep it short and concise. Forget all that artist speak and say it in your own words.
Open with Flare – Come up with an original opening sentence. Most statements start with “My work is…” or “I’m inspired by…” Avoid those and come up with something fresh and from your own perspective.
Speak as Yourself – Write in the first person. What would you say to a customer or a gallery owner about your work? You wouldn’t say “Sue Smith makes felted scarves”. Make “I” statements.
Include the Basics – Make sure to include how you make your work, what media and tools you use, what the work means to you, what inspires you and how that inspiration appears in your work.
Keep it Short – This bears repeating. Your statement should be no longer than three paragraphs. More words doesn’t make it better. Once you’ve written a first draft, go back and cut out any unnecessary words.
Let it Stew – After the first editing, leave it alone for at least 2-3 days. A week would be better. You will come back to it with a fresh eye. Edit the statement again after you’ve let it rest. Keep pruning!
Share it – Let a close friend review your statement. A second opinion is always helpful. Tell them that they won’t hurt your feelings and that you want an honest opinion and suggestions for improvement.
Rewrite It – Now that you have further suggestions, use those to rewrite and revamp your statement. Make sure the words match your work. If your work is playful, write the statement in the same vein.
Save All the Work – Keep all your notes and all the versions of your statement. You will need to occasionally rewrite your statement and you can use these notes for rewrites.
Put It Out into the World – You’re now ready to tell the world about your art. Print out copies to be ready to give to interested galleries, customers and to include in applications. Your artist statement will be your personal ambassador and will open new opportunities for you, so don’t be bashful.
If you write a statement, I’d love to see it. Ann started a post on the forum about artist statements, so feel free to add yours.
Most artists that I deal with do not like writing an artist statement and many don’t have one at all. Since most artistic people are more visual than language oriented, writing an artist statement becomes a difficult task. So why should you bother? People communicate with language and when they are interested in your art and want to know more, the artist statement can be the start to that conversation. Whether it is something you give to potential buyers, give to galleries or is required for entering shows, the artist statement is essential for communicating what you do in your art and why you do it.
A good artist statement reveals more about you the artist, your inspiration and motivations, how you work, the materials you use and what your art means to you. To communicate this information, you need to keep the statement short and succinct in language that anyone can understand. Avoid using vague language that could be used by anyone such as “I am inspired by nature”. What specifically inspires you about nature? Is it the vast desert landscapes and the colors of the sunset? Or are you inspired by the textures of lichen on a rock? Use your thesaurus to find adjectives that specifically communicate the idea you are expressing. Find words that match the type of art that you create. Is your work comical or funky? Think about the language that would fit and express that side of your art.
Start listening to what others have to say about your art. What words do they use to describe your work? Write the words down. Think about why you do what you do. What makes you the happiest about your work? Is there a specific method that you like the best? Why? Is there something that you do that never fails to inspire? Write it all down quickly like taking notes. Don’t try to edit the words when you first start. Just write it all down.
Once you’ve started your list of words and phrases, look all these words up in the dictionary and thesaurus and find more words to add to your list. Spend time on this search and keep thinking about your art. Ask yourself what your art means to you. Keep your list handy so when an idea pops into your head, you can write it down. Many times your subconscious can work on these questions while you are busy doing something else and great ideas will arrive at the most unexpected times.
So do you have an artist’s statement? If you do, are you happy with it? Did you write it ten years ago? Take the next two weeks to get a list of words that describe your art and why you do what you do. I’ll discuss writing the full statement in my next column. Don’t miss this opportunity to better communicate with the world what makes your art unique.
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.
Many times artists choose between selling on a retail basis or on a wholesale basis. You can do both, but you need to avoid a few pitfalls when you sell both wholesale and retail.
Galleries often prefer to work with artists that only sell on a wholesale basis and don’t sell at any retail venues. That way, the gallery is assured that customers can only buy the products from them or another gallery. However, when you have been selling retail and then want to venture into the wholesale market, you may want to be able to sell both ways. You will need to reassure galleries that buy wholesale from you, that your retail prices will not undercut their pricing structure and that any customers who approach you personally after seeing your work in a gallery will be sent back to the gallery for the sale.
I have said this before but it won’t hurt to repeat it. Your pricing needs to be consistent. You can’t sell at a retail show for a lower price then what the galleries can sell your work after buying at wholesale. Your prices at retail shows should be made by marking your wholesale price up by 2.3 – 2.5 or higher. Keystone (the amount that stores mark up a wholesale price) used to be 2.0 but it is really hard to make a living any more with that low a markup. Most galleries mark up around the 2.5 mark. So if you are going to sell your work wholesale, you should not be selling your work in any retail venue for less than 2.5 times your wholesale prices. This includes retail shows, online sales or any other retail venue where you sell your work.
Developing a good relationship with your galleries is important if you want to continue to receive orders and business from them. You need to check with customers who contact you directly where they first saw your work. If they saw your work at a gallery, that gallery needs to get the sale or a commission from you if you sell directly to the customer. Perhaps the gallery doesn’t have a specific piece that the customer wants to buy. You still need to have an understanding with the gallery that if you sell “their” customer a piece, you need to give them a commission or a portion of the sale. They are promoting you and your work and you need to be supportive of them. Work out in advance what their policies are about commissions and special orders. The selling percentages may be different from the normal pricing structure. Again, if you get to know the gallery representatives, this will be a big help when issues arise.
I know that some galleries refuse to work with artists that sell their work in online retail venues. Customers are computer savvy. They can get your name from a tag on work in a gallery, google it and find all the online venues where you sell your work. Many customers then attempt to get a better price from those venues or directly from you. If your work is priced the same or higher than it is in the galleries, these issues won’t be a problem for you. So as long as your pricing is consistent, selling retail and wholesale is a viable option.
When you’re planning on selling wholesale, you need to plan ahead to make sure that all of the orders placed by galleries and shops can be filled. Consider if you attended a wholesale market and you received 20-25 large orders. You would be very excited and happy that your work sold so well. But did you pay attention to when those orders needed to be shipped? Perhaps you were trying to please the buyers and you told all of them that you could send out there order right away. Once you get home and start to work, you realize that it will be impossible to make enough work to fill the orders on time. What do you do now???
The scenario above is not a situation that you want to happen. If you tell a buyer that you can send an order at a certain time, you need to be able to send the order when promised. Galleries often don’t give you a second chance if you prove to be unreliable. One way to avoid this situation is to develop a production calendar. Everyone’s production calendar will be slightly different depending on the products produced and their working methods.
To develop a production calendar, you need to know how long it takes to produce each of your products. Does it take less time to make certain products if you make more than one at a time? Once you know how long it takes for production, then you need to give yourself time on the calendar for each wholesale order that you receive. So if you take an order for $500 worth of products and it will take you 1 week to produce that work, mark the ship date for that order on your calendar and mark a line through the previous week to avoid putting in any other orders for that week. As you continue to fill your production calendar, if a month becomes filled with orders, you can not take any more orders to ship for that month. Tell the buyers that you can send their order in the following month because you have already filled your production calendar for that month. Buyers understand how production calendars work and realize that you need time to fill all the orders you have taken at the show.
Once you get back home, you can use your production calendar as a schedule and fulfill the orders as they come up on the calendar. If for some unforeseen reason, you are not going to be able to send an order on the agreed upon shipping date, contact the gallery/shop as soon as you can to explain the problem. Tell them the circumstances and make sure they still want the order to be shipped even though it will be late. Using a production calendar will help to prevent late shipments and improve your relationships with wholesale buyers. Presenting a professional demeanor is important and keeping your shipments on time will give galleries confidence in your business abilities.
I had a question about selling one of a kind artwork on a wholesale basis several weeks ago. When I first heard the question, I thought “No”. But I’ve given it some thought and I think the answer is different depending on what you categorize as “one of a kind”.
“One of a kind” means different things to different people. Perhaps you make small felted snowmen ornaments. They are each different because they have varying facial expressions, different embellishments and colors. These could be classified as “one of a kind” but could easily be sold on a wholesale basis. You could figure out the time it takes to make one and price accordingly. Then these ornaments could be sold by the dozen or whatever worked for you.
Now consider “one of a kind” felted scarves. If the same methods were used to make all the scarves but they perhaps used differing fibers or colorways, each would be unique. You could make multiple scarves at once and perhaps use a rolling machine to decrease your time spent to make them be affordable enough that they would sell at wholesale.
But what if you make wool “paintings” or complex fiber art sculptures? As these types of work usually take an extended time to make and there isn’t a way to produce them in multiples, it will be much more difficult selling them on a wholesale basis. For example, an oil painter doesn’t usually sell his/her artwork on a wholesale basis. Paintings or fine art are usually sold on consignment in galleries. I have seen a few artists that make production work and sell on a wholesale basis try to sell their “one of a kind” sculptural pieces as well. It just doesn’t seem to work very well. Stores and fine craft galleries are looking for items they can buy in multiples.
If you want to sell your work on a wholesale basis, you need to be able to produce enough work to sell in multiples and fill large orders. If you aren’t able to do this with your work, then you need to develop relationships with galleries and sell your work on consignment. Even though you don’t get paid up front for your work, you will generally receive more money for your work on a consignment basis. As long as you work with reputable galleries, selling complex one of a kind artwork on consignment is the better option.
Today on Marketplace Monday, I have an invited guest to talk about Etsy and selling online. I don’t have any experience on Etsy so I thought it would be good to ask my friend Vicki to talk to you, since she has a successful Etsy shop. Vicki dyes the most beautiful fabric. She sells mainly to quilters but if you use any kind of fabric in your artwork, you should check out Vicki’s shop as her fabric is wonderful and she will even make a custom piece just for you if you can’t find what you need.
Thank you, Ruth, for inviting me here today. As Ruth knows, I am an Etsy seller and I love the Etsy platform so when she asked me to talk a bit about selling on Etsy I jumped at the chance.
I am not a felter; I am a fabric dyer and quilter and I blog at Field Trips in Fiber. I started blogging about my quilting, dyeing and other pursuits in 2006 and that eventually led to selling my hand dyed fabric. I opened my Etsy shop in 2009. As with anything it was a slow start but the business has grown steadily. After 3 years of selling I can still say that choosing Etsy as my platform was one of the best decisions that I have made.
Today I thought I would talk about three things. First we will discuss why Etsy over other sites, second I’ll share some tips that apply no matter which platform you choose and finally, I’ll discuss some tips for creating great listings.
Before choosing Etsy I had to choose to sell my fabric on a marketplace platform instead of a dedicated web site. That was an easy one for me. I do not have the time or money to manage a separate web site. I’d rather be creating than doing web maintenance. I consider the Etsy fees that I pay as a bargain for some fabulous IT support.
I chose Etsy simply because it is the biggest platform out there. There are other sites like Big Cartel and Art Fire and they are very good sites. But I want my fabric where the buyers are and Etsy gets more traffic than any of the competitors. Consider the following stats:
There are over 875,000 Etsy sellers. Yes, it’s a lot of competition but they are there because that’s where the buyers are. Most casual shoppers do not even know about any other sites for buying handmade and vintage items.
Over 2.9 million items are sold on Etsy each month.
Etsy is the most pinned site on Pinterest
If you want your items to be as visible as possible, Etsy is the platform. The challenge will be differentiating your shop and your products so that they do not get lost among the millions of other listings. Here are a few tips.
The biggest challenge on Etsy is getting your listing seen. Recently listed items will appear in the search first so you can list/relist often to keep your shop fresh. I try to have new items to list every week but when I don’t I will relist a few items just to keep something showing early on the search page. Selling hand dyed fabric gives me an advantage since there are not a great number of hand dyed fabric sellers. But if you are selling a popular item, like jewelry or art, then listing often is important. Etsy also feeds Google search so listing items frequently will move you up in Google search pages as well.
Also, make use of the search tags and listing name to help customers find your items. This is what Etsy uses to match your item to a search query. Use all 13 allowed tags on each listing and make them relevant. Try to consider the search terms that potential customers would use to find your item. Include colors and your name for people searching by artist.
Etsy also provides a lot of help and guidance to sellers. The Etsy Online Labs is full of great information and you can always get a question answered in the forum. You can also purchase Search Ads reasonably that will guarantee you a certain amount of front page visibility.
But you cannot rely solely on customers finding you through Etsy. To have a successful business on Etsy you must drive a lot of the traffic yourself directly to Etsy. About half of my customers are first-time Etsy customers. They have joined Etsy specifically to buy my fabric.
Think about who your customers are and where they might be. If you are selling art, your customers are not likely on other fiber art blogs. They might be hanging out on decorating blogs or homemaker blogs or even local interest blogs and sites. It’s important to find the customers first so you can tell them about your great products.
I get a lot of traffic from Google search and that has helped me identify other audiences for my fabric. I’ve sold fabric to a guy who wanted it for background for his aquarium, someone who wanted it for a speaker cover and to a lot of costume people and photographers. The costume and photography connection is one that I am exploring now for some advertising venues beyond quilters and fiber artists.
Here are a few things that I do to promote my hand dyed fabric. Maybe a few of them will give you some ideas for your own art.
My blog: I focus at least 2 posts each week on my hand dyed fabric. I usually have a “New in Shop” post mid-week and I have a post each Sunday highlighting possible quilt layouts using the current featured fabric palette. I also highlight blogger who use my fabric. Many of them are kind enough to post links to my shop and blog. Two in particular provide some of the best advertising possible and it’s free although I make sure to give them some free fabric from time to time.
Advertise on other blogs. This is a tricky one. It takes some work to find just the right sites. I have tried in vain to attract the “modern” quilters to hand dyed fabric. They simply are not ready to go there but I found a craft-centered blog where my advertising is finally paying off. In addition to advertising I periodically sponsor a giveaway on the blog to bring my products front and center.
Sponsor contests and giveaways on other web sites and blogs. I sponsor quilt contests on quiltinggallery.com and usually sponsor the semi-annual Blogger’s Quilt Festival. Some require payment and a donation but often you can find ones that only require you to provide a prize.
Advertise in publications. I advertise in several magazines. It’s not inexpensive but it does work. Make sure your ad is not too busy but is graphically strong enough to attract attention.
Offer to write guest posts on other blogs. People often need a break and will welcome an opportunity to have a guest post with a topic relevant to their readers.
Even with the great search features of Etsy, you will get most of your business from the traffic that you drive there yourself. You may not be able to invest in advertising from the beginning but there are a lot of free ways to get some exposure and traffic, especially on the web. Find the blogs and web sites that you think your customers are reading and start approaching them to provide content. Make sure that the content is relevant and beneficial. It’s usually best to not make it all about your product. Maybe it can be a free tutorial using your product or some care information for the type of art that you make. All it takes is some research, writing and a few emails.
You have traffic, now what?
OK, so now you have customers knocking at your virtual door you need to get them to buy something.
There is nothing more important than the photography. People can’t touch and hold your item in your virtual shop so you need to do it for them. Colors need to be accurate, they need views from all sides (when appropriate), and they may need to see the item in use or to see the scale of the item.
Check out other listings that you like and make note of the photography. What draws you in? Be sure that the image is clear and lighted properly. No one is going to buy an item that is not photographed well.
Etsy allows you up to 5 photographs on a listing. Use them! You could show alternate colorways, different sides or detail shots. If you are selling finished art, show it displayed as it would look in their home.
You also need to write a good description. Two things can help here. Read descriptions of other items for ideas of what to include and then get someone to proof read it for you. Preferably you can get someone who is the profile of your buyer to look at the description and photographs. If they have questions or anything is confusing then you know that you have something to fix.
Etsy also has regular Shop Critiques and I find them very helpful even if my own shop isn’t selected for a critique.
This is just a starting point. Once you have your shop set up plan to devote a day each week to promotion and maintenance. This will give you time to research the myriad of sites on the web that offer Etsy selling advice and to research advertising and promotion opportunities. It’s a business and it requires a lot of work but it will pay off in the end.
Thanks Vicki! That’s some great information. If you have any questions, for Vicki about Etsy, please leave them in the comments and we’ll get you the answers or answer them in a future post.
If you plan on selling on a wholesale basis, you will need to develop a catalog. Unlike buyers at retail shows, wholesale buyers expect to be given written information about your products as they won’t be taking any of your products back from the show. They will be placing an order to be sent at a later date.
I have been working with a program here in Montana called MAP (Montana Artrepreneur Program). The program focuses on developing a critical mass of market-ready artists through the work of cohorts (groups) of artists. In addition to paving the way for these artists to gain “market ready” status and move their work into larger, national markets, this program allows for small, regional pockets of artists to eventually grow into a network. Recently, I worked with Kris Kramer, a MAP participant, on developing a catalog, order form and terms for wholesale markets.
Kris is a jewelry artist whose pieces are 99.9% pure silver. You can see her work at her website. She has kindly agreed to letting me show you her catalog and wholesale information here so you can see an example of a wholesale packet that would be appropriate to give to a wholesale buyer. Just click on the PDF links to see her forms. Kris spent numerous hours working on her forms and made many different attempts before deciding on the best layout. Each person’s catalog and order form will be different but all should include certain items. You need good color photographs of the items you are selling. If a wholesale buyer takes your information but has no photos to remember your work, they may not return to place an order. When I am at a wholesale show, I cruise the entire show the first day and pick up catalogs of interesting work. If I’m not interested in a particular artist’s work, I won’t ask for a catalog. Then at the end of the day, I go through all the catalogs I’ve picked up and decide what to order the next day. Without photos, it is really hard to remember all the different artists I have visited. Photos are a must, in my opinion.
Other items that should be included in a catalog are wholesale prices of each item. It works best to have a price sheet separate from your photos because if the store or gallery wants to show a customer more of your work that perhaps they didn’t order or have run out of, they don’t want their customer seeing wholesale pricing. Your order form and price sheet can be one and the same. It should include a list of items which should note if there are different color options, size options etc. Your name or company name with contact information should be prominent at the top of the sheet. Include a snail mail address, telephone and any other way that buyers can contact you to place an order. You should either have a separate sheet with your terms or it can be included on the order form. Terms are how the buyer pays for the products such as credit card, net 30 or proforma as well as minimum order and reorder amounts, return policy and how shipping charges are figured. Many artists request to have the first order be paid by credit card and then offer net 30 terms with credit references. Net 30 means that you will send the order but won’t get paid until 30 days after the ship date or invoice date. Most wholesale buyers expect net 30 terms. Proforma means that the buyer will send a check and once the check clears, the products are shipped.
Try to keep your wholesale information concise and as short as possible. Buyers do not want to have to page through multiple pages and your items should be organized so they are easy to find. If you have lots of items, listing what page the photo of the item is in the catalog on the price sheet is very helpful. It is also good to offer a package deal. Make a couple of packages of your products, one at your minimum opening order and one about twice that much. This makes ordering simple for the buyer. So if you have 6 products that you are selling, the package might include 10 of a lower end product and 2-3 of each of your other products. This gives a the buyer a nice set of your work to sell without having to pick out individual items.
Selling on a wholesale basis takes work to get started but many artists like the freedom of only having to do 1-2 shows per year and then being able to work in their studio the rest of the time filling orders. Again, as I have said, you need to have the production of your items worked out so that is feasible to sell wholesale. One of a kind products that take many hours to make generally are not suitable for selling on wholesale basis.
Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have and let me know what else you would like to learn about marketing your work.
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.