Looking to sell your work wholesale?

Over the years I’ve been asked by my fellow artists for advice on selling their work wholesale. I’ve finally typed most of the info I know up, and hope it may now answer some of your questions about getting into the wholesale market. I personally don’t sell much wholesale anymore, except for a few accounts. I began to get burnt out on being my own salesperson AND manufacturer of cards. I’m back to actually painting again! 

Who do I sell my work to, & how do I find them?

It’s important to research the type of stores that will sell your work. Take some time to begin with driving around locally and grab business cards for stores that sell items similar to what you’re selling. It is very important to find out who the BUYER for the store is. Many larger stores like Powell’s or Made in Oregon have buyers for specific kinds of products; (i.e. card or paper buyer, soap and lotion buyer, glass buyer, etc.). Try to schedule a short appointment to meet with the buyer, as they are often very busy. If you can’t get an appointment, at least send any materials or direct any phone calls to the correct buyer’s attention. Look in the phone book and online under what kind of stores you’re targeting; Gift Shops, Card Shops, Book Stores, New Age Shops, etc.

 

Let them find YOU.

A GREAT way to really find out about what goes on in the wholesale world is to do a wholesale trade show. This is a show that only licensed buyers from stores can attend. The idea is that they come to place orders, not simply buy a few things like a retail show. Some of these shows however, do offer “cash & carry” which means you are allowed to sell product there, in addition to taking wholesale orders.  All you need to bring to your booth is a nice, clear display of  “samples” of what you’re selling. They  place orders for their store to be shipped or delivered. Western Exhibitors puts on their big shows in Portland (PGS), Seattle (SGS), San Francisco (International Gift Fair and Cash & Carry), and the International New Age Trade Show (INATS) in Denver. The Portland Gift Show is held every January and Every June, and is a great way to start – because it is the smallest, cheapest,  and least overwhelming of all the shows. They offer discounted booth spaces for new artisan vendors that for a fraction of the regular cost. They even have a special area for these vendors called “Artisan’s Avenue”.  For more information go to their website at: http://www.weshows.com or call: 415.447.3223.

 

 

What do I need?

*In order to start your business, If you haven’t already, you have to register as a business with the state, and open a BUSINESS checking account. You can’t really hide from Big Brother anymore when selling goods to other businesses. All the information you need for that can be found at: filinginoregon.com. A& E (Arts & Entertainment) Tax services are a  GREAT place to bring your taxes to, and they understand the often unorganized minds of artists. http://www.aetaxservice.com, or call : (503) 228-0962 or 1-800-808-3204.

 

*You’ll need some sort of catalog (not portfolio) showing your work, possibly brochures, business cards, and a price list. Printing costs can get expensive, so I’m usually really greedy with my nice catalogs, and even charge $5.00 for them online. I then take the $5.00 off their first order. Make sure you list TERMS on your invoices and order forms. I came up with my terms by grabbing brochures from other small businesses at wholesale shows. Some inexpensive printers for promotional things: http://www.overnightprints.com or http://www.willywalt.com. I’m looking to bring my business to someone local, so please let me know about anyone here in town that you recommend.

 

*If you decide to start off with a wholesale trade show you will need a booth set-up and a BIG sign with your business name. Your booth is important because you will most likely only have a display space of about 4 by 8 feet. A buyer will walk past you in three steps and miss you if your display does not stand out to them. It is important to display your products professionally, and in an organized fashion. Label and price everything clearly, and avoid hand-written signs (unless you’re really good at making beautiful hand painted signs). The show staff will provide you with many display items for a rental fee, but usually you can purchase and own these items (like tables, shelving, racks etc.) for the same cost somewhere else beforehand. Buyers really like you to talk to them and explain your product. They actually expect you to engage them in talking about your product. A large sign that clearly tells the buyer exactly WHO you are and what you’re selling is important. Try to pick a logo, and overall look for your business and stick with it. Recognition is very important.

 

Do I need a Rep?

Nope. But you may want to consider one if you’re not good at talking to people, or if you are a very busy person. You will do much better if you are confident and professional about discussing what you’re selling. They say that you’re your own best marketing device because you know your product/artwork inside out, but I’ve seen many anti-social artists undersell themselves because they despise the sales end of what they’re doing. Believe it or not, there’s a ton of people out there who actually enjoy sales and will gladly do it for you (for a cut)!  So where do you find a rep? Well more often than not, the reps will seek you because they believe what you’re doing can make them a good deal of money, and they’ve already seen your product in stores or at a trade show. The only way that I know of how to go about soliciting a rep for yourself is on the bulletins at wholesale shows, and on http://www.weshows.com. Networking at these trade shows, of course, is very important if you are seeking a rep. Most reps will get around 15-20 percent of the sales they bring in for you. The only time you would pay them on an hourly basis like an employee is to do a wholesale show.  Otherwise they work on commission and only make money when you do. Many reps sell many different product lines that are similar. The nice thing about working with a rep that has experience is that they have a great working relationship with a large variety of stores and their buyers. They already have a foot in the door for you, through the other lines they carry. Reps can also get you into very large chain stores, so know your limitations. If you hand-make your products like cards for example, & you know you can only make 100 whatevers a week, don’t take an order from Walmart  who may order 2,000 whatevers a week.

 

Resources:

Since you are selling your work at wholesale prices, you’ll need to purchase your supplies on a wholesale basis to keep your costs down. Usually you sell your items wholesale for about half of what you sell them retail for. So if you make cards that retail for $4.00 ea, you want to sell them to buyers, in bulk, for $2.00 each.  Jewelry is often “triple keyed” which mans the buyer will be re-selling it for 3X (or more) what they pay you. So no more little trips to the little “bead store” where they charge triple key for their beads and supplies. No more buying six packs of blank cards. You’ll need to get on line and do research on buying these things in BULK. You will save yourself  a lot of money and increase your profit margin. It seems a little overwhelming at first to spend a lot on the large quantity minimums, but you have to remember how much $$ you’re saving in the long-run. Split large orders with other artists. I’ll share with you many of the resources I found for card and print items, but I don’t know much about other kinds of supplies.

 ~ DISPLAY: Grand & Benedicts:  grand-benedicts.com; 503.232.1988

~ BLANK CARDS: Paper Plus: 835 E Burnside, Portland: 503.238.3607.

~ MATTBOARD, FRAMES, PRESENTATION supplies: Light Impressions: lightimpressionsdirect.com

~ CUSTOM CUT MATS (bulk only): Documounts: 3265 NW Yeon, Portland, OR 97210. 800.769.5639

~ CUSTOM POSTCARDS, CARDS, MAGNETS: cafepress.com, overnightprints.com,  willywalt.com      

~ BOXES (small, for jewelry or boxed cards): RICE Paper Box Co: (303) 825-8287

~ PLASTIC JACKETS FOR PRINTS & CARDS: clearbags.com or associatedbag.com . Both of these companies carry a LOT more than the plastic jackets.

~ NOTE CARD DISTRIBUTER/PRINTER: Starshine Arts:  eternitysky.com

~ S.C.O.R.E.: A non-profit group of retired business professionals who volunteer their time and expertise in aiding small businesses to grow. They offer classes and mentoring on things like: Business Plans, Loans, Networking, etc: score.org or 1-800-634-0245

~DIY LOUNGE: Offers inexpensive classes on things like “Photographing your craftwork”, “Write a business plan Painlessly”, and “Copyright Basics for Artists and Craftspeople”.

diylounge.com

 

 

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One Response to “Looking to sell your work wholesale?”

  1. Fine Guide I will send this tutorial to some friends of me they are looking for an Article like this.
    Have a nice day,
    Peter

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