Part 2 Selling Wholesale to Galleries, Gift Shops and other Retail Locations
It’s a real compliment to any artist when a buyer recognizes your hard work, professionalism and creative flare and shows interest in selling your unique creations in their retail store or on their website. But to be successful, you have to be prepared to sell your hand-crafted wares at wholesale prices. Due to the increasing cost of buying and getting materials, plus the time consuming task of producing hand-made goods, making money while selling wholesale is challenging at best. But, if you’re a savvy business minded artist, you can do it.
Selling wholesale has its advantages.
1 Create a buzz. The absolute best endorsement any artistic career can hope for is a third party recommendation. You can go on about your awards all day long, but you’ll never really be taken seriously as an artist. Now in contrast, have someone else say you’re a great up-and-coming star and suddenly everyone is attracted to your work. People start to pay attention; they take notice and show more interest in your artwork. When a gallery owner dedicates valuable shelf space (or wall space) to display your work they’re telling their customers, loud and clear, that they believe in you. They admire your talent and would be honored to have your work in their own personal collection. It’s a huge complement; you can’t buy that kind of advertising.
2 Cash flow. Galleries and gift shops buy in multiples, often purchasing items by the dozen, which increases your sales. They also tend to carry a variety of different pieces from the same artist. They group the items together in their store to make a greater visual impact that’ll entice their customers to buy. Once a gallery commits to carrying an artist’s series they stick with it. (Provided you deliver what was promised on time and on budget, of course.) And therefore, you can expect repeat orders on a regular basis. And, when you come out with something new, it’s likely they’ll want to inventory that as well. Once you establish a relationship with a gallery or gift store buyer, you can count on more consistent cash flow. You can take that to the bank.
3 Work in series. A series is a group of companion pieces that share a similar theme. A good series has items that are sold at several different price points. The larger items draw attention to the series, while the smaller items make up the bulk of the sales. The advantages to working in in series are numerous. The most obvious, it simplifies production and therefor reduces the cost of making your handmade products. For the buyer, it streamlines ordering and simplifies merchandising efforts. For the customer, it builds trust in the artist by showing confidence in your own unique style, long term commitment to the craft and consistency when it comes to construction.
4 Point of sale charm. You’ve heard the phrase, the whole package. I refer to it here as the extra steps you take to make your artwork retail ready so it stands out from the rest of the clutter. Point of sale refers to prominent places in a retail space where high volume items are displayed such as the end caps of isles, or on/near the sales counter. These products are merchandised/marketed to make them hard to resist. The goal it to increase spontaneous sales. These products are presented in such a way that they look complete: ready to use, ready to display, or ready to give as a gift. There are several inexpensive ways to boost the salability and also increase the perceived value of your work. (See my last post for more info on perceived value.)
Add packaging. A ribbon tied cellophane bag is great way to add charm to bottle stoppers or ornaments. A box makes a candle or small dish more appealing. Include a romance card. This is the Hallmark card version of an artist bio. It’s a romanticized description of the artist and artistic process and possibly the artist’s creative vision. It should be disgustingly mushy. It gives the potential buyer insight into the charmed life we artists live. If you’re not good at BS-ing, trade a piece of art with someone who is. C’mon we all know a person who can really, really fluff things. Maybe they write real-estate descriptions. You know, they write cozy, fixer upper when what they really mean is rundown, money-pit.
Years ago, I overheard a friend talking about an artist. I thought wow, that sounds like a really accomplished artist. I was impressed. Then the friend pointed to me! Yikes! I looked behind me to see who she was talking about. No one was there. To this day, I don’t think I live up to her exuberant description of me, but I keep trying.
She wrote my first bio over 25 years ago and I continue to use her opening paragraph today.
My Bio Opening
Lisa Vogt is an award winning artist. She became interested in glass while pursuing an education in fine art. For Lisa, working in glass allows her to draw upon her fine arts background and own sense of style, drama and whimsy. She combines a historic medium with innovative glass techniques, for limitless design possibilities.
Here's my Romance Card, also written by a friend
Lisa Vogt finds peace in the quiet moments she enjoys surrounded by the beauty of nature. Located in a pastoral setting in sunny Florida, her private studio is nestled beneath century old Live Oak trees. While tending to the fourteen kilns of her studio, Lisa is often interrupted by the sight of spotted fawns drinking from the bird bath in her garden or the sounds of wild turkey preening through the palmettos. Themes of nature and her personal interests of gardening and cooking are often woven into the fabric of her work. For more than 25 years, Lisa has been expanding her body of work in glass art.
Her home and studio are located north of Tampa Bay in Wesley Chapel, Florida, where she resides with her husband and daughter.
Can’t you just see me skipping around my studio in a hoop skirt singing, Over the Rainbow?
5 Pricing. The reality is, when buyers bring your work into their gallery or shop they’re advertising you. They dedicate valuable retail and website space to display your hand-crafted wares. They handle and inventory your babies like any other product. And so, they have to make money on the sale of every item, including your pride and joy. When pricing your work, keep in mind the wholesale price will be more than doubled to cover the replacement cost, shipping, handling, marketing and overhead (rent, payroll, utilities… the cost of doing business).
A $3.00 or $4.00 item may retail for $9.95. An $11.00-dollar item may retail for $24.95. A $16.00-dolalr item may retail for $36.00. A $500.00 item may retail for $1,200.00.
Don’t be discouraged by small ticket items; they add up. A $3.00-dollar item will be sold by the dozen making the sale $36.00. And it’s unlikely the buyer would bring in a single item. They either like your stuff or they don’t. It’s likely they will order 4 dozen, $3.00 items boosting the sale to $144.00. Do that with several galleries and you’re in the money.
Unlike retail customers, wholesale buyers aren’t moved to purchase by a popular price point. Instead, their focus is on the wholesale prices as it compares to the perceived value of the artwork. Can they reasonably, more than double their money, and make sales? It’s your job as the supplier, to make sure they can!
You are business partners, give them the tools to SELL!
You’ll do well to consider the gallery or gift store your business partner. Make every effort to give them the tools to sell your art. Voluntarily supply an artist bio, high quality images of your artwork, care / cleaning instructions for your work, display guidelines if applicable, assembly instructions if appropriate etc. Offer whatever you can think of to set yourself apart from all of the other outstanding artists they represent. If you’re an easy to work with professional, they’re more likely to favor your pieces next time they have shelves to fill.
Creative Slumping with Lisa Vogt
Next week! August 30, 2016, September 1, 2016
Join me for this new webinar and learn how thinking outside-the-box and using readymade molds in new ways, offers numerous and exciting opportunities to produce unique forms.
Hands-on, 4-Day, Glass Fusing Workshop
Advanced Glass Fusing with Lisa Vogt
October 18-21, 2016
Personalized Instruction, 4-Day, Hands-on Workshop
Lisa’s Private Studio, Wesley Chapel, FL
Seats are limited. Register today.
This is my last hands-on workshop for 2016!
Check out the video here