Multiple selling options make a business successful and offer unique opportunities to craft artists. Retailing, wholesaling or selling in both manners provides artists with the option of working at a volume level with which they’re comfortable and with the income and lifestyle they want.
Retailing can be a positive experience, but it also has its challenges. Two significant yet unknown factors in retailing are how much money will be made at each show, and how many shows are necessary to achieve an artist’s financial goal for the year.
Other major challenges include knowing how to produce high-quality visuals and getting accepted to desirable shows. Well-known shows with a reputation for fine work often accept only a small percentage of applicants.
Retail artists are often faced with difficult consumers. It’s not unusual for attendees at craft shows around the country to question the difficulty of the work, or the sensibility of the price. The plethora of imported products has produced an expectation among many consumers for low prices.
Wholesale craft and gift shows present a powerful outlet for marketing work to an array of retailers. The shows give artists ready access to buyers from department stores, gift and specialty shops, interior design firms, galleries, gift catalog companies and museum shops.
Wholesaling can offer business stability. By accepting orders from wholesale buyers, an artist can plan their work schedule and know their annual income. Wholesale shows can be excellent vehicles for artists who prefer to work in the studio rather than in a retail selling environment. At wholesale shows, an artist needs to bring only a sample of each product offered.
A challenge for wholesale studios is determining how many accounts to have in one area to ensure exclusivity, and at the same time to showcase as many products in a line as possible for increased sales. Another is to determine how much time to devote to the wholesale line, which for some artists brings in less money per item than retailing.
Many artists sell both wholesale and retail successfully, and it’s not unusual for wholesale buyers to attend retail shows. Selling both wholesale and retail can have added costs and challenges such as the need to produce two catalogs and create two pricing structures.
In the end, only an artist can make the decision that’s correct for them, because what makes retailing, wholesaling or both an appropriate venue for an artist depends on one’s personality, work style and goals.
To determine whether wholesaling, retailing or both are viable marketing options, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you enjoy meeting the buying public?
- Do you enjoy talking about your work?
- Do you enjoy educating consumers about the intricacies of your craft?
- Are you prepared to defend your prices?
- Can you handle comments from people who question the difficulty of what you do?
- Can you make enough items to keep your booth well stocked for the duration of the show?
- Do you handle stress well?
- Do you have the energy to interact with people for several hours a day and for one or more days in a row?
- Do you have the stamina to exude a positive persona when business is slow?
- Do you enjoy making new designs and products frequently?
If you’ve answered yes, retailing could be for you.
If you answer the following questions in the affirmative, you might want to consider wholesaling:
- Do you prefer to be away from home only occasionally?
- Do you enjoy taking orders and making many of the same item?
- Do you prefer to let someone else sell your work to the public?
- Are you prepared to offer credit terms and minimum order requirements?
- Can you provide product sheets and price lists?
- Can you meet deadlines and commitments?
- Do you have the stamina and personality to be businesslike and professional several hours a day for several days in a row?
- Are you serious about your business?
This is an excerpt from Approaches for Retailing and Wholesaling: Is there a difference? in the February 2008 issue of The Crafts Report. “Carmen” dress by Sandy D’Andrade.