From a Retail Perspective, Episode 2
So, you want to sell your work in a gallery/shop?
Fantastic! Identifying that desire is one of the first steps towards successfully selling your work to a retailer (another is actually having work to sell). Here are some tips on how exactly to go about doing this:
· Make a list:
o Build a list of potential stores/galleries that you would like to sell your work in. Include the name, address, phone number, email, and any pertinent information.
· Research, research, research!
o For local stores: go visit them in person! (DO NOT BRING YOUR WORK IN ON THIS VISIT—I’ll get to that later.) That is the best way to get a sense of what they have in stock and whether your product would fit in, as well as price points and what their customer base might look like. Get a business card, and while you’re there, ask about how they select artists and who you can contact to submit your work.
o For more distant stores: look up their website, see what other artists they carry, and check out their social media.
· Take Note:
o Make notes on the list of stores you have visited or researched—not only about the artists they carry but also about the feeling of the store. Does it match up with your work? What would your work bring to the store? Is it different to anything they have, or is it complementary?
· Call first!
o This is assuming you haven’t asked them during your visit about whom to contact for submission. There is a method here:
§ Call the store; tell them your name and that you’re an artist of __________.
§ Ask them what the best way to submit work to them is, and the name of the buyer.
§ Most people will tell you to submit via email. They will generally expect some form of line sheets, which include photos and a price list.
§ Gather your materials (photos, pricelist, line sheets, etc.) and draft a nice email introducing yourself. Tell them a little bit about yourself, your work, who you sell to, how your work will fit in with the store (reference your notes!), and include these materials. Send that email!
§ Print out a copy of the email for your records, so you can remember who you’ve sent items to.
· Occasionally, for smaller stores, they will invite you to bring your work in and show it to them in person. This is fantastic! Be sure to present it nicely in trays or organizers, and have printouts of all relevant information handy—price lists, photos, line sheets, etc. If you don’t have line sheets, at least have photo examples of your work (some people create one-of-a-kind work but having photos to reference is key for future orders).
· Once you have emailed your submission, give it a few weeks. If you haven’t heard back, send a follow up email checking in. If you still haven’t heard back, wait a few months before emailing again. Some stores will respond, even if it’s a “not at this time” response, and others will just say nothing if they’re not interested. Try not to take it personally, and move on to the next store on your list.
· WHAT NOT TO DO: Under no circumstances should you show up with your work, UNINVITED, to show it in person. Store owners and managers have a lot on their plates as it is—artists showing up unannounced is disruptive, can interrupt sales in progress, and will most likely leave the owner/manager with a bad impression. In a word, it is disrespectful—of their time, knowledge and their process. (I have had this happen multiple times and it basically ensures that I never work with that person again.)
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing more with you.
Next up: Episode 3, Time to Submit Work!
Note: The above is the opinion of the author, built from years of experience and discussions with customers, shop/gallery owners, and fellow artists. This is not meant to be a formal guide into how to run a business--there are plenty of people with degrees and successful business who have written those books.