Moving Forward: They want my work!
Congratulations! You’ve done your research, reached out to shops/galleries, and someone has expressed interest in carrying your jewelry! That is fantastic news.
So, what now?
First off, you’ll need to get some details squared away. Most importantly: will you be doing consignment or wholesale?
There are benefits to doing both, though most artists prefer wholesale, so we will focus on that today.
When selling wholesale, there are a few very important things:
· Be sure to set up your Terms and Conditions: This sets out the minimum order for the first order, and what your policies are for subsequent orders. For instance, some artists require a minimum of say $1000 to start, and no minimums for re-orders. Others require $1000 to start and $300 minimums for re-orders. It really depends on how large of a practice you have, and how you like to work. If you recall in one of my previous posts, my old minimum for starting orders was $300 with no minimum for re-order. This worked for my wholesale prices. If your wholesale prices are averaging $200, you’ll want a higher minimum so that the retailer ends up with a nice collection of your work to start with. Some artists even require a quarterly or yearly minimum, generally to ensure their product is regularly available to customers (this also ensures they have that income they can count on).
· Be clear with your Policies: These are different than Terms and Conditions in that they affect the continuing relationship. For example:
a. How do you take payment? Do you do Net 30, Credit Card upon ordering, or Credit Card upon shipping?
b. Do you require a specific mark-up? This is generally done to ensure the value of your product is the same across the field. I have only seen a couple artists require a specific mark-up, but others do provide a “suggested retail price” which is helpful to retailers.
i. Note: every shop is different, and will have a different customer base dependent on location, wares, etc. It is shocking, however, when there is a huge disparity in retail price. I have seen a competitor nearby carrying the same necklace we had in store and it was priced about $300 higher than ours. Perhaps they have the customer for that price tag.
c. Do know: it is not your job to police what retailers are selling your jewelry at. If you see that it is being sold at a lower value than you sell at though, there should be a discussion.
d. Do you accept trade-outs? Often, if something is not selling in a shop, the owner will request to trade it out for something new in the next order. What is your policy for trade-outs? Is it 1:1, 2:1, etc?
i. (These numbers refer to the value of what is being traded out versus what the purchase is in the next order. For instance, if a shop wants to trade out something worth $200 and you have a 2:1 policy, that means they’ll need to purchase $400 worth of product in the next order, which really nets you about $200 plus the returned product.)
e. Do you do repairs? Is there a cost? Do you require an RA# (Return Authorization) for repairs? If you have policies for cleaning jewelry (whether its customers or store stock), this is a good place to list it.
f. Referencing this last point—is there a warranty on your work? 1 year, 10 years, etc. What does this warranty entail—free repairs, free replacement of stones, etc?
g. What are your shipping costs? For artists shipping larger or heavier work, this is often a percentage of the order price, like 10%. Other artists use a specific carrier and have a pretty standard shipping cost. Providing this to your retailer can help them assess what they’ll be spending.
h. Are your retailers allowed to sell your work on their website? If so, are there any specific issues you want to address?
i. What is your production lead time? This changes throughout the year depending on the season, so make it clear in your policies. Send reminders to retailers as these change.
These pretty much cover the essentials with policies. Note: Each artist is different and will have specific requirements relating to their work that the retailer and/or customer should know. It’s best to set these out at the beginning so both parties know where they stand. As policies change over the years (for instance, repairs on certain items), those issues can be updated. As always, communication is the key to success.
Now that you have these details together, include them in the “introduction packet” you’ll send or email to the retailer. This should ideally include:
· Terms & Conditions
· Line Sheets & catalog (even if they already have them)
· Lookbook (optional)
· Order Forms (if you use a specific one) or online access code and instructions
Send this off to your interested retailer(s) and offer to help with any ordering questions they have. They may order right away, or they may wait to get closer to the next big season. Be sure to tell them what your current lead time is for production (is it 2-4 weeks? 6 weeks? Or do you have specific ship dates?) so that they can plan on when they’ll receive it and order accordingly.
Once again, you’ll be playing a bit of a waiting game. However, this is a great time to work on building inventory, and reaching out to more retailers! The waiting period applies to this process again—if you don’t hear from the shop in a couple weeks, feel free to reach out, make sure they received all documents, and again offer to answer any questions they may have.
Next week, I’ll go over consignment details for those artists selling on consignment. It can be a controversial subject but I’ll keep at as cut and dry as possible!
Next up: Episode 6, Consignment: The Good, The Bad, and How to Succeed.
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 those written by people with degrees and successful businesses.