From a Retail Perspective, Episode 7
Details and Inventory Tracking for Consignment
This is a little follow up on my previous post, about how to consign your work successfully in a gallery/shop.
One of the keys to success when your work is on consignment is tracking your inventory.
That is, tracking 1) what you send TO the gallery, 2) what you sell and are paid for, 3) what is exchanged or returned, and 4) what has not moved.
Now, every gallery/shop is different. Some are very high tech and have barcodes and computerized tags for everything. Some are more analog (low tech) and write out paper receipts and don’t keep computer records. Others are somewhere in between. That’s why it’s important to not simply rely on the gallery/shop to do the tracking.
Just as every gallery/shop is different, so is every artist. We each prefer different methods and programs to track our inventory. Some people use Excel, others use databases or bookkeeping software, and some may use a paper-based system. It’s up to you. If you are curious about various software, I suggest asking artists you trust or posting to a group/forum if you’re so inclined. I, personally, use tables in Microsoft word and printed photos. But, I also work in the only shop where my jewelry is on consignment, so it’s pretty easy for me to track.
What’s important is this:
1. When you send work out, make sure that you keep a copy of the invoice/inventory list and photos of the items. Lay them out nicely when you photograph them (see previous post) so you know what is what.
a. One thing that helps both galleries AND artists is having item numbers for each piece/style to keep things organized. Mine look like “CCE001”, which stands for “Catherine Chandler Earring 001”.
2. When you get a check for sold items, it should be accompanied with a list of items that have sold. If it isn’t, call or email the gallery (I prefer email so I have a “paper trail” and ask for a list of items sold) and request a list.
3. Go through your list and mark off the items against your invoice/inventory list as sold.
4. If you notice that items have not sold in a number of months, you can inquire about them with the gallery—offer to trade them out, or just see how they’re doing.
5. You can always send an updated invoice to the gallery saying, “according to my records, you still have X, Y, and Z items.” Along with this, you can request that they send you a photo of current items in stock. This gives you a chance to see your display, too.
6. I recommend checking in on items that haven’t sold at least every six months. Especially if you haven’t seen a check in a while. Unfortunately, galleries/shops sometimes drop the ball when they change employees, or something gets forgotten and before you know it there are items missing that haven’t been paid for and there are no records for. It can happen, which is why you, as the artist, need to be vigilant about keeping track of your work.
a. Note: this does not mean you need to micro-manage the gallery/shop. Their goal is to sell the items in their shop, including your jewelry. Just check in regularly. If nothing else, it will build a good relationship with them and keep them on their toes.
I hope this helps with your journey into selling your jewelry!
Next up: Episode 8, The Importance of Checking in and Reconciling
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.