From a Retail Perspective, Episode 8
The Importance of Checking In & Reconciling
I was originally going to continue the series with a post on communication, but this issue has been at the forefront of my mind lately.
Checking in and reconciliation are two different things, when it comes to consignment. Each one is very important.
Checking in involves exactly that—checking in with the store/gallery to see how your work is doing. I recommend doing this once every 1-2 months (at the very least, every 3 months). Send an email to your contact, such as:
I just wanted to check in and see how my jewelry is doing. How are sales? Are you getting any customer feedback? And, do you need anything from me? I’m happy to send new work in as my current stock sells. Please keep me updated.
Subsequent emails could be shorter, just stating that you’re checking in, to let you know if they need anything, and that you look forward to hearing back from them. If you don’t hear back from them within a week, give them a call to check in.
If you have not received any consignment checks within a 3 month time period, you should definitely check in.
Reconciling your work is a little more involved, but it is absolutely essential to ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Now, every artist is different—not everyone will do something like this, but I personally appreciate it when they do.
Reconciliation in this realm does not mean making amends with someone—it refers to checking your accounting against a store’s, to make sure that everything lines up and is in harmony.
Why is it your responsibility to reconcile your work? Because it’s your inventory! This should be done every 6 months, and at the very least once a year. So, how does one reconcile their work? If you have been tracking the items that have been selling each month against your own records, this should be pretty easy (Note: this is why it’s important to track sales of items on your end!)
· Create an inventory list of everything you have been paid for to date.
· Create another inventory list of everything you have NOT been paid for to date.
· (Note: “to date” can refer to “since the last time you reconciled”)
· Make copies of said inventory lists, and send those to the store/gallery. Ask them to check these against their records, reconcile any discrepancies (read: pay you for any unpaid items), to sign a copy and return that copy to you.
· I would give the gallery about 2 weeks to return the inventory lists to you. If you don’t hear from them, call them.
Why is this so important? Shouldn’t the store/gallery be on top of it? Well, yes. But, things slip through the cracks. People make mistakes and sometimes no one is watching or able to catch said mistakes. Retail has a high turnover rate, which means that sometimes duties such as paying artists or checking inventory may get forgotten for a period of time. Or, occasionally a gallery is unable to pay an artist, depending on how they handle their finances. Depending on the method of tracking sold goods, something may not have registered as being sold, or an item may have been stolen (it happens) and is not on the radar.
Remember that when you are consigning your work, that store/gallery has your inventory. You should always know where it is—you don’t want to realize a few years down the road that you never got paid for X, Y, and Z, and have to deal with it then.
If you have any questions, please leave comments below!
Next up: Episode 9, Communication is Key!
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.