From a Retail Perspective, Episode 4
Moving Forward: I haven’t heard back from anyone! (Or, I've been rejected!)
A quick note before starting: there are two major things that can happen at this point in the process—you get rejected or accepted by a shop/gallery. I’m starting here with the rejection, and will follow up in the next episode with being accepted. Read on!
You’ve done your research, emailed your submissions, have sent a follow up, and have yet to hear back from anyone. What do you do?
First of all, don’t take it personally.
There are a number of reasons that a buyer or shop owner may not reply. Let’s look at a few:
· It’s the wrong time of year.
· They’ve already spent their budget for the following season.
· Your emails weren’t received.
· Your jewelry just isn’t the right fit for their audience.
· Your price points aren’t the right fit for their audience.
· They aren’t sure that they have an audience for your jewelry (one reason consignment could be the way to go—more on that later).
· The jewelry is just too similar to another artist’s.
· It’s not their taste.
Those are just a few potential reasons behind rejection, but it all comes down to the basics: money, audience, season, and taste.
So, what can you do?
1. It’s the wrong time of year: plan your submission for a few months ahead of the next big “season”. Jewelry seasons basically revolve around certain holidays: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Graduation (a much smaller segment), Weddings (which then turn into anniversaries), and Christmas (the biggest season). In between those, it can get pretty slow but people do still shop for birthday/occasional gifts and little items for trips or “just because.”
a. Include in your email a list of the items that would make a great collection, and why they would be the perfect fit for that season and/or store. Do you make commemorative jewelry? Focus on that and why it’s great for Mother’s Day, Graduation, Gifts, etc. Do you make wedding/bridal jewelry? Big, chunky art jewelry? Be open and honest about who buys your jewelry and why.
2. They spent their budget for the next season: Try again in a few months, or the following year, but time it accordingly. Put it on your calendar, even.
3. Your emails weren’t received: This happens. Emails get overlooked or mis-filed. After your first attempt, follow up in two weeks. If you still haven’t heard back, follow up in 2+ months. If you still have not heard back (but you really like this store), put them on your mailing list—send them show cards occasionally. Give it a year and try again. See item 1, and time it accordingly.
4. Your jewelry or price points aren’t right for their audience: Trust that the buyer/owner knows their audience. Don’t challenge them—they spend each and every day working with customers, selling jewelry, tracking what does and doesn’t sell, listening to customer requests and complaints. If you truly believe your jewelry fits their audience, make your case (Have you sold it in stores nearby? At shows? Make sure you know you have an audience there), but don’t challenge them.
a. Case in point: An artist requested that we carry more of her jewelry than just rings. We have carried necklaces and earrings from her line in the past, but they took ages to sell--I’m talking 1-3 years to sell. That’s a long time for inventory to sit. However, her rings sell within months. So, we responded kindly, explaining that we simply don’t have the audience for those other items, and our experience with them. Part of the issue is the price points and our customers’ perceived value of necklaces and earrings, versus rings. She was very understanding. Sometimes, despite how much a buyer loves an artist’s jewelry, they simply don’t have the audience for it.
b. If your price points are the issue, don’t take this as a reason to lower them. You have spent time and resources on creating your jewelry and have priced them accordingly. You will find the right audience for them eventually (that audience might be down the street, across the city, or in another state).
5. They aren’t sure they have an audience for your jewelry: This is where consignment can be a great compromise. I will talk about consignment more in depth soon, but it is something to consider. You can write up a contract to do a short-term consignment, or something that will allow you to move from consignment to wholesale after a certain period. This allows both parties to figure out if there is an audience for the jewelry.
a. Case in point: We have an incredible artist who makes custom pet jewelry that we have had in store for years. It’s on consignment since it’s a specialty item and 95% special orders. I kept seeing her amazing jewelry (different than the pet portaits) on instagram and thought for sure that we had an audience for it. I invited her to send some our way and she sent a great collection. We sold a few pieces, but I was wrong about our audience. We moved that beautiful jewelry around the store, changed displays multiple times (this brings more attention to the jewelry), and over the course of more than a year only sold 3-4 pieces. We eventually sent the jewelry back (we still have the pet portraits) because I didn’t want to be tying up her inventory, and we needed the space.
6. The jewelry is too similar to another artists: This happens, and it’s not a big deal. There are millions of jewelry artists and many of them do make similar work. Move on to your next store. In fact, look farther afield—look in other cities and states. Get recommendations for stores from other artists in other places. You may be surprised!
7. It’s not their taste: Again, don’t take it personally. Not everything is for everyone. If you really, truly believe that you have an audience at this store or location, make your case. If you still get rejected, move on to the next store.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing more with you.
Next up: Episode 5, Moving Forward: They Want My 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 those written by people with degrees and successful businesses.