Are you wondering if it’s time to begin exhibiting your work at trade shows in order to get your art into more shops and galleries? I think it comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions.
Does each of your pieces require significant hands-on time and do they have to be your own two hands or can you get help with some of the process? For example, you design and create all the components for your line of jewelry but you pay someone to do your soldering.
Do you handcraft the original and then make reproductions such as art prints or metal casting?
Are you ready to seriously gear up your production when you receive a lot of orders?
How quickly can you fill those orders?
Do you have access to someone to handle the administrative tasks such as billing, shipping, receivables, ordering supplies and tracking inventory?
The idea of picking up several new accounts and writing huge orders may sound appealing but you have to be ready to gear up your business rapidly. The costs involved in exhibiting at a major trade show are significant and you have to sell several times the amount of your expenses and be ready to rapidly transition from cottage craft business to serious enterprise.
Many craftspeople dream of getting picked up by Sundance Catalog or Nordstrom. It’s an exciting prospect but be careful what you wish for. In order to fulfill mega orders and satisfy your new big customers, you are going to have to purchase supplies in much larger quantities and hire staff or outsource some of the administrative tasks and assembly. Do you have the cash flow to purchase those supplies and hire the helpers you will need? Or will you be floating on credit cards and soliciting labor from friends and family in the early stages? Will you require a larger workspace?
I’m not trying to frighten or discourage you from branching out to wholesale trade shows. I’m just letting you know that along with the notoriety and big bucks comes some big stress and financial risk. If you’re not sure you’re up for it yet, there’s nothing wrong with the slow and steady growth model. You can thrive by building your business a few loyal accounts at a time. When you are ready to take the leap, go with Godspeed.
As we head into the trade show season, even if you aren’t selling your crafts wholesale , you should plan to walk at least one show. If you can only attend one, I wouldn’t recommend you make it a craft show. I know that sounds like a contradiction since you are in the business of crafts but there are a number of reasons to know what’s going on in the general gift wholesale trade. First of course is staying current with trends. Even if you do vintage crafts or very traditional work, it’s still important to keep up with the trends. You also need to know if someone is knocking off your work, having it produced overseas and selling it for a fraction of what you sell it for. The likelihood of of getting the copycat to cease making it is questionable and you obviously aren’t going to lower your prices to compete but you should know that customers are seeing similar work at import prices. You may be able to tweak your line just enough to make it obviously handmade and you definitely will want to have other additional lines that aren’t being seen in mainstream shops.
If you are considering wholesaling your work, visit several different trade shows and as you walk the aisles, notice which booths are busy, who is writing orders. What do the artists who are writing the most orders have in common? Read more
This past weekend, my friends went to a western shop in Dodge City, Kansas, expecting to purchase some handcrafted “Cowgirl” jewelry. Disappointed, but not surprised, they found everything they picked up was made in China. Thankfully, my friends are conscious shoppers and didn’t buy imports believing they’d found authentic American cowgirl goodies. But how sad that the shop owners, like retailers all over the US, stock their quaint shops in historical buildings with imported knock-offs when there’s an abundance of authentic, handcrafted merchandise they could carry instead.
I appreciate that a sole proprietor of a small shop in Kansas may not want to spend the money to go to one of the semi annual wholesale handmade in America shows,though, I’d argue that smart sourcing is money well spent. Even so, a savvy retailer doesn’t need to leave her home town to find some of the best metal smiths in the US. She only has to peruse one of the online American-made sites that are strictly for the craft trade.
(a great one is wholesalecrafts.com)
The fact that so many boutique owners don’t know this tells me there is even more of an opportunity for you, as artists and crafts people, to get your authentic work in the hands of the buyer and show her how your quality is better and that it hurts her integrity to sell chinese imports in an American western shop. So,find a shop where your product is compatible, and make sure the owner/buyer knows you work. If you make wearables, wear them ALWAYS, give them as gifts and ask everyone close to you to wear your work whenever they might be around the people who have the buying influence. And make sure everyone has plenty of your contact cards in their pocket. There’s a right and a wrong way to approach a shop you’d like to place your work in. The first impression will make or break your likelihood of getting your work into the galleries of your choice so be sure to download your free craft marketing tips from http://www.craftbizblog.com. We’ll also expand on this topic so, stay tuned for more info on our summer teleclass series.
While the majority of my clients are now reporting excellent sales, I am getting inquiries from other crafters saying they are getting hits on their sites but that their work isn’t selling as well as they would like. Normally I would first evaluate their marketing. If a site is getting lots of hits but no sales, it’s possible that there is something weak about the site itself, not the aesthetics, necessarily, but likely, the marketing funnel. However, a comprehensive marketing analyses is very time consuming and while I am generous, I am so busy with my paying clients, I can no longer spend hours with an individual who isn’t a client. Still, being curious, I couldn’t help checking out their sites.
We all know that you can make the most gorgeous product but if it isn’t marketed correctly, it won’t sell. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how great your marketing is if you don’t have something people want to buy. I know, this is common sense, but there is much more to having a marketable product than its’ being beautiful or functional. I decided it was time to take a look at what these crafters are making. Maybe there was a common product factor among those who were not making money with their craft. Bingo! Those who were reporting slow or no sales mostly had lovely crafts but their products all had one thing in common. Read more