I’m getting ready this week for my only retail show of the fall. For me at least, it requires an entire change in my mindset. You might think ‘selling jewelry is selling jewelry’, but there is a big difference between selling your jewelry retail versus selling your jewelry wholesale. For those of you considering making the leap into selling wholesale, here are a few of my random thoughts on what you need to know:
1. Don’t even consider selling wholesale until you have had at least 3 years of retail selling experience. This experience could be in person (art shows and craft festivals) or online (etsy, art fire, your own site). Why is this important? You need to have a few things mastered:
- Your jewelry is high quality. It’s not going to break, fade, tear, etc. when the customer wears it.
- Your jewelry sells — and you know exactly what sells.
- You know how to respond to an unsatisfied customer.
- You (hopefully) have a business plan in place (along with the associated record keeping requirements) to allow you to keep things running smoothly.
These things are going to be points that a wholesale customer is going to want assurances on you being able to handle if you’re going to do business with them.
2. You need to be ready to ‘production line’ your work. Selling one-of-a-kind items is unlikely to work in the wholesale market. Wholesale accounts are going to look at samples of your work at a show or in a catalog and place an order. They want to know that the piece they order is what’s going to show up in days to weeks. You may also have to consider hiring someone at some point to help you get orders completed on time. Is this something you are willing and capable of doing?
3. If you’re not good at the business side of things, you are going to fail miserably at this. I have seen artists who do wonderful work, but fall short at wholesale because they can’t run the business side of their art jewelry. If you can’t handle it, then hire someone who can. You don’t want to miss orders, payments, follow ups, etc. because it’s just ‘not your thing’. On a side note, I have seen many husband and wife teams work together well in this fashion. One makes the art while the other runs the business.
4. Wholesale accounts are going to expect to purchase your jewelry at least a 50 percent discount of your retail price. If you are selling inexpensive items, it will likely be even more. Here’s a formula to make sure you are pricing your art jewelry fairly.
5. Find a wholesaling artist network. Join and learn as much as you can. There is no way I could have become successful at wholesaling all by myself. Being able to network with other artists has been invaluable.
6. It is hard to be successful at wholesaling and retailing your work. Why? There are a couple of reasons:
- The marketing plans for wholesaling is much different than retailing. These are two completely different customers!
- In my experience, wholesale accounts also tend to balk at purchasing from artists who retail, especially if you retail at online sites like Etsy. They look at you as competition for their own store.
7. Do you have the financial resources to let you get into wholesale? Having a booth at a retail show is going to cost you 10 to 15 times more than a retail craft show. You’re also going to have to do more sales volume because you going to sell your finished product for less. Businesses may also expect for you to extend them up to 30 days to pay for their order. Getting into wholesale is a serious investment.
So after reading this, you may be wondering why you would want to sell wholesale? Here’s why selling wholesale works for me:
Instead of going to dozens of retail shows a year, I only have to worry about a few wholesale shows. It’s hard for me to leave my family for multiple weekends, but I can usually manage a couple.
I can sell as much product and only work with a quarter of the amount of customers.
I’ve have developed making my wholesale line of jewelry down to a science. When an order comes in, I know how many days it will take me to make it. It’s a rigid schedule, but it’s what works to make sure the orders go out on time.
I don’t mind relinquishing the retail sales. I know if my wholesale accounts succeed, I will as well.
If you’re interested in selling your jewelry wholesale, here are a couple other good blog posts on the topic: