Wholesale: Questions to Answer

wpid-IMAG0418.jpgOne of those “growth pains” of any small art business is the realization that there is more to it than setting up shop at various events.  And one of the natural next steps of our business has been to contemplate the idea of wholesaling.  But to anyone who knows little about it there are a ton of questions to answer, and clarifications to be made.

What is Wholesale?  Simply put, it is an arrangement to sell your goods at a reduced price, in bulk through an agent, or situation that acts as your agent.

Why Wholesale?  There is greater opportunity to market your product to a more diverse audience, and perhaps go national.    Your agent will declare to you what their territory is.  Some will service shops in only one state, others represent a 5-8 state territory, and still others are national.

Cost? Wholesale can vary in cost… Choosing to hire an agent is going to be the most affordable way to go, costing between $100-500 per year with a small percentage of sales (2-3%).   The most costly is the all in wholesale experience… build the expensive booth, pay the high fees to be included in several wholesale gift/art shows, and then manage the orders.  Typical cost for a decent booth, and the rights to be there is between $4K-$10K and takes upwards of a year or two just to break into the market.

Develop your presentation – Great Photos, clear descriptions, accurate listing of ingredients, a solid press kit and proper labeling are all things you will need to have in place.  A web site or online presence with this information clearly defined is critical.  Set some standard for how you display your products.  We have chosen a black background, and in some cases added lace to make the background softer. Uniform use of font – choose an easy to read fond and stay with it on the website, and all of your documents.

Create a line sheet – A line sheet is a concise document listing each of your wholesale products, price, minimum quantity for order, turn around delivery time, and minimum reorder quantity.  Often your agent will assist with this process.  Lean on them for help when you have questions.  They are the experts.

Investigate and determine your shipping cost.  Know beyond doubt exactly what shipping will cost you for various items and quantities.

Be realistic on the ability to produce product, and to expedite orders.  It is better practice to indicate it will take 2 weeks and ship it in less than that.  You never want to do the reverse… set expectations that are reasonable for the recipient.

Do your homework – know who you are speaking with, how they rate with the better business bureau, how they perform in the wholesale market, and take the liberty to find out how other artists feel regarding the relationship with the agent.

And before you enter into a wholesale arrangement be incredibly honest with yourself.  Be honest about your capabilities, your capacity to produce product, and what volume you can handle.  Better to start small, and learn that you can expand your business, than to start too big, and falter.

So, Wholesaling is something on our minds right now.  We love the opportunity to present our products to a wider audience, and to an audience that would not find us at a small fair or festival in the Cleveland area.  We love setting up the display, and speaking with people, but want this business to grow in profitability – wholesaling will answer this need, we believe.

As a business we have been investigating this process for a while, and have several solid “irons in the fire” and as we have news we will post something here.  If you are an artist who is growing weary of the routine you have, and believe your product can be duplicated over and over, and wanted by the world… consider wholesaling.