Do you have a plan for marketing your art / products to galleries? Have you given it a thought? Like all things involving a business, a written plan is always a start. That is what several mentor coaches encouraged me to think of.
When we first began seeking out galleries and shops i must admit i did not have a plan. I was just thrilled that a shop would take on our products. But good business thinks beyond that, and considers a number of factors. Here is a brief list of criteria/factors i use to plan which galleries to approach:
1. Geography – Where is the shop, and how close is it to my home/studio, or to other galleries my work is in? The plan is to fan out around the area, not concentrating in one spot, but offering our customers closer vantage points to purchase our goods. Taking a more detailed look at the area is helpful – does the area bear a strong amount of small business retail?
2. Target Audience – We know that for our soap it is the young professionals and women who are concerned about eliminating chemicals from their health and beauty products. For the silk the audience is a more fashion conscious, upwardly mobile group who know and understand textile arts. It would be a miss to position my silk in a shop that does not attract high end fashion people.
3. Terms of Consignment – Shopkeepers generally have a basic consignment agreement that clearly lists their terms. Among the terms include their right to arrange and display the products, and what percentage they will take for commission. When we started the common amount of commission was 30% however it is not uncommon to now see that rate as high as 50% of sale price. I personally will not go any higher, feeling that giving half of my retail price away is a difficult and painful choice.
4. Terms of Payment – This is a critical one. When and how will we be paid when our goods sell. Reputable shopkeepers will pay on a monthly basis, at a specific time of the month. We love those galleries that send the check by the 5th of the month for the previous month’s sale. Included with the check is also the inventory of sales. I must tell you that when i have not nailed down the terms of payment there has been frustration, confusion, or lack of payment. One gallery we were in for a short time made a large amount of sales in June, but did not pay me until the end of August… floating the funds for 3 months.
5. Reputation – How does the shop rate in the reputation meter? Do other artists clamour to tell you how great that shop is? Or are there hints at problems like slow pay, or not merchandising your products? Dont make this the full weight of your decision, but certainly don;t rule out what others have to say about the gallery, or the shopkeeper.
6. Knowledge of the market – How well does the shopkeeper know their market, what sells, and what will not sell? How familiar are they with their clientele? Do they know if their clientele will buy your products? We enjoy one of our gallery owners so much… when you walk into her shop she tells you immediately how viable your products are and what will sell, and she has proved to be highly accurate. She knows her clientele… and she knows what will sell. Knowledge also comes from having been in the trenches as an artist, having worked the art fairs, and grown through the ranks to know the market, and the subtle shifting of the economy, and how this will affect the business. Hard to find experts, but they are out there, and when you find one they are also a mentor and an advocate for your best interest too.
7. Communication style – we welcome open communication, with a willingness of the shopkeep to be open, honest, and clear on what they want and need of us. Providing feedback on what needs restocked is a critical skill that makes our relationship work well. We have also experienced shopkeepers that say “well just come in and assess this yourself” which leads us to wonder if they even care what is in their shop. So ask questions about communication style – find out how frequently they check with you, or want you to check in, and try to determine if they do best face to face, by email, or by phone. Any of these methods will work – it is just finding that comfort level of what works for them and you.
8. Do you feel a comfort level with the shopkeeper? Because you are entering into a business arrangement you need to think about the comfort level dealing with this person. I have found that those little personality quirks can be overlooked, but if i find myself in a hackle before we pen our signatures on a consignment contract that might be the signal to run away.