How to Sell to Major Retailers, Part 4

Is thinking and selling big in your game plan?


Lisa Cottone of Franjuli Makes a Sale


Many creative entrepreneurs have sold their handmade work to chain stores and other large retailers. Experiences vary. This could be a major break that ramps up your sales and helps you move your business to a higher level, or it could be an exercise in frustration and learning the hard way.

Take these factors into account when you start planning to go big:

Consider all your accounts. Will selling to major retailers cause problems with your other wholesale accounts? Independent galleries and shops may understandably have concerns if your work is now available at their local large retail chain. Sometimes artists and craftspeople offset this by creating different custom collections for chain store buyers, perhaps a lower-end production line geared toward the mass market. This may be even be produced under another collection or brand name. Fashion designers frequently use this tactic.

Brand perception. What do you consider to be your “ideal market?” If you want your line to be perceived as a luxury item, you will need to consider which chains reflect that, so selling to a discount chain, for example, would be a harmful strategy. Ask yourself, “Does the large retailer’s brand and mission fit well with mine?”

Stay diversified.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Will your chain store accounts last forever? Probably not. In fact, you never know when a new buyer may be hired, and decide to discontinue your line. Or sales may decline, and reorders stop. Keep selling to smaller, independent shops and galleries and make sure your customer service is impeccable. This will stabilize your business and keep you going even if you lose a big account.

Plan your business for the lifestyle you want. Make sure your business plan synchs with the way you want to work and live. If scaling up production and selling to chains creates too much stress or requires you to work many more hours than is reasonable, it ultimately won’t be worth it.


Need to make your business and marketing plans? Check out ABI’s popular E-course “Marketing for Artists & Craftspeople” available now!


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  1. Thanks for the tips. I had a question about the concept of different collections and/or brand names to distinguish your products. Can you give me an example? Is this this covered in

    • For example, if you create a jewelry collection under your studio name, and wish to make a lower end collection (not the same designs, etc.) you could use labels that say “The Oceanic Collection” instead of using your own name there, and brand it as such so that the retailer is not selling it as your work to compete with other accounts of yours.

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