The Importance of Sell-Through

Sell-through refers to the number of goods sold by a retailer as a percentage of what was shipped to them by the manufacturer. In the world of handmade, “manufacturer” refers to you as the artist who is selling wholesale to stores and galleries.


Art prints for sale


When your wholesale accounts have good sell-through, you should be getting a reorder from them. (If you don’t get that reorder, you need to follow up as a reminder and nail down either the reason why or when the reorder will be placed.)

When you start wholesaling, it’s exciting to open new accounts. You create their order, and you ship it to them. That is to say, you have “sold in” to the store.

But what really matters? That the retailer is in turn selling your work to the public. If your line doesn’t sell, then you don’t have reorders. And if you don’t get reorders, you have a problem, because repeat sales are what grow your business.

Actually it is “sell-through” that determines whether your wholesale accounts reorder, and what they reorder. As an artist who is shipping out, you need to get information back in that will give you a very important look at what is working and not working in your line.

Sell-through and reorders tell you:

  1. What your most popular sellers are. Knowing this can give you a direction for future work that will perform for your wholesale accounts. You can start building whole collections based on bestsellers.
  2. What to recommend. This means you can be more valuable to your accounts by being consultative, and recommending products that will do well for them.
  3. What you need to discontinue. Work that doesn’t move off the shelves will be a drag to your customers, and should be replaced by better sellers.
  4. What you need to do to help your retailers sell more. If sell-through is slow, try sharing sales tips and pointers for your retailers’ staff members. Offer support, displays, signage and other sales aids to increase sell-through.

Gaining new wholesale accounts is important, but keeping them as a long-term customers is even more important. Pay close attention to the products that are working and not working, and tailor your line and suggestions to drive as many sales as possible. This enables you to be a good partner to your accounts and keep them for years.


Want to improve  your sales and marketing skills? The Arts Business Institute offers a comprehensive e-course “Marketing for Artists & Craftspeople” which you can find right here.

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