Although wholesale buyers might be a mystery to many artists and craftspeople, they actually have many of the same concerns you do.
As an artist who would like to sell to retail galleries and shops, you need to know a few things about how buyers think so that you can work together with them effectively.
1. They need to stay in business. That means making smart decisions on ordering stock for the store, to maximize their sales. The merchandise they order must be appropriate in price point range, work well with other items for sale in their retail space, and fit their customer’s needs.
2. They need to make sure you are serious. Unfortunately, not all artists and craftspeople are reliable, and not all stay in business. Buyers may need to see you a few times to know that your own business is viable before they place that initial order.
3. They need new stuff. Unless a store is located in an airport or tourist destination, they most likely will have repeat customers who have seen much of their inventory, and want to know “what’s new.” You must continue with product development, offering new items, new color choices or a twist on your regular line. Artists who are successful typically offer 30% new work every year.
4. They need to have products shipped on time. Whether they ordered merchandise to arrive for an upcoming holiday, tourist season, or theme they are promoting, you must follow through. Christmas merchandise shipped in January won’t work – and the shipment probably will be refused. If your order will be late, call them as soon as you know. This is common courtesy as well as good business.
5. They have to manage their time. Getting unsolicited sales calls from artists is an intrusion on their busy schedule. They also feel frustrated when hearing from artists who haven’t done their research to know whether the store is even an appropriate place to carry their work.
6. They need your help to promote your work. Hangtags that tell your story and offer features and benefits help. So do brochures, artist bios that come with an order, displays that you provide, a list sales tips for their staff, and great packaging that makes your work ready to wrap, ship or pack into a suitcase. Email your gallery customers your best images for their advertising, too.
7. They have to deal with the unexpected. Sometimes a storm cuts power to their store, and puts them out of business for a week. Construction blocks their entrance, a death in the family takes them out of town, or an essential employee leaves. This means that as one of their suppliers, you need to stay in communication, and so does the buyer. Work with your accounts to make sure things run as smoothly as possible, and is a win/win for everyone.
8. They need to make tough decisions. For the health of their business, buyers must sometimes discontinue working with an artist if sales slow, or if there are other problems which are unresolved. Do your utmost to keep business relationships with your buyers on the best possible terms. If you do, you may find that you can do business in the future, or receive referrals to other retailers where your work may sell well.
We’re all human. Frustrations between artists and buyers are not uncommon, but there are so many similarities that there is plenty of room to find common ground. Working as partners in promoting and growing both of your businesses is a commonsense approach that leads to many great relationships, and even friendships.
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