Wednesday, 25 January 2012

FAQs: Top Tips for Stocking Shops

I still remember the awesome feeling I got when I was first approached by a shop owner that wanted to sell my work. Wow! A real shop that wanted my work in it? Things just got SERIOUS!  Now not so much. I love to be asked and it happens a lot, it's still great, but I don't always accept.

Hannah Zakari Edinburgh - super awesome shop to stock

Having your work in a shop is super rewarding. Once I went into Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge and felt like a celebrity! But putting your work in the wrong hands can leave you out-of-pocket or with your reputation in ruins...

Here's my advice on what to consider when stocking a shop:

Terms: Wholesale Vs Sale-Or-Return (a.k.a "consignment") Vs Rent-A-Shelf

My preference would go in the order above.

Wholesale: Per piece, I get a smaller fee, yet I have a higher minimum order value and get paid upfront. Cash in my pocket, jobs a good 'un.  It also says that the retailer is confident they can sell your work and have a turnover that allows them to buy in bulk. Because they have bought the pieces, it's their job to shift em, and they can put them in the sale and even sell at a much higher price than you would do. They may also choose not to use your packaging and use their own, so you may not get credit for your work, but these are things you can iron out when you schmooze with your stockist person.

Sale Or Return: Per piece you get a better fee (they will take 30-50%), but you only get paid if it sells.  That's cool by me, my work sells, it seems win/win for the stockist and the designer, and it also means that the stockist has to put in some welly if they want to make ends meet. The only problem is keeping track of who has what stock if you have a lot of stockists on this basis! Time to exercise your spreasheet skillz.

Rent a shelf: Just say no! I can see how a rent-a-shelf basis might appeal to a new maker as their first stockist experience.  It might be just the kudos you need to get yourself another stockist on better terms (a bit like your Saturday fast-food job experience helping getting a full-time job, but you wouldn't want to work there longer than three months!).  On these terms the proprietor doesn't really need to put in the legwork to sell stock because they make ends meet with the rent you pay.  Because established makers wouldn't usually entertain these terms it also means the standard of work in the shop might not be up to scratch, and priced badly (which will affect the perception of your own work).

♥ Word of mouth recommendation
If you have a network of maker friends or are a member of a forum, why not ask if anyone else knows of the stockist? Do they pay on time?

♥ Pop in t'shop - be private investigator!
Is it clean and tidy? Does the assistant say hello? Is there a clear price point, theme and standard of work being sold?  Would you be proud to see your work in there?  Are people looking around?  Are they genuine buyers buying things?  It might be worth popping in at different times of day to get a good idea.

♥ Do they have a website?
Is it well designed? Is the photography any good? Again, would you be proud to see your work on there?

♥ The Spiel: Go with your gut
You might get given a sales pitch.  Should you really need it?!

My decisions are based on different values and opinions to what other designer's might be.  For a start, I don't rely on the money from my designs to live, which allows me to be a little... snobby! It's not all about the money! I'm always a great believer in quality, not quantity, and I won't get walked over. If a stockist doesn't pay up, I get out.  If I have had a bad experience with a stockist I might also tip off my networks - share the wealth (absolutely not the correct phrase to use here).

Hope this has helped! Remember, if you have a biz-related question that you think I might be able to help with, just ask, and I'll see what I can do...

Anything I missed off? What tips do you have to share for stocking shops?


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Unknown said...

Great article, Rowan, full of good advice. I made many of those mistakes when I started out!

Dolly Cool Clare said...

Great post Rowan! I absolutely 100% will do nothing else but wholesale now. Too many bad experiences with people not paying, damaged and 'misplaced' stock on sale or return. Its exciting to get your stuff in shops - but not so exciting to deal with the above! Wholesale is job done, money paid - everyone happy! :)

trickywoo said...

Very helpful Blog, I am new to the craft market but am really enjoying making my own cute purses and hope to get my name out there in 2012, I've recently joined Etsy and hoped this may be a good place to be for the moment and see what happens...thanks for the tips - trickywoo xx

Anonymous said...

I've had dodgy dealings at all those levels inc wholesale but think they all also have merits.
If SOR and rent a shelf (after all this is what etsy basically is)is also somewhere you can work, meet clients etc, (if you work from home this can be a godsend), and it's a community feel, so not just paying for the owners bills and all have a say in running and equal weight, then it can be a good way to experience running your own shop and speak to customers, hear feedback etc Just make sure those in there think the same as you and the work is as good as yours/similar pricing and it can be a happy relationship, it's only if someone takes the Michael, either owner or stockists, trouble occurs

Marthaamay O_o said...

Nicely shared :)

Michele said...

Couldn't agree more about the 'rent a shelf' part, I don't touch it with a bargepole... might as well flush money down the toilet! Michele x

Anthea said...

Great advice - just remember if you supply wholesale to do a pro-forma invoice - that means the supplier pays up front for the goods. Offering 30 day credit terms may help you sell to more retailers but you then have to rely on the retailer paying up at the end of the 30 days. As a small retailer in these challenging financial times I can assure you it's not always that simple...

Andrew Clark said...

Very usefull advice, but each aspect has to be seen as having it's own merits and disadvantages to.
"For a start, I don't rely on the money from my designs to live, which allows me to be a little... snobby! It's not all about the money"

The position and perspective of the craftperson determins how the various pro and cons balance out. After Rent a shelf is in many respects no different from taking a stall at a market.

Many things are different if you are working to make a living and not as a hobby.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the feedback. The blog was written with the part-time maker in mind and I do state quite clearly that my values are different to others because of the nature in which I work (part time).

'Hobby' it may be, and through choice. It's a supplemetary income that is run as a professional entity. I choose not to reply on it as my income due to personal circumstances. I have never led anybody to believe anything different and I am quite open about my day job which informs how I run Kitschen Sink.

Notably, a lot of positive feedback above, in forums and via Twitter/Facebook has come from people who DO run their business full time.

I don't personally think that renting shelves is sustainable and I have never met a person who has made a profit from doing so.

sweet trash said...

Great advice! Rented a shelf before xmas- never again. It cost way too much for so little space and was such a hassle to get back.

Swirlyarts said...

I've never been approached by a venue wanting shelf rent but I have seen schemes about. Most of my work is SOR but I have had a couple of wholesale orders too which to be honest, I prefer :)