Getting into shops - wholesale show problems

I have been trying to get into a few shops out of my immediate area
and am encountering a major problem. They seem to only buy from
artists and crafters that they meet at wholesale shows. I have found
some really great shops in my travels that I know my work would sell
and fit in very well buy when I send the head honcho my brouchure
after being encouraged to do so by the shop, I do not get a response.
I dropped into one shop recently and loved what they sold and the
sales girl loved the piece that I was wearing. when I asked about
getting some of my pieces inot the shop I was told that they rarely
take from outsiders and get most of their work from the wholesale
shows. I guess I haven’t found the right place yet but am still
looking (and I also guess I have to develope a thick skin.). I think
that it is great that they buy from wholesale shows but have also
noticed that many of these shops are selling the same stuff by the
same artists and are starting to look alike. Why do they seem to be
afraid to take the plunge with outsiders? I have thought about doing
wholesale shows in the future but really feel as a one man operatioon
(with a little help from my husband) I would have a major problem
trying to fill orders and still keep my day job. Do any of you do
wholesale shows and how do they work? I am thinking that you would
only be able to do a few a year or you would go nuts trying to fill
all of your orders. Right now I guess I am all over the place with
my business plan ( I have just really started out selling to the
public by word of mouth and a few galleries) and feel that there are
so many directions that I can take - major craft shows, artsy shops,
more galleries, the net, wholesale shows> I realize that i really
can’t do it all but would like to get my work out there a little
more. Thanks, Elle

Elle, I too have run into this problem of resistance. You hit the
nail on the head though when you said “…I would have a major
problem trying to fill orders and still keep my day job.” My “day
job” is making custom jewlery for 5 retailers and 3 designers. I
found that stores need to know that if they commit to selling an
artist that they can depend on them. How would you like it if you
found a great source for colored stones only to find that after you
have created a successful line of jewelry out of it you couldn’t get
it any more? Retailers go through this all the time with vendors.
They want to know you can keep up with orders. If a jeweler has the
skill, motivation, patience and ability to get into a major show then
they feel less likely that they’ll get burned. Is it worth it to go
to shows? I guess I’ll find out soon enough. I have my first
wholesale show this summer in Baltimore. My first show ever will be
an ACC show in Chicago the last week of April. I hope to be
successful enough to eventually move my shop to a larger location and
hire more help. As for jewelry getting to look alike…I think this
is a function of the individual store’s buying habits and them not
wanting to commit to anything that doesn’t have a proven track record
of sales…they know they can sell nugget jewelry so they get 1000
different styles of nugget jewelry! Besides, some stores don’t sell
innovative jewelry styles. At least they know what it takes for them
to be successful. Don’t worry though, there is so much out there
that is incredibly original it’ll make your head spin. But, it’s
sold in very innovative stores and there aren’t as many of those
types of stores (or customers for that matter I would guess).

Larry Seiger

Hi Elle,

Some of the ways to try and sell are:

  1. Try a sales rep.

  2. Ask the owner of a shop if they will take a few of your items on
    consignment for a specified period of time and explain you are
    starting out and you will be surprised at how they might help.

3.Don’t give up, keep calling upon more stores and galleries and
sometimes you can go back to a store or gallery that original said no
and they may change their mind. Keep knocking on those gallery and
art doors until you get the response you need., sometimes timing is

Good Luck,
Diane Sadel

Don’t get discouraged…try sending your brochure again to the
galleries and a letter saying you will follow up with a phone call to
the buyer…find out when the buyer are in. If you can handle
criticism and they don’t want your work ask very specifically why and
tell them you want to make improvements. Most gallery buyers will
take the time to talk to you…I own a craft gallery in Toronto and
have a lot of people dropping by unannounced, which is annoying, if
they are professional they will call and make an appointment. If your
work is different and good I can’t believe they would ignore it. Make
sure it is getting to the right people at that gallery. It would
probably be a good idea to do some retail shows…it will give you
feedback from customers and you will get some experience under your
belt. Wholesale shows are for people who can produce a number of
lines, have a catalogue, etc. There are 6 goldsiths who work at my
gallery and they are all at different levels from each other, one
just finished a wholesale show quite succesfully, one actually has
done"home shows" they all have been in retail shows in the summer…I
wish you good luck…PS make sure your photos are good quality …Lynn