Interior Designers at Wholesale Shows

I know some of you fellow orchidians have experienced this, I just
don’t know how I should deal with it -

So, I am at a wholesale show last weekend, it was looking like a
slow show all together and then two women walk into the booth from
"J&S Designs"…obviously personal shopping interior designers
(who, in fact, were actually not really interior designers at all!).
My first reaction was to ignore them and I told them I would only
sell them a sample piece for 25% below retail. They were not happy
about this at all, but I didn’t really care because they were very
pushy and annoying - I didn’t pay to be at this show to cater to
these people who weren’t even supposed to be there in the first
place. Then one of the women pulls out an order form from another
jeweler and goes into this spiel about how they come every year and
they place LARGE orders with people at the show every year. Hmmm, I
feel like they were waving money in front of my face and using it
(because they obviously have a limitless supply) as a way to prey on
young designers to get good deals.

So I fled the booth. It was very…forceful. I didn’t like the vibe
I was getting from this whole interaction. I thought I had rid
myself of them, but, alas, they came back. They came back and said
they wanted to buy $1400 of jewelry and then some more later, I told
them we could set up an appointment in a few weeks. This would cover
the booth fee…tempting.

Now I am at a crossroads, do I sell to them just for the cash (I
really need it keep the business going) or do I ignore them
completely and uphold my moral obligations of not undercutting a
gallery I work with here that they admittedly shop at, when they
don’t get the deals?

There are so many pros and cons, I don’t want to get into it, but
really if they don’t buy from me, they will find someone else to cut
them a deal. But if they do buy from me, they might come back for
more, or their wealthy Beverly Hills housewife friends will the see
the jewelry and want some also, and then I’m giving deals to their
friends, and so on. I just don’t see my job as being someone random
ladies personal jeweler. This is new territory for me and I would
really appreciate some seasoned advice.

Thanks in Advance,
B. Brooke Barer

uphold my moral obligations of not undercutting a gallery I work
with here 

So, what’s the problem. You have an agreement with a gallery. It’s
not moral; it’s ethical. You seem to know in your gut what is the
right thing to do.


Wow, what a conundrum! I thought about your post for awhile. As
someone who tries not to generate bad karma in my life, I definitely
understand where you are coming from. If I were in your position, and
really needed the money to keep my business afloat, I would sell to
the women. The people who are really at fault are the ones who let
them in the door in the first place. Wholesale shows are supposed to
keep unqualified patrons out. Ultimately, some do get in, but that is
hardly your fault, and you did everything you possibly could to
dissuade them, you even walked away. I would make the sale because,
as you say, this will turn into more sales down the line. No doubt
they will be back for more and bring you more business through
friends and family members.

Augest Derenthal
Cry Baby Designs

Your obligations of not undercutting your local gallery carrying your
work is not just moral, it very likely is also legal. Double-check
your contract with the gallery - they will often stipulate that you
will not undersell their pricing.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)

As you may or may not know, I’m new to making jewellery but have
already started up a company whilst learning, so that I can get a
foot in the door of the business. I won’t start selling until my work
is up to scratch and I would be happy to buy it. I have attended one
trade show even though I am unqualified and will be attending another
in the autumn. I did not do this to abuse the system, but to make
contacts and have access to supply companies, without which I would
not even have been able to start in the craft. I was very honest with
everyone I spoke to and told them I was just starting out and
learning the craft. Everyone was more than helpful with advice,
catalogues, etc.

However, these women obviously were abusing the system and should
not have been let in. They are people who should be buying at retail
price. But for some of us, it’s the chicken and egg thing. To be in
the club you need to have experience, but to get experience, one
must be in the club.

I apologise to anyone who may think I’m opinionated, but I suppose I
am and I sometimes like to offer an alternative opinion.

Preston, UK

What an annoying and awkward problem to have! On the one hand, you
have people determinedly clamoring for your work at a price you’re
willing to accept for it (from a gallery). On the other hand, you
have a gallery with whom you have an agreement (moral, ethical,
and/or legal) and an ongoing business relationship.

Here’s one way to handle it that may help. Contact the gallery in
question and explain exactly what you’ve explained here. Tell them
that you do not want to undermine your relationship with them in any
way, but that you have a potential sale at 25% off retail and that
you do need the money to keep your business going. Ask the gallery
if these are individuals that they’ve done business with in the past
and whether they might be willing to partner with you on this
specific and limited occasion to make this much-needed sale at a
discount. The owner, if s/he is smart, may recognize the opportunity
to make contacts into a new set of clients and will work with you.

The other option would be to ask the 2 “designers” to host an event
(trunk show) at their “business” or home, to which they will invite
a stipulated number of friends/buyers. Their “thank you” gift for
hosting the event (at which you will presumably sell more items and
make more contacts for other retail clients) will be the 25%
discount off of retail price on their personal purchase, or better
yet, a small percentage of sales from the evening (say 5%?) that they
can apply as credit toward their purchase. I prefer the percentage
route because it gives the organizer incentive to invite people who
are actually likely to buy, rather than random friends who have no
real interest. If they are working for it in this way, they become a
pseudo-wholesaler which can make the thing a bit more palatable.

Hope this helps!
Karen Goeller

I guess I don’t understand the problem. If these people are buying
goods in quantity, either for resale or incorporation in another
product (their interior makeovers), why aren’t they entitled to
wholesale pricing?

The mechanic who fixes your car doesn’t pay retail for the parts.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


I am assuming you are a newby.

Let me tell you right now that this type of buying approach is quite
common. When interior designers sell product from the stores here in
my area “designers” or “personal shoppers” get 20% off retail. They
are not working for you and are not going to promote you… in fact
they most likely will tell people how cheap they picked up the
piece. If another person shows you sales slip from such jeweler that
sold to retail customer take it up with the show director…nip it
in the bud. No need to get upset, these pushy people think the
worse thing you can do is say no, so they will ask and tell tall
tales, so you will doubt your business ideal and ethics…stay the
course and remember they would not have come back if your goods
were’nt fabulous… hope this helps

lisa mcconnell

When interior designers sell product from the stores here in my
area "designers" or "personal shoppers" get 20% off retail. 

I’m sorry…I’m a little lost on the thread. Are these buyers people
who are in the business of buying for someone else? The term
“personal shopper” to me means someone who is in the business of
designing functional wardrobes for people who pay them to do so.
Isn’t this a business? If this is the case, why are the women not
qualified to buy from you? In effect, they are buying items from you
and reselling them to the women whose wardrobes they are

Why is it not good enough that the women had credentials enough to
get in the door? I have never sold at a wholesale show, only bought
at one. This was at the Javits Center in NYC and it was pretty tough
to get in in the first place. The guy next to me brought his business
partner/associate. However, the associate could not produce another
business card which bore his name. He couldn’t get in.

Would you mind if I asked the original poster what the name of this
show is? If someone doesn’t have to produce adequate credentials to
get in, it’s possible many on the list would not like to do the show?

I know I’m naive already, but I have been thinking on this a bit and
can’t see a situation where it would be to your advantage to notify
area gallery owners that there are women out there posing as buyers.
You are not undercutting any galleries by selling to people who had
adequate credentials to get into a wholesale show. If anyone needs
to do more due diligence, it is the show promoters

Kim Starbard

When interior designers sell product from the stores here in my
area "designers" or "personal shoppers" get 20% off retail. 

I think I get it now…boy, I am naive. So, 2 ladies get together
and get themselves a cheap business card and a resale license and
head to a wholesale show to buy their own personal accessories. Is
that it?

Avoidance of sales tax is most certainly a crime on the state level.
Federally speaking, I don’t have time to look it up right now, but I
would suspect they would receive a letter at some point in the near
future from the Fed inquiring as to, if they have registered a
“business”, where is their Schedule C. Is this fraud? I’m curious
and, most certainly, I will find out the answer when I get back from

I still don’t see any advantage to approaching the gallery to inform
them. The gallery owners are,no doubt, a lot less naive than me and
probably are already in the know.

What will they think of next?

Kim Starbard

When I sell wholesale I am expecting to enter into a long term
relationship with the buyer not just one sale. That allows me to
price my work at a different level than if the only sale I will get
from that buyer is at the show. Shows are expensive venues to sell at
with both the direct expenses and the fact you are not in the studio
working while you are at the show. The work sold at the show has a
high overhead rate to support, and if the work has to cary the load
of the all the show costs as well as the production cost it makes it
quite expensive. I do offer a “trade” discount that is a courtesy
discount to someone who is in the jewelry business but wants to just
order one or two pieces not become a retailer carrying the work. That
discount is 35% off of my retail pricing which I feel is a more
realistic price for a one off sale. When faced with personal shoppers
like the so called “interior designers” I explain the price structure
and some will buy at the trade discount and some will not but at
least I do not loose money on the sale.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


First get out your gallery contract adhere to it, they are your
target market and whom you chose to do business with- not the pushy
Interior designers, that i’m doubting are designing anyone’s Jewelry
Room in their home’s interior. use your brain here.

while money is among the ultimate temtations- you are, I’m betting
obligated to contact the gallery and let them know these people are
wanting rates lower than have been offered by the gallery ( if I
read your post correctly)

Contact the SHOW’S PRODUCER- Let them know their security is faulty
and that people not in the Jewelry resale business gained entry
falsely and bought at wholesale rates to avoid paying taxes (1) and
to undercut the retail they are supposed to pay for goods that are
not in their genre.

On the other hand, If your contract does not have ANY clauses
regarding selling to these people. . then the choice is yours-
However, if your instinct tells you something’s wrong, they are
pushy, (they are “they”, not a single enterprenuer) then avoid them,
and explain that you do not do business unless it is within the
Jewelry Industry or that you have already made all the sales
arrangements you care to service for this fiscal year and Invite
them to submit an application for an account that is net 30 with the
appropriate references and that your staff will be contacting
someone in their organization after processing it, and if and when
there are any sales opportunities available for carrying your line.
you might throw in a clause about them not carrying anyone else’s
line unless sales exceed 500, 000. 00per quarter. that should get rid
of them. if you wnt to deal with them in the first place. . you
didn’t pay a show’s producer to let anyone not in the business and
not thoroughly screened for verification of their industry in to the
venue. go with your instinct and the contract(s) in place.

R. E. Rourke

Contact the SHOW'S PRODUCER- Let them know their security is
faulty and that people not in the Jewelry resale business gained
entry falsely and bought at wholesale rates to avoid paying taxes
(1) and to undercut the retail they are supposed to pay for goods
that are not in their genre. 

'Cause if they aint in the club they should pay more. How is selling
one-off’s wholesale? I guess I’m just not capable of comprehending
why being a member of the club means you get a lower price, or even
the right to buy something in the first place. I understand quantity
discounts and buying in bulk (which is my, perhaps misguided,
perception of the concept of wholesale), but that does not depend on
a secret handshake -its basic economics.

Robert Kyle

The thing is, if the wholesale show is all crafts, it may be
legitimate for the interior designers to be there. They can look at
lamps and pottery and all sorts of things to use in an interior
design. But jewelry is not really part of their business. Since they
are art-minded people, though, they just can’t resist looking at and
wanting the jewelry. And yes, they do bring friends sometimes who are
not in any business, stating that they are assistants.


Why is it not good enough that the women had credentials enough to
get in the door? 

I was wondering about this, too. There are wholesale shows and then
their are wholesale shows. If, as I suspect from the timing of the
original post, the show in question was the Los Angeles Gift Show,
then you can expect qualified buyers of all stripes, representing
anything from bookstores to gourmet food shops to gift counters at
car washes to jewelry and fashion boutiques to…personal shoppers
and interior designers, etc., etc. -

Qualifications to receive a buyer’s badge are stringent. “Guest”
badges, to bring along a friend who is not a proven employee, have to
be purchased and are very expensive. Once they have passed the
qualifications gauntlet to get into the show, attendees are free to
wander anywhere and everywhere. No one is restricted from any
specific area of the show. There is even an area designated as “cash
and carry” allowing onsite purchasing in addition to volume ordering.
It becomes up to the individual vendors to tailor their own
qualifications for ordering/selling, such as establishing minimum
order requirements in volume and/or dollars. But in the instance of a
multi-purpose event like the Gift Show you have no issue with the
organizers if someone “inappropriate” should visit your booth.

That said, if it is a show specific to the jewelry trade and someone
in an unrelated field approaches you with an Attitude and a resale
number ( hers, her friend’s, or her husband’s), that’s a different
story. I did a certain “wholesale only” jewelry and fashion
accessories show once, years ago, as a test. Questionable buyers
turned out to be a very big problem generating a lot of blow back
from angry vendors toward the organizers for their sloppy screening.

These “personal” shoppers can hog attention, waste your time, and
suck the oxygen from the booth before revealing themselves and their
interest in “for now” purchasing a single pair of earrings only, at
cost, with promises of much bigger business later…or not. Meanwhile
that legitimately worthy wholesale buyer for the lovely chain of high
end boutiques tires of waiting for your full attention and decides to
come back later…or not.

For my part, test results in, I wrote the show off; once was plenty.

Quite simply: the jewelry trade is not the interior design trade…

There are a lot of “producers” -and i use the term loosely- that
simply rob vendors/jewelrs/artists/of entry fees for ill-advertised,
remote venues, no screening of entrants, and a lot of tax evasion.
For instance one show I bought into about twenty years ago (1988-or
89) was letting anyone into the BtoB wholesale venue it was supposed
to be. turned out the "producers " were a baptist church and
therefore a non-profit and pocketed all the money collected from
steep fees (1800.00) for a three day event ( most vendors packed up
after no real businesses showed in a day and a half) and to top it
off, each day opened with a PA system prayer. .if that didn’t make me
edgy enough there were folk going from display to display
distributing, or rather littering tables and displays with bible
tracts. Producers should be held responsible for advertising and
screening buyers period. or what are jewelers paying for to set-up at
non-trade (MJSA, JCK, AGTA, Merchandise Marts, American Crafts, etc

It appears these interior designers are wanting to buy jewelry for
themselves and friends at a discounted price. They’ll probably
chortled over it later with a glass of wine-how they conned you into
selling jewelry below retail.

I wouldn’t sell to them…unless they can prove they have a brick
and mortar store where the pieces are going to be resold and they
are going to be repeat customers. Someone else said it…jewelry
buyers are not interior designers.

I’d talk to the management of the show and get more info about them.
I think these designers have a lot of cojones to continue to push
you on this deal when you’ve clearly said “no.” The bullying tactics,
and makes it all the more suspicious.


Qualifications to receive a buyer's badge are stringent. "Guest"
badges, to bring along a friend who is not a proven employee, have
to be purchased and are very expensive. Once they have passed the
qualifications gauntlet to get into the show, attendees are free to
wander anywhere and everywhere. 

Sorry this response is so late. Just catching up on everything!

I too am assuming that this was the Cal Gift show. I was there and
saw Brooke and her beautiful work.

Margery, unfortunately times have changed and it’s really really
easy to get into Cal Gift as a buyer. All you need is a wholesale
license (they don’t even check it, it can be forged, I’ve known
people who have done so) and a business card that can be printed on
your computer. They no longer charge for extra passes. I know lots of
people who get in on “borrowed” credentials. Or get in with a friend
who has a business.

And to all those who mentioned talking to the show promoter… well,
I’ve been doing that for about 2 years now! They don’t seem to want
to do anything to change their qualifications. I think they just
want bodies in there, whether or not they own shops or real
businesses. I do think it’s hard for them to discriminate between the
legitimate interior designers and the “personal shoppers”. There were
times when exhibitors were selling cash and carry out of their
“wholesale only” booths, and show management did nothing to stop it,
even when other exhibitors complained.

I know the kind that Brooke speaks of. They have an “interior design”
business on the “side” of their real job and they are really just
looking for bargains. These are not the type of women who will buy
these products at retail anyway. And Brooke is right. If she doesn’t
sell her jewelry to them they will not purchase it through a retail
store, they will just find something else they like at wholesale.
They don’t want to pay retail, and they won’t. This is not a
judgement on them (I don’t like paying retail, either), but I’ve had
“personal shopppers” at that show who have flat out said that I can’t
sell to them because there’s a store in their area that carries my
work and I would rather that they do business with them.

Now, with that said, here’s a story… Every so often I do sell to
some of these ladies. I’m having a bad show, a good day, I’m tired,
I’m feeling generous or they’re really nice or it’s a nice day, who
knows my reasoning, but sometimes I agree to it. It’s my policy not
to, but every once in a while I break my own rules.

So, I sold a healthy order to a woman and her teenage daughter who
live in an area where there’s no retail stores that carry my
jewelry. A month later this woman calls me for a catalog because her
teenage daughter works in a store and the owner wants to see my work.
I offer to send it directly to the store and the woman said that she
had been getting many compliments from my jewelry and was hoping to
show it to some stores to see if she could get some orders for me.
She was grateful that I sold the jewelry to her and her daughter at
wholesale. So, trusting her, I sent her two catalogs.

She has picked up 4 accounts for me in the last year! She actually
writes the orders herself from the catalogs, using the pieces she’s
bought as her samples and faxes the orders in. Of course I’m giving
her a %, which she usually just applies to more jewelry. She
understood that she was getting a deal on the jewelry and that I had
made an exception for her and was grateful and respectful.

Long story, short (I know, too late!): Brooke, I say trust your gut.
If you feel pressured, don’t do it. If you feel like it’s wrong,
don’t do it. If you like them and want to cut them a deal and you’re
not worried about your current accounts in their neighborhood then
do it. I’d be worried that they might brag to someone inappropriate
about the discounts they get from you. It’s a touchy situation, you
don’t want to jeopardize your current accounts. And, you’d have to
charge them tax if they don’t have the right credentials. Then
that’s more work for you…

Good luck,