I know how you feel because for many years I did one of a kind or a
few of a kind pieces and consigned them.
I bought all the materials, I did all the work, took the risk and
the gallery made all of the money.
As time went by my line evolved into more of a production line but I
still felt the same way at net 30.
One particular gallery owner was always trying to back my prices
down because he felt the retail price ended up being too high. I was
insulted every time he tried to get me to take a buck or two out of
my end of a $20 wholesale pair of earrings, which would have to come
out of my paltry starvation level labor charge, while he had $20 or
more worth of markup to play with.
My attitude softened a bit over the years as I got to know many of
the gallery owners better and learned more about the economics of the
In 1999 my wife and I opened our own gallery. We sell our own
jewelry and the work of about three dozen other artists and jewelers.
We mostly buy outright. We do some consignment and some of that is
at 60/40. Most of our 60/40 consignment is pottery.
It costs us $210 / day to open the doors. That’s rent, utilities,
labor for one full time and for one part time employee, insurance,
alarm service, etc. We don’t do any advertising. My wife also gets
minimum wage for 20 hours a week at the store. She works about 40-60
hours a week on the business. I get no wages.
If I sell a $100 vase the artist gets $60. Our daily average so far
this year is just over $700 so that sale is approximately 1/7 of our
gross for the day. That means 1/7 of our daily nut of $210 ($30) has
to be covered with that sale. Almost all of our sales over $50 are by
credit card. There goes almost another $3. A string bag, bubble wrap,
a handout about the artist and you can figure another $1. That’s a
total of $94 already spoken for, leaving me with $6 before taxes.
Never mind the occasional breakage or theft. We have to REALLY love
something to take it on at 60/40. If that was how we did all of our
business we wouldn’t have lasted two months.
If that vase was 50/50 we would be left with $16. Not huge, but 2.66
times what we get at 60/40. This is the difference between life and
death for many galleries.
I know that the solution is to keep upping our daily average to over
$1,000 and more and that way that $100 sale will need to cover much
less of the daily expense. But in the meantime I don’t think our
situation is all that unusual and we are taking advantage of no one.
Because we also sell things we make ourselves and other things that
we can mark up 100% or sometimes more than 100% (thank God for the
Tucson shows) we can make a living and afford to have some fun
offering other things we love in a business model that most regular
businesses would not even consider.