Where and how do we sell our crafts? The professional crafter can sell to two distinct sections of the buying chain. The first is to sell to a middleman or buyer in a wholesale setting. The second is to sell directly to the final consumer in a retail setting. The two markets have different pros and cons. The professional crafter must decide which category best meets his or her company’s needs.
Wholesaling provides the crafter with an outlet for selling large volumes of goods to a specific buyer. As a company you can establish minimum buys by quantity or dollar value. This allows the professional crafter to better manage his/her cash flow and inventory. Most large wholesale accounts are is normally done at a trade show many of which are located throughout the country at gift marts. Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Los Angles, San Francisco, Chicago, Columbus, and New York City are home to the US based gift marts. Price structure is at the wholesale level. Gift markets are contacted for an exhibitor packet. This package includes exhibit fee, space allowances, display requirements, and other information that will allow you to put your display together. As well as permanent displays within a gift mart, there are special short-term markets set up within the mart with exhibitions displayed from 3 to 14 days.
Another option in the wholesale market place is to hire a sales representative who will display your work along with other product lines within that sales representatives display. Hiring a sales representative to sell your product means you will have to have product information, pricing, and brochures and finished products for the sales rep to have for each sales call. You must also consider that you must meet any production deadline the sales rep has to his customer. Are you prepared to have several hundred finished items ready within two weeks to meet a sales reps schedule? Sales reps usually work on a commission of sales they bring into your company.
Retail shows are known to most of use as the arts and craft show, but can also include seasonal boutiques, church and community bazaars, indoor or outdoor markets, and any type of program in which you display your own work to sell directly to the end user: the consumer or buyer. The retail market art and craft show truly started the professional craft industry, as we know it today. It remains one of the most popular and profitable market places for those selling handmade works.
One of the first questions a new craft professional have is what is the difference between a juried and non-juried show. The most basic difference is that in non-juried show one is asked to fill out an application, send in a show fee and admittance into the show is based upon a first come first served base until the show is full. In other words, once the spaces are filled no more applications are taken. In some cases in a non-juried show your work will be place beside imports also referred to as buy/sells. You may want to inquire upon application as to what type of works or products will be allowed on display during the show.
Juried shows on the other hand will not only require a application and booth space fee but also require photos or slides of your work and booth. They may also require a separate fee for jurying. This fee is usually required to pay for the judges’ time to review your work and is not refundable. The jurying process is to insure quality workmanship and in some cases to limit the number of crafts in a specific medium. For example, a juried show that has a hundred spaces may allow 20% for decorative painting, 20% for stain glass, 20% to the needle arts, 20% to ceramics, and 20% to mixed media. The idea is to kept variety in the show place and to equally spread the competition for the consumer’s dollar.
No matter if your market place is wholesale or retail there is some basic requirements in preparing for participating in shows. The first is to locate the shows themselves. Wholesale shows can be found through calendars and advertisements located in industry trade journals or contacting the gift mart directly. Retail or consumer shows can be researched by networking with fellow professions, calling your local chamber of commerce or using periodicals referred to as show guides like Sunshine Artist.
Before applying to a show the professional crafter should research the following items to see if the show matches his or her marketing needs:
- Show Fee
- Cost of travel to location of show
- Date and show hours
- Annual or first time event
- Group/community or promoter organized
- Whom to request a show application from
- Deadline for submitting application
- Refund policy / rain dates
- Indoor or outdoor
- Booth space size
- Electrical outlets if applicable
- Last years show attendance
- How the show is promoted and advertised
- Date they will be notified of acceptance
Generally you will be asked to supply the following information when applying to a show:
- Contact name, address, and telephone number
- Does Business As or business name
- Category of your work: jewelry, wood, country crafts, ceramics, etc.
- Brief description of your work
- Pictures or slides of your work and one of your display
- Show and award history
- Sale tax license or resale certificate
- Exhibit needs: canopy used, electrical required, handicap access
- Signature on statement indicating your work is original and of your own hands. Note many shows require the artist be present to display work
One of the most important elements of any show is your display. Displays can consist of simple to elaborate shelving units, tables (which should be covered) signage (if needed) and props. If doing an outdoor show it is highly desirable to have a canopy to protect you, your items, and the consumer from inclement weather. Since you do not have a store front it is important that you create a warm and friendly atmosphere that invites the buyers in. The easiest way to create this is to select a theme to use within your display.
In some cases it is easiest to select the season or holiday being celebrated. For instance, during the fall holidays your display can be created by using the colors of fall. Sprinkling colored leaves a sprig of mums or a few pumpkins around the display will add color and character to your look. As the season grows closer to Christmas switch over to whiter snow like motif. Or you may wish to highlight in your display the craft itself. For example, if your work is sewn or quilted you may wish to sprinkle notions such as buttons, wooden spools, pincushions, and thimbles around the display. The idea in creating a theme is to caught the eye of your potential buyer and draw them into your display.
Basic points to remember within a display:
- Create a theme or atmosphere that pulls the entire display together
- Any signage that you create must be clearly written, concise, and neat. On average the consumer will read three words per line and a maximum of three lines. Any more than that and you have lost them.
- Do not over crowd a display. It is more advisable to restock more frequently
- Display items that complement each other to increase the sale of both items
- Show the potential buyer how the items can be used or displayed within their home. This type of merchandising leads to add on sales. For example the customer will not only buy a doll they will also add the accessories of an accent shelf that the doll sat on and the mini quilt in its hand.
- Allow room for your customers to move
- Best displays are usually L or U shaped
Final considerations for show work include good planning, be prepared. If possible visit the sight before the actual show. Be well prepared with your inventory so that it is possible for you to get a good nights rest the evening before the show. Arrive as early as allowed and setup your booth or display and get ready to deal with the general public or your wholesale buyers. Clothing should be comfortable but professional. If possible wear what you make; you are your best salesman. If a nametag is not provided for have one professionally made or make one yourself.
The real key to successful selling is a positive attitude. The more preplanning and preparation you do will allow you to concentrate on your customers. A large part of selling hand crafted items really is selling yourself. Let your customer know the care you take to create your crafts. This can be done through verbal communication or a printed biography sheet. The bio sheet is simply a brief history of who you are and why and what you create. Always include contact information, name, address, and telephone number.
Check List of Items Need at the Show
- All display items: tables, Table covers, Shelving, crates, tools need to assemble display, chairs, and if allowed ice chest
- Inventory: priced, packaged, and ready to display
- Guest Book: This is used to build a mailing list
- Cash Box: Receipt book, plenty of coins and small bills, calculator, and a states sales tax table
- Needed Extras: Pens for writing checks, extra price tags
- Business cards and brochures
- Special order forms if applicable
- If applicable, a copy of your State Sales Tax License
- If using a canopy have a separate checklist of all items necessary to set up your canopy including all tools required for assembly.
- A handcart to carry items if needed.
- Sun, wind, and rain protection like umbrellas, sunscreen, wind blocks
- Comfortable clothing or costuming