Basics of Selling Your Crafts Retail and Wholesale

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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

  1. All display items: tables, Table covers, Shelving, crates, tools need to assemble display, chairs, and if allowed ice chest
  2. Inventory: priced, packaged, and ready to display
  3. Guest Book: This is used to build a mailing list
  4. Cash Box: Receipt book, plenty of coins and small bills, calculator, and a states sales tax table
  5. Needed Extras: Pens for writing checks, extra price tags
  6. Business cards and brochures
  7. Special order forms if applicable
  8. If applicable, a copy of your State Sales Tax License
  9. If using a canopy have a separate checklist of all items necessary to set up your canopy including all tools required for assembly.
  10. A handcart to carry items if needed.
  11. Sun, wind, and rain protection like umbrellas, sunscreen, wind blocks
  12. Comfortable clothing or costuming

Basics of Becoming a Professional Crafter

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Advertising you craft business may be hard on your budget, but there are some simple and free ways to publicize your services and goods.

  • Understand your hobby will have to become a “business” to succeed.
  • Have a record keeping system; record all expenses and income
  • Check local and state agencies for proper paperwork needed like an occupational license or resale/tax exemption certificate.
  • Know what it costs to make your product…down to the penny.
  • Know how much time it takes to make your product…down to the second.
  • Basic pricing formula is (SUPPLY COST x LABOR) x OVERHEAD = PRODUCT PRICE.
  • Investigate your markets: Catalog, Sales Rep., Craft Shows, Co-ops, Consignment, Retail shops, Home shows, Direct Mail, Wholesale, Gift Markets, Gift Trade Shows, and so much more. What is the best one(s) for your specific product?
  • Learn how to buy supplies wisely. Be prepared to invest in supply inventory. Think ahead. Don’t except to be able to purchase red ribbon after August. Order your seasonal supplies at least six months ahead. Running out of supplies can cost you more in lost orders, than keeping the supplies on the shelve for a brief time before using. CreateForLess.com is a great place to find and order supplies.
  • If you are just starting, watch for sales and stock-up on the supplies you use the most.
  • Network with peers, always and be sure to give information as well as ask for information.
  • Watch for trends in color, motifs, techniques, home decor, and
  • Get involved in a local guild or join a national association in the craft or gift industry. You’ll keep up-to-date with outside sources for information.
  • Don’t get discourage. Successful business takes time, hard work, and enthusiasm.

Trending Jargon

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Classic: a trend that has survived over a long period of time; examples are “that little black dress” or the teddy bear

Color: a phenomenon of light or visual perception that enables one to differentiate identical items

Color Value: lightness or darkness of a color.

Consistency: the thinness or thickness of a medium

Contrast: the sharp difference between two colors

Fad: interest followed for a brief time with exaggerated zeal or craze

Hue: the name of a pure color or interchanged with the word color

In: current trend; for example, nostalgia is in

Intensity: color’s purity or strength

Lifestyle: broad view of an individual or society’s beliefs, habits, living, career, and home

Medium: material or surface being used; examples include wood, fabric, paper, clay, or plastic

Motif: another term for theme

Out: no longer a trend or fad;

Primary colors: red, blue, yellow

Secondary colors: mixing of primary colors; green, orange, purple

Shade: a color plus black

Technique: Skill being used; examples include weaving, cropping, photography, rubber stamping

Theme: subject, topic, or motif; examples include nature, family, or friends

Tint: a color plus white

Tone: a color plus gray

Trend: a general direction taken, a current style or preference, vogue; usually builds over a period of time as opposed to a fad.

Trending: trying to predict or examine large-scale popularity of a theme, motif, or item

Yesterday: same as Out

Keeping Track Of Trends

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Trends by definition should be techniques, motifs, colors, and supplies that grow in popularity over time versus a fad, which comes and goes in a blink of an eye. There are trends that are standing the test of time and should be taken into consideration when you are ordering, scheduling classes or demos, and planning your merchandise displays.

American lifestyles began changing as we entered the new millennium. Americans wanted more time to spend at home with family and friends. The tragedy of 9/11 and war brought this change in lifestyle to a new level. This change explains the popularity of many of our current motif or style trends. More often than not, these trends and themes represent a journey or visit back home or to childhood. Places where the consumer can relax and unwind.

  • Garden & Nature
  • Western, Lodge & Country
  • Simple Lines & Patterns
  • Collectibles like teddy bears and dolls
  • Quiet Blues, Greens & Browns
  • Roses, Bees, Butterflies & Dragonflies
  • Water Fountains
  • Sea and Sea Life
  • Family & Friends
  • Photography
  • Digital & Cyber Communication

Help In Finding The Trends

Lifestyles make up our trends, but lifestyles always change is subtle ways. How do you keep up with the changes? Here’s a basic list of ways to keep up to date. These basic tips are helpful to all of us in the creative industry.

  • Try to attend at least one trade and consumer show a year
  • Read scrapbooking and craft consumer magazines, as well as Craftrends Magazine and its exclusive MemoryTrends section
  • Watch the gift market
  • Read home decor magazines
  • Visit a local art and craft show for inspiration
  • Observe the displays in furniture and home accessory shops
  • Keep color, fabric, ribbon, lace, yarn, and other swatches handy
  • Keep a notebook and pen handy for quick notes
  • Keep a file system organized by themes like Americana, Garden, Victorian, and also by craft like paper, painting, jewelry, or dolls
  • Find the common themes and threads of what appeals to you … these are the trends

Exercise In Trend Spotting

Here is an activity you might try quarterly or yearly. Involve your entire staff and maybe a few of your regular customers.

  • Look through all types of magazines and catalogs. Cut out pictures and colors that catch your eye. Collect any photos available to you.
  • Divide a poster board vertically in half. On one side glue or tape down pictures and photos. On the other side, write: Colors, Textures, Objects/Themes, and Techniques, leaving space for you to fill-in with responses from observing the pictures and photos.
  • For example: You cut out a bright quilt, a family at a picnic, and an ad for Christmas toys. Colors: Bright, Bold, Red, Blue, and Pink. Textures: Soft, Warm, Flat, and Smooth. Objects/Themes: Home, Family, Outdoors, Fun, Pleasure. Techniques: Quilting, Sewing, Cooking, Woodworking, and Staining.
  • Place finished Trend Board above your work area and keep adding to it as the year goes on. It can be a reference guide when deciding new lines and updating current product lines.

A Few More Tips

  • Create an index box of ideas to develop … one idea per card.
  • Sit in a mall or visit stores and watch the customers. Look for common bonds or common themes.
  • Cut out appealing displays and designs from magazines and catalogs. Keep these clippings in a folder to review when you need inspiration.
  • Take a minute to review all new books and current magazines.
  • Talk with customers. What are the customers doing with the products they purchase? Did they find everything they were looking for?
  • Visit model homes in your community. Most are decorated by top interior designers who stay on top of trends in color, motif, and textures.

You Are The Expert!

Don’t let trends and trending overwhelm you. As a member of the creative industry and of your own local community you probably know more than any “expert”. Trust your instincts when selecting new products and incorporating new trends. Trends are to be used as guides. Trends let you know what is happening in the big picture and you need to use the trends to help in your smaller part of that picture.

Chart Your Own Trends

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Does a day go by that we don’t hear about the latest trends in the gift, leisure or craft industry? Yet, to most of us the new and exciting trends are beginning to sound like a broken record. Is there really anything new out there in craft land? Depends on whom you ask! Trends by definition should be techniques, motifs, medium, colors, and supplies that grow in popularity over time versus a fad, which comes and goes in a blink of an eye. There are trends that are standing the test of time and should be taken into consideration when creating your crafts to sell and planning your merchandise displays.

The strongest trend to consider is general lifestyle. The lifestyle of the consumer or buyer is too hectic and fast paced for comfort. This has brought a need for the good old days and a slower beat from the drummer. Our customers want to relax while browsing. The consumer wants warm and friendly customer service. Nothing promotes sales better than a smile and an answered question. Bottom line is that the consumer wants to enjoy his or her shopping experience and feel like his or her money was well spent.

Lifestyle changes explain the popularity of many of our current motif or style trends. The garden look. Western. Lodge and country. Simple folk creations. It can also explain the popularity of collectibles. Items like teddy bears, pigs, dolls, rubber-stamps, and hearts. These are all places and objects near and dear to your customer’s heart. More often than not, these things represent a journey or visit back home or to childhood. Places where they relax and unwind. No phones. No blaring TV or stereo. Just peace and comfort. There is no deep thought behind it nor any psychoanalysis needed. Memories of happy, carefree times are a large part of crafting and leisure activities.

A need for comfort also explains the high demand for home decor items. At one time this need to decorate the home was called nesting. The public was tired of going out and dealing with the grand scale rush to be entertained. The consumer who we all know is a crafter at heart wanted to stay home and be king or queen of the domain. The home is now viewed as an expression of self. A personal vision of the world at large. A house is just a house until it becomes a home. It becomes a home when the family decorated the walls, tables, and bookshelves. Personal and personalized.

Yet, if you are like me the question of exactly how to define home decor is an endless search in the dictionary. As a matter of fact, home decor isn’t in any of my dictionaries! Narrowing home decor down is a difficult task, but view it as anything that helps customize an abode. Wall hangings, floral pieces, pillows, lamps, towels, storage containers, quilts, desk arrangements, table enhancers, rugs, flowerpots, bookends, and more. In other words, just about any craft that pops into your head. The difference is in presentation. You have to show the consumer the setting. Show your customer how to decorate the home with crafts. Create a small round table complete with table covering and a floral centerpiece. A bathroom vanity with matching accessories from tissue holder to guest towel. Don’t forget a handmade candle or homemade soap. Give your consumer ideas.

Lifestyle makes up our trends, but lifestyle is always changing is subtle ways. How do you as a busy professional crafter keep up with the changes? Mind reading the consumer isn’t part of your talents? Paulette Jarvey of Hot off the Press presented a wonderful list of ways to help chart trends at a Society of Craft Designers Educational Seminar. These basic tips are helpful to all of us in the craft industry. Simple and easy to fit into the regular workday, you may find the ideas helpful in your plans for meeting the needs of your consumer:

  • Attend trade and consumer shows
  • Read the craft consumer and trade journals
  • Watch the gift market
  • Read Home Decor magazines
  • Visit art and craft shows
  • Observe the displays in furniture and home accessory shops
  • Keep color, fabric, ribbon, lace, yarn and other swatches handy
  • Keep a notebook and pen on your person for quick notes
  • Keep a file system organized by themes like Americana, Garden, Victorian and also by craft like paper, painting, jewelry, or dolls
  • Find the common themes and threads of what appeals to you…these are the trends.

Sharon Tittle of Creative Delights in Fresno, CA contributed a great idea that she uses to chart trends and colors. Sharon is a professional craft designer and Wearables Artist who designs and sells fashions from denim jackets to formal wear. Sharon’s hints to trending:

  • Look through all types of magazines and catalogs. Cut out pictures and colors that catch your eye. Collect any photos available to you.
  • Divide a poster board vertically in half. On one side glue or tape down pictures and photos. On the other side, write: Colors, Textures, Objects/Themes and Techniques, leaving space for you to fill-in with responses from observing the pictures and photos.
  • For example: You cut out a bright quilt, a family at a picnic, and an ad for Christmas toys. Colors: Bright, Bold, Red, Blue, Pink. Textures: Soft, Warm, Flat, Smooth. Objects/Themes: Home, Family, Outdoors, Fun, Pleasure. Techniques: Quilting, Sewing, Cooking, Woodworking, and Staining.
  • Place finished Trend Board above your work area and keep adding to it as the year goes on. It can be a reference guide when deciding new lines and up-dating current product line.

Our Own Tips to Trending:

  • Create an index box of ideas to develop…one idea per card
  • Sit in a mall or visit other retailers stores and watch the customers
  • Cut out appealing displays and designs from magazines and catalogs.
  • Take a minute to review all new books and design packets
  • Ask your sales clerks to talk with the customers at check-out…what are the customers doing with the products they purchase
  • Listen to your class teachers and ask for their input
  • Visit model homes in your community for home decor ideas
  • Have a home decor contest in your store…select a room and have your customers decorate it!
  • Join local craft groups like chapters of the Society of Decorative Painters or a church group
  • Get involved and participate in a craft class at your shop or other facility

Don’t let trends and trending overwhelm you. As a member of the crafting industry and of your own local community you know more than any of us “experts” do. Trust your instincts when selecting new products and incorporating new trends. The trend of Southwestern never flies in the state of Florida. Seashell motifs are rare to find in Iowa. Trends are to be used as guides. Trends let you know what is happening in the big picture and you need to use the trends to help in your part of that picture. The experts are good. The manufacturers, distributors, designers, professional crafters, gift industry buyers, and others who earn a living by presenting to you and the consumer the best and latest spend time and effort on the task. There is no one, sure-fire trend in our industry. It is the combination of all the techniques, motifs, media, and home decor fashions that sell product.

8 Great Free Public Relations Opportunities

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8 Great Free Public Relations Opportunities

Advertising you craft business may be hard on your budget, but there are some simple and free ways to publicize your services and goods.

  1. Visit and teach a scouting group a craft. There are plenty of parents involved who are potential customers.
  2. Offer to set-up a display of your work at a local school’s teachers’ lounge. Teachers have little time to shop the craft shows and malls. Bring your crafts to them. Small items are best for this group.
  3. Get involved with a fund-raiser. Network and talk about what you make. Donate an item for an auction or doorprize.
  4. Volunteer to create a display at a local library. Libraries usually change out their displays monthly and for a few hours of your time you have a display of your work in front of hundreds of potential customers.
  5. When exciting events happen within your business, write up a press release for the newspaper. Examples: you get a new wholesale account, you win a ribbon at a show, you’ve added a new craft mall or you donate to a fund-raiser. A press release is simple. Across the top of a sheet of paper type up your name, business name, address, and phone number. Just below this information, type: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Then write up the information for the press. Send into the community, local, or business section editor unless the newspaper indicates otherwise. Have plenty of inexpensive B/W or color head and shoulder photographs of yourself or your work to send in with press releases.
  6. Contact a local TV station and volunteer to go on air and talk about crafting. You might demo a simple craft or show samples of your work. March is National Craft Month and there is plenty of promotion done by the industry as a whole…take advantage of this national PR and do something noteworthy locally.
  7. Join any local guild, crafting groups, or art associations. Network and be an active member to learn opportunities that might be happening. Join national guilds, societies, and associations. Keep on top of the trends, events, and activities plus most groups have printed directories which list members.
  8. If you are involved in a charitable activity involving crafting or make a really unique item, contact a craft magazine. Many consumer craft magazines have regular columns featuring crafters. Many also feature “spot lights” on individual artists. Write up your story and send it in with a clear photo or slide of your work.

Trends In 2008 – Needlearts

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Cross-stitch is the classic and getting plenty of attention with new and modern designs and patterns. Look for more embellishing in finished pieces especially buttons and charms. Needle punch (or is that Punch Needle?) continues to grow in popularity. This very old needleart has been modernized with cotton and silk threads/flosses in very trendy colors. Most designs have a country, pop art, or family flair, but if you branch out into books you’ll find just about any theme you could dream of. The needle punch needle has been updated and you can customize your needs for 1, 2, 3, 4, and more threads.

Rugs are back! Look for handmade, hooked, and punched rugs in magazines and movies. Everyone loves the warm feeling that these crafted floor coverings offer to our homes. But don’t stop at the floor! Many projects call for rugs to be hung for wall art. Embroidery rounds out this category. Motifs for embroidery have a wide spectrum from bright and sassy for teenagers to classic country for homes. Kits are a great way to introduce and learn about stitching techniques so you can go out on your own for clothing, jewelry, pillows, and more.

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