So, you’ve developed a collection of creative products, taken a craft stall at a few events, and feel ready to dip your toe into retail.
What should you consider next before approaching galleries who sell work on behalf of makers on a sale or return basis?
It’s all about being a star supplier to creative shops and galleries!
In this guest post Clare Honeyfield of the Made In Stroud shop shares her 6 expert advice, step-by-step to become a start supplier to creative shops and galleries.
Step 1: Before you do anything
‘Find your first potential shop or gallery. And ask yourself ‘Is this the right outlet for my work?’
Do your research.
Take time to go and visit, as a customer.
Does the gallery reflect the standard of your work?
Is the work well displayed?
Would your work compliment the stock already on display?
Are the window displays current?
Do you feel welcome to look around?
Next, if you can, check out the reputation of the gallery with suppliers already selling there.
Does their work get taken care of?
Are they informed of sales monthly?
Are payments made promptly?
Do they have a good working relationship with the owner manager?’
Step 2: Get in touch
‘If you decide this is ‘The One’, then contact the owner manager. Find out about their criteria and get an application form by e-mail, telephone or check out their website.
Don’t walk into the shop, loudly ask what the commission rate is in front of customers, and then say it’s too high.
(You’d be surprised how many people do this!) The commission rate will have been worked out by the gallery in order to cover their running costs. The usual commission is anything from 45% to 55% of the retail price.
If you find a newer, smaller gallery down the street offering a lower commission, ask yourself how likely it is that your work will actually sell there. (Do I need to point out that 35% of nothing is £0?)’
Step 3: Get yourself organised
‘When applying to sell to a new shop or gallery, always take in a representative selection of your work, together with a delivery note including your retail prices and your contact details.
Take your work and paperwork along in a box to leave at the gallery. That way, the gallery owner can look at your work when the gallery is closed or quiet, and will not feel under pressure.
Don’t arrive unannounced, spread your work all over the counter, and start telling the owner all about yourself and your artist journey while customers queue awkwardly behind you.
If you want to sell at Christmas, apply by August. Most retailers have all their Christmas stock sorted by September at the very latest.
Submit your absolute top notch best work, nothing you are not quite happy with, nothing unfinished.
This is your one opportunity to make an impression. Ask the owner when is a convenient time to deliver your submission. Become a star supplier, from the off.’
Step 4: Keep on keeping on
‘If your work doesn’t get accepted, don’t take it personally. It is not a judgement on your creativity or the quality of your work, it’s just that your work not what that gallery is looking for right now.
Maybe they are out of space.
Maybe they have accepted lots of new suppliers lately.
Maybe they are going for a different ‘feel’ this season.
Find another outlet and apply there. Keep applying until you get accepted somewhere. Don’t give up!!’
Step 5: Keep records
‘Always take an accurate delivery note with each delivery of stock, and ask the gallery owner to check off the stock and sign a copy for you.
Always try to keep a good range in each of your outlets to keep sales up.
Keep an eye on your stock levels. Customers love choice, and nobody ever buys the last of anything.
Remember, your delivery note acts as a legal document. It states that the work still belongs to you (especially if it is on a Sale-Or-Return basis).’
Step 6: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
‘This doesn’t mean you need to supply every shop in your home town. In fact exclusivity is great, and many galleries require it. However, think about markets, events, and outlets in other areas, on line sales. In business (and yes, you are in business now) lots of smaller incomes are considered better than one bigger income. Spread the risk.’
Step 7: Don’t be a diva.
‘Remember, while you are standing at the counter deep in conversation with the owner about how they may better display your work, there may be a customer wanting to ask about buying a piece but worried about interrupting. Try to find a way of communicating by phone, e-mail, or when the shop is quiet, so you are not in fact reducing sales!!
And finally. Don’t text the owner at 11pm on Saturday when you’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and are having a bad day to complain about display or marketing. Wait until Monday morning, and give them a call then.
Remember, the gallery owner needs to sell your work as much as you do. They should be your friend, not your enemy. And friendships need cultivating.’
Clare Honeyfield started running Made in Stroud markets in 1990 and Stroud Farmers’ Market in 1999. The Made in Stroud Shop opened in December 2000, originally as a makers’ co-operative with 25 members. Clare now managehttp://madeinstroud.org/s Made in Stroud as a Community Investment Company, working with 150 artists and makers from Stroud and beyond.
Clare Honeyfield offers a face-to-face and Skype consultancy service for creative start-ups and established creative businesses. You can get in touch with her by email: email@example.com