Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Wholesale Jury - what you need to know

Thinking about getting into wholesale or doing your first wholesale show? I'm going to give you some tips that could make all the difference in whether or not you're accepted to a website like or a wholesale show.
Although there are similarities, jurying for wholesale is a little different than for a retail show. Jurors not only want to see your work, but we need to see that you are experienced or at least ready for wholesale, know what you're doing and who you are. A jury wants to see that you have a cohesive line (see the post below), proven sellers, that your work is priced well for the market, that you are
not underselling your buyers, and that your terms are reasonable and that you
have had some experience
selling your work. Many will also want to see your catalog, website, and all of your printed materials to be sure they look professional.
It helps immensely if you've been selling successfully at retail at shows and/or online for some time. In fact I'd even say it's necessary (even if it's not required). This experience is important because store owners need you to tell them your best sellers, to know that your prices are appropriate and fair, and even in many cases to suggest ways to effectively display your work. If you haven't test marketed your work how can a buyer be confident that it sells? How can you? The last thing you want to do is sell work to a store and then have it sit there for months. That store will most likely never order from you again and you've ruined what might have been a long term relationship with a buyer because you didn't do your homework.
For most wholesale shows you'll be asked to list your suppliers (to prove you really make your work by hand) and your best wholesale accounts (to show you have at least a little experience). You'll also be asked to list your terms. If you don't know what terms are or how they work, terms are your requirements for ordering and payment as well as your turnaround time (how long a buyer should expect to wait before you can ship). These terms will appear in writing on any printed material as well as on your website.
If you list unreasonable terms, such as deposits on orders or all orders paid in advance, it will be clear you don't understand the wholesale relationship and your application will probably be denied. Read a book, talk to experienced friends, or hire a consultant for an hour, but learn the basics of wholesale and how it works before you jump into it. You can also look at other artist’s wholesale catalogs and websites to see how they post their terms. I will post on how to determine your terms in the future - you might want to watch for it.
As always, images are key - especially when you are applying to sell online on a site like As a juror, when I see amateur photos I assume you are an amateur artist. Keep in mind, on a website full of beautiful work from all over the country you have but seconds to stand out among the rest. Your images are all you have. Buyers can tell if you are a professional in one glance. And why wouldn't you want to show your work at it's best? (Read the last post below for tips on images.)
Another common mistake we see in jurying for wholesale is pricing. Your wholesale price should be at least half, and preferably less than half of your retail price. Artists tend to forget that buyers have a lot of expenses, from rent & utilities to staff, display, advertising and much more. They will need to at least double your wholesale prices to make a profit. Many stores will mark up 2.25% to 2.75%. Competing with your buyers by underselling them is a total no-no in the world of wholesale and the fastest way to lose an account.
Any smart buyer will check our your retail website before they order from you. Your wholesale buyers are investing in your work and it is critical that you respect them and that they know they can trust you. Every account has the potential to become a profitable and long-term relationship and it's not worth it to try and fool them. Savvy buyers and jurors will look for you online, on Etsy and other similar sites.
If you follow these simple tips you'll be one step ahead of everyone else. If you have more questions about getting into wholesale feel free to email me. You might also want to sign up for my mailing list - I do offer consulting and classes.
And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to my Hot Tips Newsletter. Every month I send out great free tips and links to resources for artists, from new apps, to places to sell your work, great sales on art supplies and much, much more! Here's a link to the latest issue.


Colleen MacDonald said...

Awesome tips, Pam. Thanks!

Rena Klingenberg said...

Thank you for these helpful insights, Pam!

CreativewithClay: Charan Sachar said...

Great tips, Pam! I need to get my act together for wholesale.