Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wholesale Shows; When?

For this third post, we will take a look at "when". When do you decide that it is time to do a wholesale show?

There is no definitive answer to this question. For each person/business/artist the answer will come at different times and different ways. Some artists will jump right into wholesale from the very start of their business. Others may never take that step. What kinds of questions might you want to ask yourself about whether or not you are ready to take this step?

1. Are you interested in selling wholesale? Are you interested in growing your wholesale business? Do you have some reason that you do not want to sell wholesale? Have you made a list of the pros and cons of selling your work wholesale?

2. Do you have a price structure that can support selling your work wholesale? This may seem to be a no-brainer, but I am serious. Have you priced your work so that you can sell it wholesale and still make a profit? It is not unusual for an artist who is starting out to sell their work at a retail show at wholesale prices. These days, many retailers are looking to mark up the wholesale price by more than 2 times. A mark up of 2.1 times or 2.3 times the wholesale price is not uncommon today. Some retailers, in high rent areas, or catalog companies may be looking to price the work at three times wholesale. Can your work sell at those kinds of prices?

3. Have you developed a distinctive style or look to your work? If you are still trying to figure out where you are going with your work, it is probably too soon to jump into wholesale. I was guilty of this. The only work that I still sell from when I first started selling wholesale just four years ago is my polymer clay cranes. These pins were some of what I was making back when I started out selling wholesale. While they are both inspired by collage, that is where the similarity ends. I had not really worked out line before I jumped in. I don't recommend this approach.

4. Do you have the financial resources to do a show? There is the booth fee, potentially shipping and travel expenses, marketing materials, displays, .... You may feel like you are hemorrhaging cash. You've heard the expression, "you have to spend money to make money." When it comes to doing a wholesale show, you will definitely have to spend some money. Are you ready financially and psychologically?

5. Are you ready? Are you ready to take the risk, and the challenge of doing a show? Are you ready to accept whatever outcome may occur? Just as with a retail show, there are no guarantees that you will have a great show. You may do gangbusters. Or, you may not see the response you expected. You may have more competition than you anticipated. You may have priced yourself out of the market. You may have work that takes time to build an audience. Your display may not have worked. And on and on, and on. Are you ready to go into it knowing the risks, and willing to do an honest assessment of why things worked,.... or perhaps did not.

Any time I am faced with making a big change in my business I find I have to look inside myself. Sometimes I make the jump before I am really ready, but I learn and adapt. Or, I sometimes let fear hold me back from taking a step. At times I may want to do something, but just do not have the financial resources to make that move. I usually need some time of thinking, weighing my options, and sleeping on it, before I can come to a decision that feels right for me. I may still have some uncertainty.

Uncertainty is a given anytime you are doing something you have never done before. But, there is the counter balancing cost of hesitating when you know you are ready. Is that something you can comfortably live with? I find that I have more regrets with opportunities missed, than opportunities taken. But we all have to figure out our own comfort level, and do the best and most honest assessment of how ready we truly are. And then, accept our choice as the right one for us. No matter what everyone else chooses. Because in the end, it is our business to run.

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