Photo Courtesy of awesome photo-grapher Randymir.
etsy.com (I bet he sells wholesale!)
It is not uncommon for stores to seek out artists on Etsy. If I were a shop owner it would be the first place I'd look. If you do get a request for prices and such in your Etsy convo box here are a few simple things to keep in mind.
1. Your wholesale price does not have to be half of your shop price. It is *better* business if your Etsy-retail is equal to shop retail price but many store owners understand that we undersell ourselves online. My wholesale on my accordion books is $3.50 and my etsy retail is $4.60 and people do order them.
2. Always set a minimum first purchase, i.e., I have people buy 15 pendants for their first order or 12 accordion books, 6 journals.... (this has gone up as my work has become more valuable).
3. My prices are set both for wholesale and bulk discount, if you don't own a shop but want 30 of my pendants you are welcome to them. Who you sell to is up to you, a tax id or state license number is an important thing to get if you only want to work with retail.
4. If your shop wants a custom order tailor-made and you don't feel as though you can resell the line make them pay upfront in full, before you buy materials and start working. Never make anything that is not marketable to your audience without payment first.
5. You can run a wholesale "sale" through etsy by, 1. Creating a reserve listing for the buyer or 2. Allowing them to "buy" their items directly from your shop and sending an adjusted invoice. You will have to pay full etsy fees if you do the latter but often it is worth it to allow your shopper to "choose" their inventory.
6. Please never ever consign via the internet, never ship without full payment (shipping included) and don't undersell yourself. Make sure you get a decent minimum purchase, you don't want to spend hours putting something together and only make $5.00. Additionally if someone wants a sample, make them buy it and then credit their purchase towards a wholesale order. This is good business, shows you are professional *and keeps you from being ripped off.
If you are ready to seek our retail or consignment shops there are a few things to keep in mind as well. Firstly I really encourage that you only consign with shops that look reputable and that are in your area. Make sure they pay a minimum of 50% to you (many do 60/40, 60 to the artist) and sign a contract with your inventory on it and method/date of payment. I dislike consignment, it is risky but it can be a great way to start out. If you can, use the consignment shops as advertising for your Etsy shop, put tags and business cards on everything!
To catch the local market you can call and make appointments to meet the buyers or if you're bold and silly like me, just drop in. I have spent many days walking around with a basket of accordion books and popping into stores unannounced. I made sure they looked beautiful and curious and was able to sell many from the basket right on the spot. Some shops are really open to this while others were quite put out by my intrusion. I say go for it but don't be offended if people dislike your approach and if you want to be professional call ahead and schedule a time to be seen. Be sure to approach shops that sell like-minded items, you want it to be a good match and not a waste of time.
What to bring to a meeting with a buyer:
1. You can print out Poster of your work and bring in a collection of samples for them to order from. Know your time frame (how long it will take to fill) and set a date for delivery when the shop owner/manager is in (never leave your product with a clerk). You can also bring enough inventory for them to choose on the spot (depending on what you make). Do what ever you can to make your work presentable; jewelers box, baskets, velvet displays.... You want to show them what it will look like in their store, all lovingly displayed.
2. Have a price sheet. Some designers offer breakdown by quantity or product line. Have it typed out neatly and keep it simple, give them only the information they need and nothing more, confusion often kills the sale. If you can, put a few photos of you work with your prices, it gives buyers a visual if they want time to think it over.
3. You can offer a discount for outright purchase vs. net 30. Net 30 is a term stores use when buying, it means they pay you 30 days after they receive your product. This is very common and don't let it concern you (if you've picked a reputable shop). I usually give 10% off the order if they buy outright, this helps close the sale and puts money in my pocket immediately.
4. Be confident. Stores need you as much as you need them. Go in knowing what you want to sell, how much you want to sell it for and what you'll take as your bottom price. Don't haggle but do offer the retailers a few options. If you're willing to cater an order to their shop ask questions, finding out what they want is the best way to close a sale.
To attract wholesale inquiries on Etsy simply put "wholesale welcome" in your shop title, announcement or (as I've just seen suggested) in your tags. I have a photo catalogue on Flickr that brings focus to my line. I also have a standard reply that helps close the sale (well I did before I hired a distributor) and I am happy to send it to you via convos, just ask. (ps you can find your own distributor by going to gift shows and finding people selling multiple lines, if you need more information about this comment below and I'll write a new post later on).
Good luck everyone! Have fun with it and don't get discouraged, not all shops will buy from you but you may end up with a few stores that are a perfect match and re-order constantly.