From craft addiction to craft business

Posted: Thursday, March 18, 2010

How many First Fridays have you spent thumbing through earrings at Annie Kaills or donning knit hats at the Juneau Artist's Gallery and thought to yourself, "Could I be selling here someday?" If you're like me it may take months or even years to work up the courage to sell your crafty products directly to local storefronts. Often the most nerve-racking part comes from lack of knowledge of the industry and the "rules." To help you out I've gathered tips from local stores to give you an edge on the local craft market.

When you walk into any store you're facing what is known as the "cold call." This means you don't know the owner/seller and they don't know you. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with research - about the store, the products they carry, their targeted buyers, and so on. If you're approaching a store like Annie Kaills, a year-round store that carries unique items targeted to both tourists and locals, think of how your craft will fit into the rest of their items. Curtis Christensen, a sales clerk at Annie Kaills notes, "We are always looking for something unique, that the other stores won't carry."

While researching each storefront consider the pricing and selling of your crafts. There are two options for working with storefronts on sales; consignment and wholesale. Consignment means the store will put your product on the shelf and as it sells they will give you a percentage of the profit from those sales. Homespun Mercantile at the Airport Shopping Center is a perfect example of this process. They only sell on consignment at 65/35 (that's 65 percent of sales to you, 35 percent to the store). In return they are providing the space, display and set-up of your items as well as some marketing.

Many other shops, like Annie Kaills, will request wholesale prices for your items. Wholesalers create a large stock of product and sell it outright to the store. Expect most stores to mark up the items 100 percent (this is known as a keystone markup). Make sure your pricing to local stores is consistent with pricing at fairs and your online shops, otherwise those inconsistencies may make both customers and sellers frustrated.

Prepare products for sale by thinking through the display options and advertising opportunities that accompany your crafts. An informational card with your business name, blog, or Web site and logo might be all that is required to create professional-looking merchandise. In some cases, though, a photo of the product in action can do wonders for sales. Borrow ideas from the advertising world by flipping through magazines and browsing through similar items in stores.

Christensen at Annie Kaills says the most important part of the local sellers pitch is the presentation.

"When you come into a shop you want to make sure it looks professional. If it's artwork, put it in a folio. If it's a product make sure you have samples with you. Bring the entire package."

But don't get too intimated either. Carol Schriver of Homespun Mercantile suggests, "If you're not sure if it's sellable then come in and we'll give you suggestions. We encourage artists to get out there."

However you decide to sell your crafty creations - whether online, in stores, or at fairs -be prepared to work hard, craft hard and research, research, research.

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