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Mark C.

Consignment Sales-my own story

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This most likely has been cover before but here’s my 2 cents

 

Here is what I have learned in 35 years of consignment sales

 

First let me say consignment is only a part of a diversifiedmix of sales for me.

 

Art Shows are my largest income about 55% with consignmentat 40% and wholesale about 5%

 

I had studio sales twice a year for 20 years and gave thatup for some highly successful out of state shows about 20 years ago-I still have some direct studio sales and mail sales but its small stuff just as I wanted.

 

Packing up a few pots to UPS out slows me down and its not what I choose to do with my time-it works for some but for me I like more volume sales at one go round-That said I still do more shipping than I would like-I have a shed full of boxes and wrap for this. I'm not knocking small sales they just are not my focus. When you are starting out any sales are great sales.

 

Consignment is what this is about

 

I have 4 outlets for consignment

 

I live in a small area that’s off the beaten trail so if Ican get this to work you can to.

 

Our county (Humboldt) has population of about 110k total init and it’s big in space small in people. One of my shops is in another countyin the tourist town of Mendocino.

 

I have been in one outlet 35 years –one for 25 years one for15-18 years and the new one about 12 years

 

Every one represents one or two or three art shows I do nothave to do now as some else is selling my wares for me 7 days a week-the checks come in monthly. Some shops pay mid month now.

 

I started with a 25% fee back in the day with most of themand today the artist/gallery cut is 40-50% Depending on which outlet. Get this clear when you start-when your work starts selling well owners will want more%so get that clear from the start. Greed can factor into this when its 20k of pots going out the door.

 

The mostimportant thing for me is trust with consignment-you need to feel great aboutthe owners and their operation needs to be well run-pay on time respect yourwork and display it well. That means not in the back corner collecting dustkittens

 

As I'm older now its still all about trust-I'd pack it all out in a heart beat if the trust was gone.

 

If you have doubts on any of these issues either talk thruthem right away with owners or move on with your stuff. The risk is allyours-the pots are yours.

 

If you pottery starts doing well talk to them about a bettermore prominent display area. Nothing sells on the floor well so make sure thedisplay is well done and at the right heights

 

Some pitfalls every shop can fall into is displaying stuffin your wares-like trinkets in your bowl which means you will never sell thatpot-you have to set them straight about the display rules-If they need a potfor displaying something they can buy it from you-make this clear from day one.

 

My most successful outlet is a gift shop (at one time agallery) connected to a tourist restaurant-this place moves pottery-especiallyin full tourist season. That because of lots of folks moving thru.

 

I have one of my older 6-foot displays that I own in the shop-it really took sales to a new level about 15 years ago when I talked theminto using it. I’ll post a photo of it. I have been in this outlet for 35 yearsthru 4 owners now.

 

When you are looking for a place look for the most trafficflow-is the business really bringing in customers or is it a dead space waitingto fold up.

 

Speaking of going out of business-its up to you to monitorthe place so when they fold they do not take you to the cleaners. You have tobe ahead of this curve. I’m speaking from experience on this point.

 

Every shop has there own pricing/accounting system-someprice your ware for you (you set the price) others you price yourself. The mainpoint here is how do you get paid when the system fails-like stickers fall off(tape them on)-or the pot sale does not get in the system. Or the public or theowners break them or there is a massive earthquake and pots die. Its allhappened to me as it will for you. Try to think these things out and cover themat your first full contact with the owners. Do your own inventory at least tillthe trust is fully developed. At least once a year count the work all up and compare it to what you have sold and been paid for and what's missing.

 

The more you put on paper and talk about when you start out with a shop the better it will be for both parties.

 

Mark

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. I know it took some thought and time to print it up but I hope you (and others with so much experience) will keep sharing all your knowledge.. thank you!

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The hardest part is one handed typing-really-That also means during my hand rehab I have time to share . Usually I'm not on the computer this much.

We can all learn from one another

Hopefully you can avoid a few pitfalls that I have had over time.

Chris's link really has some more solid tips

http://ccpottery.com...rk_to_gall.html

Mark

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Mark, thanks so much for sharing your experiences and advice. My own experiences with consignment were pretty bad. I fell into all of the pitfalls you described, including one gallery that suddenly closed and the owner disappeared with my pots ( I did get them back eventually, but it was a real pain.) In hindsight I wish I had taken some of your advice, especially working with the shop owners to make sure my work was displayed well. I've had much more success with wholesale. Maybe this is a east coast/west coast difference, but around here the consignment operations are generally run by people without much business experience, the types who think "wouldn't it be fun to own an art gallery?" Not a good basis to start a business. So to those of you venturing into the consignment world, it would be wise to adopt Mark's attitude .... be upfront with all of your terms, make sure the shop owners understand that you need to trust them. And I would add my own advice ... if you don't feel comfortable, simply go pick up your pots, say thank you and leave.

 

Mea

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" if you don't feel comfortable, simply go pick up your pots, say thank you and leave."

 

I agree totally ... Even if the people seem 'nice' or they really like your work ... your gut instincts are usually right.

Another warning sign is if they are giving you 60% and only keeping 40%. ... I know, this does not seem like a bad thing but it is almost impossible to sustain a business on this low income. Most of the places I have seen fail had this kind of split. I'm not saying there are not places surviving on this ... just that it is a Gallery I would monitor closely to make sure they were still open. Another good reason to keep your consignment shops within easy reach.

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" if you don't feel comfortable, simply go pick up your pots, say thank you and leave."

 

I agree totally ... Even if the people seem 'nice' or they really like your work ... your gut instincts are usually right.

Another warning sign is if they are giving you 60% and only keeping 40%. ... I know, this does not seem like a bad thing but it is almost impossible to sustain a business on this low income. Most of the places I have seen fail had this kind of split. I'm not saying there are not places surviving on this ... just that it is a Gallery I would monitor closely to make sure they were still open. Another good reason to keep your consignment shops within easy reach.

 

Gep said

(Maybe this is a east coast/west coast difference, but around here the consignment operations are generally run by people without much business experience,)

A few other points GEP is its the same out west many owners do not have good bus. skills-For me this has been more true with some new owners taking over an older business

Most of my outlets are long standing but that was not the case way back when

Two of them I am amazed they can even manage the business'es-I think this is true with many a small business every where

 

As to the 60-40 split most of these shops also have buy and sell where they make more profit on those goods-Stuff bought at the gift show (wholesale in San. Fran.)

They tend to mark this up for massive profits-we 60-40 guys are just a small part of that mix.

 

My largest loss was a large wholesale order never paid for-it was about 4 hours from me in Mendocino Ca-they took my order-moved away with all the gallery goods

Took everyone for a ride-If you wholesale the 1st order is paid for on delivery.

Mark

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Mark;

You have really taken some time and given us some good advice. Like Chris says, the 60%/40% doesn't work. I have had many shops go under, and keep my work. I was eating Sunday dinner ,a few years ago. A shop phoned me up to tell me they were going bankrupt on Monday, and to get my work which was nice. I missed dinner though.

I only have one consignment gallery, our main Art Gallery in the city. Chances are pretty good that it won't go bust.

I mainly sell from two studio sales a year, at a co-operative studio, and I take wholesale orders, for dinner ware. In the summer I do three craft fare, so I manage to sell everything without the consignment hassle.

TJR.

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Mark - I hope for your sake that your hand recovers well and quickly, but I must say we've really been benefitting from your recovery period!

 

Alice

 

 

This is really a great thread-so many of us can learn a lot from the sharing that has occurred with this post. I have been considering lining up a local tea shop for my tea pots as I love doing them. This has encouraged me to jump in and throw some teapots for next Fall and see how it goes. Thanks again to Mark and all the others commenting here.

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A question if I may.....

 

How has the poor economy affected your consignment sales...other than possibly a drop in sales? Are folks are eager to take in work these days...or more hesitant? Are profit ratios changing? Are you having to take less for your work and put more out there....are things staying the same....or are you watching it all slip away?

 

Definitely some great info here, folks. Many thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

teardrop

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A question if I may.....

 

How has the poor economy affected your consignment sales...other than possibly a drop in sales? Are folks are eager to take in work these days...or more hesitant? Are profit ratios changing? Are you having to take less for your work and put more out there....are things staying the same....or are you watching it all slip away?

 

Definitely some great info here, folks. Many thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

teardrop

 

 

Teardrop

I just crunched my numbers for my upcoming tax appointment

My Consignment sales were 400$ less than last year-which is nothing considering the gross.

Thats spread thru 4 outlets consignment only-

wholesale (1 account only) is up-mugs only at 2 bagel shops

Fairs in sate- up slightly

Fairs out of state- up a lot

 

My take is two things

1st I shifted to making tons of small items years back when I heard the word recession

2nd I have really stepped up making sure my consignment outlets never ran low on any form-this really makes a huge difference in sales

 

When you are just starting out its a slow time getting this dialed in-watch your outlets carefully and my best advice is have small items that sell well in the mix

I sell lots of mugs -spoonrests-sponge holders-small bowls-soap dishes and very few monster bowls and canister sets large covered jars teapots

 

I like Pres's idea of say teapots to a tea shop-I'd add some small teacups to that mix as that will help sell the teapots

good luck

 

one last point for me is in every downturn economy since the mid 70's there has been an upturn in my sales with small reasonable priced pots-it took a few downturns for me to see this patten for me-but by the 90's I got it.This is also when shops fail more so you have to pay attention-but handmade functional items sell well when $ is tight.

Folks want to feel I think that their $ is going to get quality items more when its a tight economy or they appreciate hand made more then-just my unproven theory.

Mark

Edited by Mark C.

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A question if I may.....

 

How has the poor economy affected your consignment sales...other than possibly a drop in sales? Are folks are eager to take in work these days...or more hesitant? Are profit ratios changing? Are you having to take less for your work and put more out there....are things staying the same....or are you watching it all slip away?

 

Definitely some great info here, folks. Many thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

teardrop

 

 

Teardrop

I just crunched my numbers for my upcoming tax appointment

My Consignment sales were 400$ less than last year-which is nothing considering the gross.

Thats spread thru 4 outlets consignment only-

wholesale (1 account only) is up-mugs only at 2 bagel shops

Fairs in sate- up slightly

Fairs out of state- up a lot

 

My take is two things

1st I shifted to making tons of small items years back when I heard the word recession

2nd I have really stepped up making sure my consignment outlets never ran low on any form-this really makes a huge difference in sales

 

When you are just starting out its a slow time getting this dialed in-watch your outlets carefully and my best advice is have small items that sell well in the mix

I sell lots of mugs -spoonrests-sponge holders-small bowls-soap dishes and very few monster bowls and canister sets large covered jars teapots

 

I like Pres's idea of say teapots to a tea shop-I'd add some small teacups to that mix as that will help sell the teapots

good luck

 

one last point for me is in every downturn economy since the mid 70's there has been an upturn in my sales with small reasonable priced pots-it took a few downturns for me to see this patten for me-but by the 90's I got it.This is also when shops fail more so you have to pay attention-but handmade functional items sell well when $ is tight.

Folks want to feel I think that their $ is going to get quality items more when its a tight economy or they appreciate hand made more then-just my unproven theory.

Mark

 

 

 

I appreciate this topic so much. My pottery partner and I are in our 3rd year of business and are having a ball. The only thing that gets in our way is our full time jobs, which we really appreciate having in this economy. We are progressing every year and have done fairly well in sales. This year we are stepping out of our comfort zones and are finding that we love it. You have given us wonderful information and ideas. Now it is up to us to run with it. Again thank all of you for your help.

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