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CactusPots

Wholesale accounts

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I wonder what the more experienced than myself business of pottery professionals think of my opinion of wholesale?  Basically, I think an established retail front should be able to profit from the value they add to the product by way of presentation.  The perceived value of the piece will vary from a craft show, to a swap meet to a gallery.  If the retail outlet doesn't think they can add value to the casual show price, then they aren't the venue I'm looking for.  All things being equal, the wholesale account has to be better simply because of the less time committed to the sale.

Does this make any sense?

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I wouldn't say that less time committed to the sale means they are at a deficit.  You need to take into account the fact that putting your items on their shelves means that there's another product out there that isn't on their shelves.  This is a risk to the business, and not one that you as a producer of goods has to worry about.  To you a pot that doesn't sell is just a pot that doesn't sell, to them a pot that doesn't sell is a pot that doesn't sell, but it's also generating negative income. They are losing potential sales of other goods.

A lot of wholesale commissions are 50/50 or 40/60 to offset that risk.  And then of course additional costs that a wholesale customer has are things like employee wages, benefits and taxes, lease payment, credit card processing fees, sales tax collection, etc.  All things that you dont need to worry about as a wholesaler.

It also allows you to still do shows and fairs to make your main wad, SIDE MONEY!

if you treat your wholesale as the main income generator then you might find yourself at the mercy of the wholesale gods, but as long as it's a side gig, that's passive income and something that works out for everyone involved.

Maybe?  Not sure what exactly you were asking by the whole added value question, or what you're expecting of a retailer you're selling to, but as far as a time commitment standpoint I think there's a lot more involved than just time.

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I'm talking about the cost of doing retail business.  Part of the difference in our thinking, is that (in my opinion) art and craft shows are basically dead in my area.  I don't know how or when that happened and I'd love to be shown wrong.  I'm surprised by the scale of business that Mark is writing.  Didn't think potters could do as well as that without an established store front.  I remember craft shows from the 70s fondly.

Basically, I think the presentation of the product is critical to the price.

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3 hours ago, CactusPots said:

I'm talking about the cost of doing retail business.  Part of the difference in our thinking, is that (in my opinion) art and craft shows are basically dead in my area.  I don't know how or when that happened and I'd love to be shown wrong.  I'm surprised by the scale of business that Mark is writing.  Didn't think potters could do as well as that without an established store front.  I remember craft shows from the 70s fondly.

Basically, I think the presentation of the product is critical to the price.

Maybe you could offer to set up the presentation of your products?  Something like a nice display that can go into stores and display your stuff in a sort of trademarked fashion.  Maybe be an up front cost to you, but would solve any issues you have with the presentation of your goods, would likely give you brand identity and increased sales and loyalty.  Just a thought.

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The wholesale opportunity is definitely there.   I worked for a potter at a local wholesale show (Mississippi Wholesale Trade Show).  I used to work in Atlanta Merchandise Mart and saw quite a few potters up there.   I see a lot of pottery in gift shops and other specialty type retail stores.   You just have to be on top of your game to wholesale.   And watch the order taking.  I've seen several potters ruin themselves because they couldn't fulfill the wholesale orders they take at wholesale shows.

And it's the retail store that can command the up pricing.    And usually (almost always) the right display goes with an upscale retail store.  You could put a great display in a low end/low traffic retail location and would get very little results.   The key is to get in the right retail stores.

example:

https://babcockgifts.bridgecatalog.com/collections.cfm/Good_Earth_Pottery

That guy is in Starkville, MS about an hour from my location.  I would say Babcock's is about as upscale as you can get.  I see Eta B Pottery there too (located in Eta Mississippi.)  Pretty sure Good Earth doesn't do any direct retailing.  And if Eta B does, it's very limited.  You can do quite well with wholesale.   But it's my belief, it's hard to do both retail and wholesale.  Pick one and go for it.  I know some people do  both but the best I've seen do one or the other.   I could list at least 30 potters Ms, AL, Tn or La that do nothing but wholesale.  In my area, wholesale means more employees if you are successful.   We're are touching on this in another thread under "Output is Finite". 

 

Edited by DirtRoads

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It can be difficult to find the pricing sweet spot when doing both retail (fairs) and wholesale. The retail price should be the same for both- you shouldn't undercut your galleries. Finding a price that something will sell at at art fairs may be too low to be able to accept a 50% cut from a gallery. For instance, I sell mugs for $34 at fairs , but for the amount of work in them, I can't afford to wholesale them at $17.

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@CactusPots, you are new to the selling side of pottery. I caution you not to have a “me vs. them” attitude towards craft shows and retail galleries. As if these outlets owe you sales, and if sales don’t happen, it’s their fault. Successful selling happens when the artist and the outlet work as partners, and both sides understand and carry their responsibilities. 

Anyone who says the words “craft shows are dead” probably has this misguided perspective. I’ve been through my share of unsuccessful art fairs. Even when there were obvious signs of incompetence by the show, I always blame myself for not picking up on it in advance. And I’ve been through many successful shows where I know the show did a fabulous job. And there are still artists on the internet the next day, complaining that the show did a terrible job, just because they personally had poor sales. 

This forum tries to tell new sellers to be patient and persistent. It takes years to learn the ropes of selling. Nobody here was an overnight success. 

I did wholesale for 9 years, and attended 6 trade shows during those years. I saw many, many potters who thought “craft shows were dead” and therefore “wholesale is where it’s at” and these artists tend to lose their shirts. Because they were blaming the craft show format for their lack of sales, rather than understanding their own responsibilities. The real problem for most of them was that their work was not of a quality that can compete with other professional potters. The truth is that wholesale buyers are not looking for something different than what you find at craft shows. They are looking for the exact same thing that sells well at craft shows. 

As for whether a gallery should be able to raise the value of your work base on presentation, this is also incorrect. I was wholesaling my mugs for $17, meant to retail for $35 (which is what I was charging at shows then). Lots of galleries told me very honestly, “I love your work, but my customers think mugs should be $24.” So in a lot of cases it is the opposite. These galleries have the goal of selling. Raising the value of your work is not their mission. That's your job. Most of my wholesale orders went to galleries in the northeast, where higher prices are more common. I couldn’t sell to the midwest or the south. 

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GEP

 "Most of my wholesale orders went to galleries in the northeast, where higher prices are more common. I couldn’t sell to the midwest or the south. "

Exactly my point.  Art, craft, and handmade object have different values and perceptions in different areas.  Where I live, San Diego, craft shows are dead not because they don't do well, but because there aren't any.  Now I could be wrong and they're happening and I'm not aware of it.  I've lived here my whole life and I think it's real.  There used to be. 

 My best wholesale account is in Los Angeles.  It takes me a full day to drive there, deliver a load and drive home.  Unfortunately or not, my product doesn't have the general appeal of bowls and mugs.  I do know potters that make planters and only do shows.  I think they do better than I, but I have no way of knowing.  I'm just trying to figure out what do do with the increased production as I move on.  I do think I shouldn't compete with my wholesale by doing shows or retail in their area.

I think I might want to do a show in Phoenix next year, if I'm not moving what I make by then with the accounts I have.

I appreciate this forum for bouncing ideas.

A couple of years ago, I visited my brother in Vermont.  We drove around quite a bit.  It seemed like we were always coming on a sign for a gallery or home workshop.  We made a drive to Maine to stay in a Airbnb.  Great place, the couple were both pro artists in galleries in New York and  Boston.  In speaking with them, I commented that San Diego is an art desert.  Her reply was that Maine was art hell because every retired doctor on the East Coast retired to Maine to take up painting.  Thought that was illustrative. 

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I think that the idea that it's then stores' or the galleries' job to add value to your work isn't the tack that anyone owning those businesses takes. Retail businesses don't serve their suppliers: they serve their customers. As both a retailer and a wholesaler, you're the supplier. As a retailer (craft shows or other direct sales avenues), you're doing all the marketing, finding your audience, and providing those people with what they want or need. 

As a wholesaler, you're assisting the gallery owner or the retail shop serve their customers by providing whatever it is that you do best, and by providing the things the end retailer thinks their clients will want. Gallery owners aren't interesting in raising your value any more than you are interested in raising Laguna Clay's value (or whatever you use).  There are probably some exceptions to this in more high end fine art situations, but that's because the dealer is assisting in creating the value of the work in the first place, and if they boost the value, they get a better payday themselves.

I think the choice between wholesale and retail comes down to how you want to structure your business, and what you're good at doing, or enjoy enough to get good at doing. If you don't love doing in person or online sales and are in it for the designing and the making, then it makes more sense to farm out that particular task to someone else via wholesaling the end product. If you don't mind the in person or online selling, then taking the years to build up a following is going to pay off in a more satisfying way for you.

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5 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

Art, craft, and handmade object have different values and perceptions in different areas.  Where I live, San Diego, craft shows are dead not because they don't do well, but because there aren't any.  Now I could be wrong and they're happening and I'm not aware of it. 

I live in an area where when the name of my city and the word "culture" get used together in a sentence, the politest jokes made involve cows, oil, or some sort of swab test from the doctor. 

About 8-9 years ago, a handful artists who were sick of the whole "no good craft fairs" situation got together with, rented some space, got a liquor licence and held a 3 day indoor show. The first ones were plagued with all kinds of things going wrong, up to and including roofs leaking onto the sound equipment while the bands were playing. Now, that same show is a local fixture, gets regular press, has been instrumental in launching a number of businesses from a 6' table to well loved local brick and mortars. It's a popular show to shop at, and it's a community incubator for the vendors.

 

If you're feeling a lack, perhaps it's time to build some community.

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24 minutes ago, GEP said:

Zapplication.org > Participating Events > Search keywords “San Diego”

https://www.zapplication.org/event-info.php?ID=7204

https://www.zapplication.org/event-info.php?ID=7416

Not just that, since they only make planters they can get into home and garden shows, summer plant sales, etc.  Doesn't have to be a craft fair!  

https://www.sandiegohomegardenshows.com/

I'm sure you know this one already, I think I saw you took part in their winter show: https://www.sdcss.net/

Couple more art shows: 

https://sandiegoartshow.com/

https://artwalksandiego.org/

Edited by liambesaw

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Just as a business model example that might be of specific interest to you, Plant is a business that went from one guy making terrariums for a Christmas sale at Market Collective  (the previously mentioned leaky roofed show which is now in its 10th year and is a delight to work with) to a super swanky retail location in the trendiest area of town. They're doing really well.

It should be noted took them several years to travel between those two points.

https://plantshop.ca

edited to add: they carry a lot of pottery vessels made by some of the potters they met at MC. Supporting each other is important.

Edited by Callie Beller Diesel
Added

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If I was a planter maker I'd be at the home and Garden shows -heck I know some 2 D art folks who do well at those shows. They are in every major city on west coast. As you can see from Zapp app there are SD show as well-but your product is more specialized than most pottery so the garden shows may be a better fit. 

I wholesale to some shops that are 12 hours away from me-They either meet me 1/2 way or they arange for closer drops for me and get the wares from family members . I take pots twice a year to Santa Rosa Ca, to a Harmony Ca, Gallery owners brothers house and he gets them sent down(driven by family)  over a few months. That order is now over 5 K a year so thats  a lots of stuff that I would never pack and ship. I have sent large orders Via UPS as far away as Vermont to another shop owner who had a business nearby and moved away to vermont but still wanted my stuff-she paid uop toi have it shipped-staright wholesale on both these acounts.

The thing is they both know that if thay buy whatever they will double their money. Over time you make the conections and that business just flows in,both these owners approched me not the other way around.

Ther are lots of work arounds if the business is good. My harmony gallery is the best business I have ever dealt with.I get the check as soon as I drop the pots off no matter where that is orv when he gets them.Nobody ever has done that. He may not get them for another month. He orders twice a year.. He once was a potter so he geats the deal.Best business person I have delt with.

It started with sponge holders-he sells a few hundred of mine a year-now its about 7 forms mixed in as well. I have offered him limited forms at the start and time went by as I aged out of shows I have offered him more forms and they all sell well for him.

You just needd toi decide what venues woirks best for you and there is no way to learn except by trying them.It takes time. I personally knew of a show or two in SD and some very close by  to you in the desert . My all time best shows where a 20 hoiur drive for me and It took days to get there and back-I did them for 25 straight years twice a year (Tempe AZ)

I gave them up 3 years ago.Its niot all about $ anymore for me. 

I think finding your market always takes time-most folks give up when the shows turn out sour or wholesale seems like drudgery .I us d to never wholesale and now its 40-50% for me. I have flexed with markets and my own likes.I still love the personal customer feed back but the  few bad idiots at show can take a toll as well.

Just stick with it try new markets.Some good advice has already been given in above posts

 

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