Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Are you ready for a wholesale show?

This gives some guidance on deciding whether to take on wholesale work.

Body of work
Do you have a 'body of work'? If someone picks up one of your pieces, and knows that it is yours rather than anyone else’s, then you have an identifiable look/style/technique = body of work.

Can you repeat the colour/style/technique accurately? It's fine that colour varies, but within a very small range. Repeatability is important when a buyer is looking at your sample and expects to receive an exact copy. Most buyers choose from samples. They do not expect one-offs.

Production processes
Your processes must be robust enough that you can produce the quantity that retailers order with the quality that they expect. Figuring ways to make quality pieces quickly is necessary to be profitable.

Is your product such that you can double your material costs and give yourself a healthy hourly wage? Remember the buyer will need to double or triple the wholesale price and still sell it to customers. If not, you need to determine what can be done to reduce your expenses and time. You also need to consider what you can do to increase the desirability of the work.

Cash flow
You need to create samples, pay the booth fees etc, make the work that is ordered, pack and ship, and get paid a month or two after the buyer receives the work. You need to have the reserves to meet the ebb (up to six months before the show) and flow (three months after the order or longer, depending on production time scales) of cash.

You have to like the marketing of your products, as well as the creating, producing and selling.

Customer relations –
This relates to after-show communications and information, in addition to what you do on the show floor.

Promotion –
Getting into the right publications is important to create a visible profile.

Advertising –
This is another expense, so research carefully the publications and media that will be used by your potential buyers.

Catalogs –
Not only do you have to have a catalogue and a line of products you can produce that is distinctive and desirable to the buyers, you also have to guard that catalogue and only issue it to genuine buyers to avoid rip-off merchants.

Next steps
If you are still interested, find wholesale shows, get an artist’s pass and look at:
  • Which booths get most interest
  • Try to isolate the important elements
  • booth appearance
  • uniqueness of products
    display of samples
  • quality of interaction with buyers
  • marketing ploys
  • literature/catalogues

Write all these down as you discover them, so you won’t forget anything.

Determine the costs:

booth and its preparation
  • travel, accommodation and food
  • cost of promotion – catalogues, advertising and other marketing
  • cost of samples – materials and preparation

  • If your answer to all the bold headings are “Yes, I can do that”, then you are ready to design your booth and apply to a selected wholesale show.

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