Selling Crafts - Wholesale vs. Retail Sales by Lisa McGrimmon

When you are selling crafts, you'll need to determine whether you plan on selling crafts primarily on a wholesale basis, or directly to retail customers. There are pros and cons inherent in each type of craft business, so it will be important to think through your options and decide which approach works best for your work preferences and fits best with your vision for your business.

Considerations for creating a wholesale craft business:

If you wholesale your crafts, you'll be selling your work to a buyer who intends to resell your items at a higher price, usually at least double the wholesale price. Before selling crafts wholesale, consider the following:

1. You'll sell your items for a lower price than you would if you sold directly to retail customers (usually half of retail), but you'll sell your items in a higher volume to fewer buyers.

2. When you attend shows, you'll bring only a range of samples of your line of product, not endless inventory. You'll take orders for items that you will then produce and deliver at a specified date. Many professional craft artists say that it is nice to know that items they are producing are already purchased.

3. You'll typically attend fewer shows than you would if you were selling on a retail basis, and you'll spend more time in production in your studio.

4. Feedback on work will come from professional buyers; your contact with the end retail customer may be quite limited.

5. Your sales will consist of larger but less frequent purchases. That means you'll have to be good at managing your money because income will not come in a steady flow.

6. You'll need to ensure you have a large enough production capacity to manage large orders. Since you'll be selling crafts for less per unit, you'll make this up on volume. Therefore, it's important to ensure you are ready to manage that volume.

Considerations for selling crafts on a retail basis:

If you sell your crafts at retail shows, you will be selling your work directly to the end customer. To determine if this strategy works for your own craft business, consider the following:

1. You'll sell items at a higher price than you would if you sold on a wholesale basis, but you'll sell smaller quantities to more customers.

2. You'll need to bring plenty of inventory to craft shows, so you'll need to make plenty of items ahead of time to sell at retail craft shows.

3. You will very likely attend more shows that you would if you were selling wholesale, some craft artists enjoy attending art and craft shows and see this in a positive light, while others do not enjoy the time spent away from the studio.

4. You'll get direct feedback from and contact with your customers, which can be very satisfying and important to some craft artists.

5. You will make all of the money from the sale of the product (as opposed to approximately half when you sell wholesale), and since you'll attend more shows, you'll have more frequent influxes of cash.

6. Retail craft shows provide opportunities for interaction with customers and with other professional craft artists. This interaction can be important to some people who work alone and can provide important opportunities to network with colleagues and to understand your customer.

7. Time spent at shows will take you out of your studio. You'll need to ensure you have enough time in your studio for production and balance this with number of shows you chose to attend.

Of course, selling crafts retail or wholesale is not an either/or proposition. Some craft artists choose to incorporate both strategies into their craft business. If you have a clear understanding of your work preferences and your vision for your business, you'll be well prepared to make smart choices about the business strategies that will work best for you.

Lisa McGrimmon publishes, a guide for building a successful craft business. For more tips on selling crafts, please visit her site.

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