This week i received an email that a lot of people would be thrilled at. It was from a very well known crafts shop and it began, “we would like to carry your work in our store. Are you interested in a selling with us on consignment?”
Now, many people would jump up and down in delight and automatically throw a whack of work at the store. After all, having your work in a store means that money is going to pour in, right? You can sit back and just make oodles of work and they’ll sell it all, right?
Maybe. Most likely not.
Consignment is a very common method of selling your work in stores and the topic of today’s article.
Selling your goods on consignment means that you get paid by the shop only upon the sale of your items- essentially, you retain ownership of your items until they sell, the store does not buy them outright. This is often the easiest way to get your products into a store and can be a good first step if you’re just starting out.
So what consignment means is that you place an selection of work in a store and wait. Hopefully it will sell. Hopefully the store will pay you. There are no guarantees.
For many beginning their crafty career it is a huge ego boost to have your work in a store. Keep in mind that for the business owner consignment is a win win situation. By selling only on consignment, a store owner can fully stock their shop without paying a cent up front. If your work doesn’t sell, they simply hand it back to you. You on the other hand, have to pay to make it in the first place.
Let’s run some numbers quickly.
You place $2000 worth of work in a store.
Your costs are 20%. You spent $400 to make this work.
Your consignment rate is 50/50.
If the store sells EVERY single bit of your work you will receive $1000. This is a gross profit of $600.
The question you have to ask is if you want to invest $400 in the store, and do you trust them to sell your work. And how long it is going to take to get that money back.
So how to decide if you should consign? Here’s what I’m going to do with the store that asked me.
First, I’m going to visit the store and meet the owner. I know of the place but since it’s in a neighbourhood I rarely visit I’ve never been there. I’m going to ask all my friends and colleagues if they ever go there, shop there and what they think of the place.
I will go to that meeting with a list of questions for the owner. I want to know who shops at the store (age, income, style – are they my target customer?).
I’ll closely look at the other work they carry in the store, is it complementary with mine? What about price points, do they offer all different price points? What sells most? I’ll ask the owner to show me the best sellers in the store not just of jewelry (since that is what I make) but everything. I’ll check out the displays and ask to see the store packaging. I want to know the stores’ return policy.
A very important point is where my work would be displayed. There is no point to consigning your work if it is placed in a dark corner where no one sees it.
At the same time I must be prepared to thoroughly discuss the features & benefits of my work, how it is better or different than similar work and why she would want to carry it. I’ll be ready to talk about what sells well in my line and to whom it sells.
Then I’ll ask about the business side of the arrangement. What is the consignment rate? When do they pay? (end of the month, 30 days, 60 days) How? (cheque mailed, picked up, direct deposit). How do they let me know about restocking, how much notice do they give me? What about hang tags, do they use mine or theirs? Do they want bio cards or other sales materials? I’ll ask about insurance and theft, who is responsible for loss?
I’ll also write down the names of some other people who have work there and contact them. I want to know how it is working with the store, if they pay on time, if they have any problems.
Once this research has been done I can make an informed decision. It may sound like a lot of work, but if I’m going to enter a consignment arrangement I’d like to know that it is going to be a long term relationship and not just a flash in the pan. And with the holiday season coming up I want to make sure that any work I place in a store isn’t going to sit around. I have holiday shows of my own and need to fill my own booth.
If this sounds like a lot of work that’s because it is. This is called doing due diligence. You spent money and time to make your work. If the store asked you for money you would do your due diligence. Your work is money, treat it as such. Take care of it and it will take care of you.