Tips for Selling Your Jewelry in Shops and Galleries

Mar 18, 2008

 

 

Last year I decided I'd try my hand at selling beadwork. Oh, I'd sold a few pieces here and there, but nothing at a shop. What happened is a whole lot of learning and not so many sales. (Read my short piece "Beads for Sale!" if you want to relive my experience.) I’ve since decided I like writing about beadwork, not selling it!

Here's a list of what I learned:

  • Have a long, hard think about whether you really want to do this. Selling beadwork isn’t glamorous. It’s sales. Research, marketing, production, fulfillment. If you’re into beadwork for the creative outlet only, this gig may not be for you.

  • If you decide you’re up for the challenge, visit lots of shops and galleries, especially those with a textile bent if you’re selling off-loom work. Don’t even bother with the large retail places--most only take high-volume production work from major manufacturers.

  • Once you find a place or two that feel right, fully research the shop’s stock. Is your stuff too similar to what’s already there? Is it so different that it wouldn’t fit in? Don’t be afraid to look at the prices. This will help you set your own prices to compete with what’s already there.

  • Make an appointment with the gallery owner. Never barge in. These people are busy running their business.

  • Once you have an appointment, dress nicely and come totally prepared to present your wares. Think about it as you would if you were making a presentation at the office. You’re selling a whole package—yourself included—since you and the gallery owner will have a relationship of sorts.

  • Bring a variety of samples and know your prices down pat. Talk frankly with the owner about what sells well in the shop.

  • Know that your work probably won’t be accepted at the first place you try. You may have to make appointments all over the city, and it’s possible that you’ll need to send digital images if you need to solicit shops farther away.

  • Once you’ve been accepted, clearly discuss the terms for payment. Many small shops don’t offer a contract, but contracts are important! So if they don’t offer one, simply hammer something out that outlines your discussion about payment, how the work will be displayed, how long the pieces will be held, and who will be responsible for returning the pieces. Also include a clause about damaged or missing pieces—some shop owners are less friendly with their wares than others.

  • When it’s time for delivery, come armed with dozens of pieces for the owner to choose from. Have each labeled with a price tag. You could even include little gauze bags or other doodads to make each piece a more attractive buy. Attach your business card to each piece. (The shop owner might remove all this extra stuff, but it’s worth a try and makes you look like a pro.) Oh, and don’t forget that contract for the owner to sign!

  • Check in periodically to check on your work. You can call, but it’s even better to stop by the shop and see if your stuff’s being displayed and treated properly. Talk with the salesperson or owner to see how the work is selling.

  • If you’re selling the work, great! Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, and you really like the shop, strategize with the owner on what might work better and adjust accordingly. Remember owners are in it for the money, too, so they want your work to sell.

  • Don’t keep your work in the shop indefinitely if it isn’t selling—there might be a shop around the corner that will turn your work over like gangbusters.

  • Finally, remember that shops and galleries aren’t the only places to sell your work. One of the most successful beadwork sellers I know throws one huge pre-holiday sale in her home every year. She works for months creating high-end jewelry she knows her friends and family will love for themselves or to give as gifts. She invites everyone she knows to come, serves snacks and beverages to create a party atmosphere, and sits by the till and watches the dough roll in. She makes a quarter of her yearly income this way! You can also sell your work successfully at beauty salons, high-end clothing shops, church bazaars, school fundraisers, bead society sales, and online.

 


Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!

 



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Comments

LindsayW@11 wrote
on Mar 19, 2008 12:39 PM
Here's something that worked for me: I gave a pair of earrings to a friends who is a nurse at a large hospital, her co-workers likes them so she brought some to work and sold 30 pair! I even got some special orders! I had necklaces and bracelets too but only the earrings sold. I made display cards with the price, my name and email on them and put them in a 3 ring binder in page protectors made for holding baseball cards (a 10 pack is $3 at Staples)so they were all easily visible. It's a great way to take them to shops too. BTW the earrings were only $5 a pair, cheap I know, but they only took a couple of minutes to make and I used up my leftovers:-)
on Mar 19, 2008 12:46 PM
Hi Jean! I look forward to reading your articles every Wednesday. You have a way of being humerous while informing which I appreciate as a "beader". Keep up the great work!!
on Mar 19, 2008 1:32 PM
Thanks Jean for the story on your gallery experience. I also had a bad experience with a gallery owner. I made the appointment like you and showed up with my jewelry at the appointed time. The gallery owner then made me wait for 2 hours as she was the only one in the gallery and then had me lay everything out on a stool in the store. It was not a good experience. My beadwork did sell well there but I constantly had to chase down my checks and watch inventory carefully. We scanned pictures of everything as i took it to the store - made it much easier to see what was sold and still there and the gallery usually had no clue. It does pay to be well organised and on top of things. Also the owner did not tell me when she was about the close the gallery. Fortunately a friend did and I was able to get my beadwork out of there before the gallery disappeared. I think many of us have horror stories of putting our things in stores/galleries.
WarrenF2 wrote
on Mar 19, 2008 2:39 PM
Thank you for sharing tips about selling.

I'm going to disagree with one point. Rather than make an appointment, I'd suggest you make a personal, in-shop, cold-call.

I have owned a few stores over the past 30 years. I've seen lots of success, near success and not-so-success stories of our customers and students over the years.

As a store owner, I get so bombarded with phone calls of people trying to sell things or make appointments, that I tend to turn them all down. I'm so overloaded with information and requests, that it is easier to reject all calls, rather than spend time trying to figure out over the phone whether their visit to me would be worth my time.

A better way is to visit the store, and find out with whom you need to speak. Wear some of your jewelry. Leave your boxes and trays outside in your car.

If this person is there at the time of your visit, politely explain that you are interested in exploring a business relationship to sell your jewelry there. Point to what you're wearing. If it's a compatible style, you'll probably get the go ahead to bring your pieces in.

If this person is not in, try to get information about the best time or times to reach this person.

And come back in person.


Warren Feld
www.landofodds.com
WendyM@44 wrote
on Mar 20, 2008 2:59 AM
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with selling beaded jewellery. It is so disheartening when you go to a couple of shops and get turned down. It is so hard to finally pluck up the courage to try and sell only to be turned down. It really it me off. But now after reading your tips, I think I might try again. I did have a lot of success though by going to my daughters work place, which she organized for me during a lunch break. Nerve wracking the first 10 minutes, but after that it just sold pretty much without me having to say anything and I got a lot of orders. It would be great if waslike that more often!!
LaurieP@19 wrote
on Mar 20, 2008 11:17 AM
I have done some selling business witha store or two both selling out right and consignment. I have had a mixture of goodand bad experiences. I mainly sell my pieces at craft shows and along with my other products at weekly farmer's markets. I have a question rgarding selling at stores. My medium is primarily sead beadwork which can become very time consuming. I've approached several stores who would like to take my beaded purses, but when I look around in the store, they're selling intricate beadwork pieces dirt cheap which is in my opinion, criminal. How does one compete with the amount of cheap beadwork produced in some sweat shop and then sold to the store in some wholesale lott of many pieces? I have experienced this in both tourists shops as well as in some high end stores. from
PeaceB2 wrote
on Mar 21, 2008 12:33 PM
Two other points I think are important:
1. Can you crank out production work? Can you make the same piece again and again or will you be bored to tears? Also can you work fast enough to actually make money?

2. You should also talk to other artists selling in the places you wish to sell. See how they feel about the shop owner and their experiences selling in that particular store. You might think they won't talk to you, but most will. In my experience most artist/crafters are not all that competitive.

When I tried to sell my work, I found out that I couldn't stand making the same piece again and again. The whole reason I started making my own jewelry in the first place was because I didn't want to wear jewelry that looked like pieces everyone else wore. Also I discovered that most jewelry buyers were not as adventurous as me, so they wanted much simpler pieces.

I could not make simpler, cookie cutter pieces fast enough to compete with cheap work from overseas. I heard again and again that my prices were too high.

I live in a small city in the west. I should have paid attention to the jewelry that the women around me wore. I get lots of compliments on my pieces when I wear them but I do not see women wearing anything similar. I should have noted that.
PatriciaW@46 wrote
on Mar 22, 2008 7:39 AM
Hi Jean,

I am a jeweler and new beading artist and I with everything you have said. I have also made that pilgimage from store to store.
what I find the most disheartening in how much of a percentage the store wants.
If you take into consideration that the piece can't be sold for hundreds of dollars, it doesn't leave you with much profit after you subtract cost of the jewelery piece and labor. Most places want 60-40%. Many of my jewelery friends find trying to sell in small stores very difficult to make a buck. I have also considered a holiday party and am working towards this goal and inventory for this year..
GloriaN3 wrote
on Mar 23, 2008 6:01 PM
very funny article I enjoyed reading it!
on Jun 9, 2008 3:14 AM

Hi all,

I started jewellery making last year and have recently gone on line with my website  http://www.blissyjewellery.com...

I have emailed and gone along personally to shops in the hope of seeing my jewellery on display but I think there is a loss of confidence in spending at the moment....

Jewellery party's are a nice way of showing off your work and having a nice girly get together.. I print out invites ,give them to friends to give to their friends ...

anyone wishing to have a party of their own can either earn a percentage of the total sales or have a piece of jewellery:) ...

Also I give a piece of my jewellery as a present for different occasions and

tell the person to gift it to someone if they choose.. that way my jewellery gets passed on:)

on Jun 9, 2008 3:15 AM

Hi all,

I started jewellery making last year and have recently gone on line with my website  http://www.blissyjewellery.com...

I have emailed and gone along personally to shops in the hope of seeing my jewellery on display but I think there is a loss of confidence in spending at the moment....

Jewellery party's are a nice way of showing off your work and having a nice girly get together.. I print out invites ,give them to friends to give to their friends ...

anyone wishing to have a party of their own can either earn a percentage of the total sales or have a piece of jewellery:) ...

Also I give a piece of my jewellery as a present for different occasions and

tell the person to gift it to someone if they choose.. that way my jewellery gets passed on:)

DebbieF@31 wrote
on Jan 21, 2009 6:54 PM
Hi, Lovely to read all the comments. I live in Australia and pretty much all that has been said occurs here as well. My jewellery business has been in the making for 3 years. I finally have my website: www.beadingbeautiful.com.au and I find the hardest thing to do is break the market and have people truly recognise the pasion, time and design hours that go into some creations. Beading has been my dream since childhood. It is like any business you really have to put in the time. You have to believe that you will be a success and have a great marketing/promo package happening. I do parties as well, and they are good ways of bringing in additional money. I gave a highprofile full tiem job to my jewellery business full time.
sherry@101 wrote
on Jun 3, 2009 11:03 AM
Does anyone have experience doing consignment at botuique shops? I am going to attempt this and was wondering what the normal split in commission is. I've heard 60/40. Is this true? Also, did you have much luck selling? I live in a tourist area at the beach and am thinking some of the little local stores might be a good place to start.....