buying beads wholesale for a retail bead store

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ariels@4 wrote
on Jul 28, 2011 8:25 AM

i am looking into opening a retail beads store, i design jewelry now for a mfg. co..  i know of some wholesale bead suppliers through these years of mfg. jewelry, but are these the companies i would buy from for my bead store?  Are there other wholesale suppliers retail bead store owners use?  what about the tools, stringing supplies etc?  any info would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

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KipperCat wrote
on Jul 28, 2011 3:04 PM

Hi Ariel,

Last night I noticed several bead wholesalers listed online.  You can register with them to check their prices.  There are also some like FMG, who aren't really wholesalers.

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megabgirl wrote
on Jul 29, 2011 9:01 AM

Check out http://rings-things.com, they have some great wholesale deals, designed for re-sale.

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ariels@4 wrote
on Jul 29, 2011 9:14 AM

thanks KipperCat i will check it out!

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ariels@4 wrote
on Jul 29, 2011 9:15 AM

thanks Megabgirl, i have ordered from them before to make jewelry, but i didn't know about the wholesale.

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Tia Dalma wrote
on Jul 29, 2011 9:22 PM

Hi Ariel,

Owning a business is a brave thing to do no matter what the economy is looking like so I commend you on that! It is definitely a lot of hard work, it will consume your life at times but it can also be very rewarding! And when it comes to retail you will find that the biggest secret business owners keep is their list of suppliers!

It can take years to put together a good list of true wholesalers who you trust with quality of product, fair prices and labor practices and stability in their business so you can trust that they will still be there next year! As you go along you will find better sources or better prices etc. But building these relationships takes time and is an integral part of owning a retail business!

I owned a retail shop that I bought from the previous owner after working for her as the shop manager for over a year. She taught me everything I needed to know about our wholesale suppliers. She took me to the trade shows, introduced me to everyone and showed me the secrets of the wholesale district in NY...which is all priceless information! I would not have been nearly as successful with my business without all that knowledge.

It took her years to build these relationships and build a solid and established business in our community. So by purchasing this from her I started out with a huge advantage!

I would recommend getting in touch with the SBA and check out your local City Hall...there are many resources available to new business owners if you know where to look! It's not a bad idea to get some contacts in your local community with build relationships with other business owners...especially those who will not see you as their direct competition!

Once you have your wholesale business license you will want to register for the trade shows. There are many wonderful resources available through these shows...you will see which vendors have been going strong for years, if not decades and which ones come and go overnight.

Your business license will get you into many areas of these trade shows that is only for retailers, not the general public. This is a great way to meet the suppliers, check out their product in person and start building these relationships!

The first step is getting into this "inside cirlce"...once you are in you will find many options available to you...keep a notebook on you at these shows so you can take business cards, catalogs etc and make notes about each vendor that you are interested in...you will want to remember their names and what they sell and all those other details that you will forget once you get home!

This will help you cut out the middle man...places like FMG are great for when you need your supplies at better prices so you can sell your work with a better profit margin, but they are not true wholesale for the retail store owner.

Also pay attention to brand names of the supplies you already use for your personal stash. You can use these company names to help find the direct importers who sell true wholesale to retailers. Many of these companies will help you find a true wholesale source for their product.

I wish you much luck in this endeavor! Owning your own business is a wonderful experience...it is never easy and it can take over your entire life 24 hours a day sometimes, but it can be very fulfilling as well!

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D.M.Z wrote
on Jul 30, 2011 12:02 PM

Tia's advice is spot on.........I'd add to that, check to see if you have a Small Business Development Center near you. It is part of the SBA network and can give  you free counseling, classes and sometimes a library. Our library had a lot of help for sources of products and we had a computer on which  you could look up these companies. They can help you with a business plan..........most folks think this is just so much work for nothing, but it is a RARE company that survives without one. Just making one up can help you sort through a lot of questions that you might not have even thought of............your biz plan will truly help you focus and stay on track. There is business plan software also.

Also decide what you want to carry, you may not be able to carry it all at first, but listening to your customers will tell you what they want and need in your area of the country. Donna

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DebWAZ wrote
on Jul 30, 2011 4:39 PM

Ariel,

I've got to give you a lot of credit for wanting to start any business in this lousy economy, much less a bead store, when they are closing faster than some people change their socks! <sigh> If I was considering opening a store now, I probably would hold off on it for a while. But - Tia and Donna did give you some excellent advice.

Before you even think of suppliers, you need to do a lot of research. Beads, tools, etc are almost literally the last thing you need to think about. There's a lot of other things that you have to work out first. A business plan is a good idea - but, you have to use it to be sure you are staying on track. It doesn't do you or your business a bit of good if you do the plan and then toss it into a drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day again.

A big thing to consider is how will your personal bills get paid until your store gets established and you can draw a modest paycheck. You shouldn't expect the same kind of income from the store that you are making currently. If you don't have an outside source of income to pay your household bills, you're going to be starting off at a disadvantage. If you are planning to get a loan to start your business, you are going to be starting at a disadvantage, because in addition to all of the usual monthly overhead, you will also have a loan payment to make. Will your family support you - there are long hours - not just while the store is open, but the never ending work you wind up taking home after hours. I have one relative that thinks because I own my business, I can just drop things and do what I want any time. It doesn't work like that. When you own a business, you trade a single boss for literally hundreds of them, because every person who walks through your doors is your boss!

Other things to consider are:  Where are you thinking of opening your store? Have you scouted the area and determined there is a need or interest for a bead store? Talk to other bead store owners in the area and see what they say. Some (most?) of them will probably be a little hostile or defensive to hear that you might be opening a competing store, but this is good to know before you open, so you can be ready for the negative stuff. Do your homework regarding store location, rent, etc.. I would suggest that you don't consider anything less than 900-1000 sq ft.to start. Think about parking, frontage, window placement, doors, etc. My original brick-and-mortar store was 1,000 sq ft - it looked HUGE when we signed the lease. It "shrank" very quickly when we started adding shelving, tables and other "store stuff". As Donna says, you won't be able to carry everything - no bead store can, and none of my vendors do! Part of your research with other stores should be to find out what they carry, so that you duplicate their stock as little as possible. Things like tools, thread, wire are universal, so don't worry about duplication there!

Another thing is to consider who will be working in your store? What hours will you be open? Are YOU going to teach classes or hire teachers? Are you planning to hire employees to run your store - I'd advise you to hold off for at least a year. YOU need to be in YOUR store and you need to learn your business before you hire someone. PLUS - payroll is expensive. Not just the paychecks, but the taxes and employee perks add to the "burden". We won't even get into the government mandates and other discouragements to hiring employees.

At the end of our 3 year lease, we'd outgrown the store - we moved to 4,000 sq ft and after getting everything back out on the walls, we had very little "extra" space. We spent a couple of weeks asking ourselves, "How did all this stuff FIT in the other store?" 

Check with City Hall to see if there is a Business Development person - this person is a very valuable resource for a business that's starting out. They can tell you what you need to know about licensing, fire codes, signage, taxes, and more. Most of them have lists of available commercial properties and can tell you some of the quirks of a particular building or area. They can give you the demographics of the town and the surrounding area - you want to be sure the income of your potential customers will support the price point of your inventory. Also, some towns have historic districts, for example, where the signage rules are different than they are for the rest of town. Check with the Chamber of Commerce, too.

You probably have a decent list of suppliers from your job - that's enough to get you started. Also, checking the packages of your supplies might give you more leads. LBS (Local Bead Store) owners aren't going to share their list of suppliers with you - that's an asset that's literally worth its weight in gold. Most LBS owners have the attitude that they had to find their suppliers the hard way, and they aren't about to make it easy for you! Another source for suppliers is a show - wholesale credentials will get access to areas that the general public is not allowed. Visit suppliers at the shows - not necessarily to buy, but to start that essential relationship with them. I personally would suggest NOT buying the main inventory from a show, but only use it to fill in, special customer requests and to get in on some of the new products (though not necessarily the fads). However, your visit with a vendor at a show will probably be pretty brief - an introduction, exchange business cards (on which you will IMMEDIATELY note why you spoke with them), then contact them after the show. Buying inventory at a show doesn't necessarily guarantee that you get the best prices, plus you have the hassle of getting it back home and shipping isn't cheap! Some vendors are on the road in addition to shows and have regular routes they follow.

My business started in a flea market 8 years ago as a jewelry store. We had a 10ft x 20ft tent. We doubled that space a year later, when we added beads. We moved to a brick and mortar store in 2006 and moved to our new and larger store in 2009. Though the recession supposedly ended in 2009, bead stores are still feeling the crunch. When we opened our brick and mortar store, there were 4 other stores in the area (20 mile radius). 3 other stores opened after us and as of today, there is only my store and 2 other stores still open in that same radius. If you pay attention to business programs on TV, you already know that the outlook for the economy is pretty bleak, especially for a business just starting out.

The prices of gold and sterling silver are going through the roof, which means anything made with those metals are going up in price (including plated findings, silver lined and galvanized seed beads, etc.). When we started, sterling silver was $6 or $7 per ounce. We quit buying sterling except crimp tubes, jump rings and other essentials when the price hit $18/oz. When we started, gold was $400/oz and it's over $1,600/ounce now. That means that anything gold plated, gold filled or Karat gold is going to be expensive to buy and costly for your customers, who are struggling to pay the mortgage, buy food, and put gas in the car. 

There is a bright side. It's been observed that when the economy is poor, people turn to comfort things, like hand crafts such as knitting, beading, etc. as well as board games and "family home nights", so your customers are more likely to spend $30 with you so they can MAKE their jewelry rather than spend $100 or more for an item from a store.

I'm sorry if I sound discouraging, but statistics show that most businesses don't make it past the first 2-5 years. If you're going to beat the odds, you have to prepare before you even open your doors.

Good Luck - if you have any questions, feel free to contact me off the forums.

Deb - AZ Bead Depot

 

Deb

azbeaddepot.blogspot.com

 

 

 

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anybeads.com wrote
on Aug 16, 2011 6:20 AM

Hi everyone,

Deb, Thanks for sharing your experience and opinion, very useful as we are considering to reopen our retail store after concentrating on selling online for a few years.

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DebWAZ wrote
on Aug 18, 2011 4:17 PM

David,

Why would you want to go back to brick and mortar? When you have an online store, you don't have nearly as many headaches as brick and mortar, plus your overhead is much lower. If I had a decent online business going, I'd hold off on going back to brick and mortar for a while. See my comments in the Franchise thread here, as well.

Good Luck!

Deb

 

Deb

azbeaddepot.blogspot.com

 

 

 

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Claudette48 wrote
on Aug 18, 2011 8:23 PM

I absolutely agree with Deb.  The future is on line, not brick and mortar.  There are already show promoters having software designed so they can promote on line shows and stop doing public shows.  Many Promoters have already stopped doing shows.

Perhaps, if a person didn't have knowledge of what something looked like they might have to see it "in person," but I'm not really sure why and with the rising prices of gas people are not driving like they once were.  You can sit in the privacy of your own home in a nightgown or less and order whatever you want from anywhere in the entire world and you can negotiate if you want to.  You can compare prices, stores, styles, get a greater selection or more colors - things you could never do by driving to a store.

I have owned my own businesses for 43 years.  I have been at the present location for 20 years.  I live in the back.  Ten years ago I closed the shop and although every once in a while a think for a second of opening it again, it's only for a second.

For the past 10 years I've been doing 40 to 60 shows a year in 28 states - yes, I know there's only 52 weeks - I do mid week shows and trunk shows.  I can still hold my own at a show, but the price of gas is now higher than the rent and more and more people are staying home and shopping on line for lots of reasons.  Starting next year I'm cutting down to maybe 20 shows.  I've been working overtime for the past three months creating 6 web sites to make the transition from road warrior to relax at home and put in as much or little effort as I want in comfort.

If I had known how to utilize the net, I would never have opened a store and I would not have gone on the road.  That is a lot of hard work.

Now I do have a friend who opened a bead store and is a HUGE success, but today this is what it takes, and only you know if you have the ingredients to do this.  I only know Tia from the Forum, but she strikes me as Miss Personality Plus Plus and that is VERY important.  Look in the mirror and smile - are you the kind of person that can talk to a stranger as if they were your best friend and you were the hostess put there to entertain them and make them feel so wonderful that that's the only  thing they can think of when they leave and can't wait to come back to see YOU.  Not your store.  There's lots of stores. My friend sits int he middle of her store surrounded by buckets of beads and everything she needs.  She makes instant friends with ever single person that walks into her store.  She gives all of them free lessons and when they're "done" she turns them over to a sales person who hand walks them through the store picking out everything they need that there new best friend just told them about already making plans to revisit so they can be part of her happy, happy joyful  face and space.  She does great and if there's not enough people in her store she cruises Michaels and Joanns making friends where ever she goes and taking them to her store. 

Being a success today is not just about ordering stock, pricing it, then standing at the cash register while people come in to buy it and give you money.  There are too many options for them.  They need to have a reason why they should give you their money. they need to find you, they need a reason to keep coming back.  It is a job and never 40 hours a week with benefits.

I love what I do, like my friend loves what she does and we don't want to work for someone else, but it's not because this is easy.

I absolutely do not want to be negative and I would want EVERYONE to follow their dream, but unfortunately the success is the exception not the norm and when it's said and done and it doesn't work out, no one is going to give you your money, your time, your tears, your sweat, or your feelings back to you.  Make sure it's the right decision and that you have done EVERYTHING to insure that it is a success.  Plan on going to Tucson in February.  If you can't go to Tuscon then maybe a bead shop isn't for you.  It will be a great learning experience.

I will always try to help you in any way I can.  With the right credentials you can go to these shows.  They're pretty much all over.  www.glwshows.com/

Good Luck.

Claudette

Tip: To stop metal findings from tarnishing store in a ZIP Lock bag with a chunk of chalk.

amagnetaday

 

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Claudette48 wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 12:20 PM

I ran across this and thought I would share - it is an actual virtual grocery store in use right now - http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/16/view/15557/tesco-virtual-supermarket-in-a-subway-station.html

The present and the future is virtual.

More and more of my customers are saying they're no longer going to shows because of the high cost of gas and the heat, but they'll shop on line - thank God!

Claudette

Tip: To stop metal findings from tarnishing store in a ZIP Lock bag with a chunk of chalk.

amagnetaday

 

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DebWAZ wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 1:52 PM

Claudette,

I don't think that shopping in a brick and mortar store of any kind is going to disappear entirely. I know that if I was going to shop for groceries online, I wouldn't mind buying a can of peas or a box of cereal for example, but for produce, baked goods and fresh meat, I want to be able to see it and touch it for myself. Some of the characteristics of a head of lettuce that I use to decide which one I want are not definable by pictures or descriptions.

Bead stores are the same way - while something like Swarovski crystal is uniform in size, shape and color - ie, every 4mm bicone is exactly the same size and shape and Emerald Swarovski crystals are the same, whether they are round, bicone, drop or whatever shape. Same thing with Delicas, and the other seed beads - with the exception of dye lot changes - if you buy DB310 black, it's going to be the same whether you buy it online or in an LBS. OTOH, natural stones, such as turquoise, the multitude of agates, jaspers and other stones can vary widely - even from the exact same quarry and supplier, so while a picture in an online store might show a perfect white and grey howlite bead, what you get might actually be closer to a dirty white and grey colored howlite. That could be a major disappointment if you NEED the whiter color. Then you have the hassle of doing a return for refund or exchange.

LBS offer instant gratification for people who want the tactile experience. They are also sources for what I call "tech support" - assistance in basic skills that are sometimes not easy to assimilate from a magazine, book or even a video. Sometimes, you just need someone standing next to you, walking you through the steps, adjusting your hand position, etc. This kind of education isn't available at the "big box" stores either, unless you take a class. Most LBS owners are happy to share the basics - they want you to be successful in completing your projects.

So, while I do agree that a lot of things are turning to online stores over brick and mortar, I don't think that you can count LBS as going the way of the dodo bird for a while. Though with the economy so bad, they probably could be listed on the "endangered species" list. <sigh>

Deb

 

Deb

azbeaddepot.blogspot.com

 

 

 

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Claudette48 wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 3:37 PM

I absolutely agree with everything you said, as usually, and I certainly hope that you and your DH are in a very business for just as long as you want to be in business and that it is always wonderful.

And I couldn't agree with you more.  Unless I can get to one of my wholesales at their warehouse or at a show, sometimes I just have to order on line to get the price.  OMG you would not believe some of the colors or lack of in the real gemstones, which I prefer - or actually you would.  And OMG in huge letters, shouldn't a 5mm be 6mm?  Nope.  I have them from everything from 4.75mm to 7.5mm and what do you do with those if you need a 6mm?  Most of my patterns are "stock" patterns so I don't need a whole lot of extra beads for extra projects.  There are always issues.  Then there's the disparity between the colors on my screen vs there screen.  Yep, issues.

I think the grocery store is a hoot, only share it for the shock value, and I think for our own good we should all learn how to grown our own.  I just haven't been able to figure out how to go without sleep to that degree - it's tough when you're a one man band.  By the way the soft ware for a virtual expo is approx $35,000.00 - yikes, but I hear they're going on with it.

The reason that I was perhaps a bit "harsh" - sorry if I was, is just I'm pretty old and I've been around as they say, way more around than I should be, and a ton of people think they want to own their own business, but when it comes right down to to it, they want the independence and the money, neither of which the vast majority of them will get to the degree that they want.

And these times, economy, price of gas and on line sales is not the time to take a chance with the family fortune.  BUT I would certainly support anybody's right to do so and I would try to help them all I could.

 

Claudette

Tip: To stop metal findings from tarnishing store in a ZIP Lock bag with a chunk of chalk.

amagnetaday

 

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Claudette48 wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 7:23 PM

OMG, even the Smithsonian has gone virtual.  It says you can go more places "virtual" than you can in person.

http://www.mnh.si.edu/panoramas/#

Claudette

Tip: To stop metal findings from tarnishing store in a ZIP Lock bag with a chunk of chalk.

amagnetaday

 

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