Artisan 101: Consignment, Wholesale & Our Most Asked Questions

Artisan 101: Consignment, Wholesale & Our Most Asked Questions

Being a shop that contains all handcrafted items, we get a lot of questions from vendors/artisans who are interested in joining our shop, have questions in general about how all of these work and more. If you are an artisan looking to join our shop, this blog post will explain everything we do and what generally other shops do and may help you prepare and get into shops. It will also help you with how you can get into our shop.

Consignment vs Wholesale
This is a huge topic with vendors and shops. What's the difference? What will work for me? What will work for you? These questions will differ for each person so let's explain.
Consignment works like this. You (the artisan) bring in your items, you price them how you see fit and from that price, the shop takes a % of sales. We do a lot of work for consignment including; displaying your product, advertising your product, taking pictures of your product so we can sell your items on our website, sell your items, employ people to manage the shop to sell your items, have employees sell your items, employees restock your items, insurance, etc. The consignment % helps cover our overhead so we can keep the shop running. There usually isn't too much commitment from the vendor with consignment. You do need to keep shops well stocked with your items and refreshes may be required every few months but most shops will let you know when this needs to happen. The remaining money left over after the consignment % is taken off gets sent directly to the vendor.

Wholesale on the other hand is a lot easier for both the vendor and the shop. With wholesale, the store outright buys the inventory from the vendor (usually at a discounted rate). That's it. The shop is responsible for everything else and will email or message when they need more inventory. The great thing with wholesale is because the inventory is being bought outright, the vendor doesn't have to worry about anything. The shop is entirely responsible for inventory management, restocks, refreshes, etc. Wholesale is also a lot better for the shop as the shop gets to decide what the final pricing of the item will be so the shop can have the item within their ideal price range for their customers. Wholesale is usually a discount of up to 50% from retail. 40-50% is standard for most wholesale accounts. Anything below 40% is usually only applicable to food items. The downside with wholesale is that the vendor won't be making as much money, however, shops are usually buying in such big bulk, it works out in the end.

What option is best?
What option is best is entirely dependent on the shop and the vendor. Most shops (unless they are new and starting) will more than likely prefer wholesale. Most newer shops prefer consignment as it's not a burden on funds and they can easily run a shop on minimal funding. Consignment is also great for shops to bring in a new product that they want to try without holding up funds as well. If the product goes well with the shops' customers, they can easily switch over to wholesale and continue to carry the product. Each shop will be different with what they accept and do not accept. Some vendors may only feel comfortable doing wholesale, while some only want to do consignment. Some vendors will do both! It's entirely up to the vendor ultimately to decide what method works for you.

What do shops look for with vendors?
Quality. Quality will always win. We look for quality vendors who put a lot of work and passion into their craft. On top of that, we also ask what they prefer (consignment or wholesale) and get a feel for the person in general. If the vendor is not willing to communicate with us, even though it's a quality product, we will not bring it into the shop because we will have to consistently talk and work with this vendor and if it doesn't work out in the beginning, it won't work at all.
Being friendly, open-minded and receptive plus having a quality product will almost always get you into shops.

Most-Asked Questions
Other questions surrounding this topic will more than likely be answered in our most-asked questions along with our response. Don't see what you're looking for? Feel free to send us an email or a message asking your question.

How do you find your vendors?
The biggest way we find vendors is primarily through craft markets. We usually attend higher-end ones like Halifax Crafters, Dartmouth Makers, Christmas At The Forum, and Saltscapes just to name a few. We attend a few other craft markets during the year but those are dependent on if we're available. We usually make the time to visit the above ones. The other big way we find our vendors is at a local tradeshow for Atlantic crafters - Craft East Buyers Expo which is for wholesale only. The tradeshow happens once a year and we will usually get lots of new vendors from that show. We also keep a backup list on hand for if relations don't work out with a current vendor, we need to find someone to replace something we already carry because the vendor is leaving the shop, not continuing their business or the product just doesn't fit into the shop anymore. There are always 20-30 vendors on our radar at a time to bring into the shop or for us to have a list ready in case we need a new vendor or a replacement. We usually add to this list at markets.

When is the best time to reach out to a business about becoming a consignor/wholesaler?
Typical buying seasons for shops are right after Christmas (January-March) and right before Christmas (June-September). These months are the best time to reach out to a shop and ask if they'll carry your product. However, there is a huge BUT in that mix. Shops like ours and many others have a process, a form or something similar for vendors to fill out which helps the shops to make final decisions on if you'll be a good fit for the shop or not. Just because your craft may be high quality, doesn't mean it will be the right fit for a shop! Every shop has a certain customer base and they know what their customers will and will not like. They may also have too much of a certain craft and just are not looking for any more vendors in that craft. For example, we've tried embroidery in our shop many times and every time we brought it in, it just did not sell so we wouldn't bring in an embroidery vendor into our shop as we know it more than likely won't sell, unfortunately.

Check out the shops' website and social media and see if they don't already carry something similar. If they do, you can apply and you may be on that shop's "backup list" or if the shop is big, they may bring multiple different vendors in of the same craft. If you don't see your craft on their website or social media, then apply and you may hear back quickly! Always look and browse. Find out their vendor process for bringing vendors into their shop. Look everywhere before asking! Another tip: you will more than likely go nowhere coming into the shop in person to ask if they'll take you on as a vendor. Why? The one who manages the vendors is more than likely not the one working the counter and if they are, they'll just redirect you to their form that's on their website, social media, etc. It's great to visit shops but only AFTER a relationship has been started. The shop may also ask you to stop by so they see your craft in person. THAT'S when you visit in-store.

Are you accepting new vendors?
The big ol' question for the final part of this blog. Like other shops similar to ours, we do have a process when we are looking for new vendors. When we are looking for new vendors, we usually post a call for vendors. Sometimes we're looking for something super specific and sometimes we're just looking for new vendors to freshen up the shop. We also have a form that needs to be filled out by anyone who's interested in joining the shop. This helps us understand you, your craft and your commitment level. We always keep applications on hand as well so we can go back when we are looking for new vendors to see if we may already have someone who's shown interest in joining and fit our needs. Currently, at the time of writing this, we are NOT looking for new vendors. We have a bunch of new vendors that just came in for our spring/summer season. We may open up applications in June/July for the fall/winter season. Keep an eye on our social media for that call for vendor post.

I hope you learned a lot about vendors, what it may take to become a vendor, the difference between wholesale and consignment and get a little insight into how we run things over here at Crafty Owl.

Have any questions or comments? Let us know! Feel free to send us an email with your questions.
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