Monday, 8 April 2013

Q : What do you Make?

A : Textile based jewellery and accessories... and pincushions - that you can wear!  

Last year I started thinking about selling my products to trade buyers and know this is the question I will have to answer - way better than that! I already work with several wonderful galleries on a sale or return basis but was becoming aware of how difficult this way of selling can be to keep on top off in terms of cash flow. Local shops, not for profit organisations, co-ops and similar are by far the best way to start out selling your handmade products, particularly if you are helping to support something worthwhile at the same time. However, as you expand, producing enough work to keep a larger number of SOR shops stocked up becomes harder and harder to do if no money changes hands in the first instance.

It is also true that many of us find the switch to wholesale difficult because it feels less 'handmade' to produce the same item in large numbers to then sell at a trade price. The almost apologetic phrase I paste over and over in my retail listings is  

PLEASE NOTE, Our products are completely handmade often using vintage materials therefore are not identical. You may not receive the exact item pictured but we make them as similar as is possible with our human hands!

So yikes - what if I need to make 25 pincushion rings for a wholesale order and no two will be completely alike, they'll send half of them back because the cushions are slightly higher on some than others, there are those few where the lace is a millimeter higher than the rest and that hand-stamped motto is just too sloppy on at least ten of them......oh wait, I said 'hand-stamped' didn't I?   I did say that - and that's what my buyer will be ordering, they know that when they arrange the items made by 50 or so UK designer-makers in their gallery that every single one is as individual as the person that made it AND the person that buys it and that's the point.

Thinking about wholesale for a varied range of small items like mine does mean I need to pare down my collections into what is repeatable and cost effective to allow for that 100% mark up and the dreaded VAT, also into what is commercial.  Yesterday I went to BCTF  - (that's British Craft Trade Fair for those not 'in the industry'!) and the question that nagged me throughout was this - How in the world am I going to put my homely, sewing boxy, vintagy pieces with their tea stained packaging into one of these here stark white boxes and make it look like something buyers might want in their gallery?  

I'm still not sure I have all the answers but there was so much diversity in the work on display (as there is in the galleries themselves) that despite being a bit overwhelmed by the size of the event and the quality of the exhibitors' work, I actually left with lots of ideas to work on and plenty of food for thought.  The organiser Margeret Bunn covered the long and short of making and selling handmade to trade buyers in a brief yet very informative talk and I was relieved to discover that I was not far off the mark at all with my own pricing and terms and that Margeret is behind her makers every step of the way -  good to know!

So I have more or less finished this website of mine,  improved  my Wholesale Catalogue, am crossing Ts and dotting Is on my terms and conditions and gearing up for BCTF 2014!

Paula x

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