15 Tips on getting into a B&M

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Original Post

There was a post a few days ago that got me thinking.
I have had my b&m open for 2 months and have had over a hundred artists bring there stuff into me. So I've put together a little list that will help you get accepted and stand out of the crowd of artists that come in selling their wares. It's a little long, but hopefully it helps some of you out! : )

1: Come yourself
Don't send your friend, wife, husband, agent. I LOVE it when designers bring in their own stuff. I like to meet the people who sell stuff in my store and I often end up making better displays and bigger presentations for people who make contact with me. I have to put up my own money to make or purchase displays and presentation areas, so if I get to know you and you make a good impression, I can get a vibe of what type of person you are and make something to fit.

2: Don't be shy.
Be confident and come in say hello, ask for either the buyer or owner. Don't make a deal with someone who doesn't have the power to purchase your stuff. Don't take no from these people either.(Sometimes employees pretend they have power when they don't.) Talk to the person how has that power. If they aren't there, leave a business card, ask when you can come back. Make sure you GO BACK! I've had sellers chicken out after making contact with my manager and not me. I have called them back and they are always shocked that I call back.

3: Show me what you are worth.
Present your work the way you would like it presented. If you bring it boxed nicely and wrapped nicely, I will see more value in it than if you bring is in plastic sandwich bags or just loose in your pocket.

4. Wear your wares
If you make ANYTHING that goes on the body, wear it. Make a showcase piece- sometimes even valued two to three times higher priced than what you intend to sell. Wear it so that I can see the quality of your work in life not in boxes. Besides, if you say "Hi, my name is XXXX and I make XYZ that I would like to sell in your store." and you are wearing XYZ. I am going to ask "Oh, did you make that one?" Answering no doesn't show faith in your work.

5: Be interesting and interested.
If the owner is receptive, ask questions. When an artist seems like they care about the shop and what happens there, they are more likely to get a spot for display or an order from that shop. If you have questions about their contract, ask them. Some business have insurance policies that cover damage and theft, some don't. If you do consignment, the rate of consignment can reflect that policy. (The more coverage, the more money a shop takes from your sales.)

6: Know your shop.
Sounds like a no brainer- but my biggest peeve as a owner- KNOW the name of my shop. If you can, find out before you go the name of the owner or buyer. I appreciate being called by name. It makes me feel like the artist cares about connecting with me, not just making the sale. Sometimes it helps to make a phone call to touch base with them first before bringing your stuff in. Judge by how receptive they are on the phone.

7: Make a trip to shop before you make a trip to sell.
You don't have to buy anything, just look around the shop and see what types of items they carry and how they present them. Your items may be perfect, or they may not fit in at all. Some shops you may not want to be carried in. See how the merchandise is treated, price, presented.

8: Know the value of your work.
This applies on two levels. Don't undersell yourself. Many artists don't think their work is worth what it really is. But on the other hand something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.

9: Know the value of your skill.
Is your product up to standard? Don't judge yourself. Ask other honest people (friends & family) who will tell you honestly the condition of your work. Maybe you need to improve a little. Maybe your fantastic and don't see it yourself. We are our own worst enemies and our best and worst critics.

10: Understand where the business owner is coming from.
I HATE to tell you no. Business owners have a limited amount of money they can spend on stock. If I turn you down, give me your card. Keep in touch. If you make an impression and show me that you understand that I can't do a purchase at this time, I will probably end up calling you back in a few months when cash does start to come in again. If you storm out in a huff and rant on how awful my shop is, I won't.

11: Businesses are not a charity
Don't expect to be given a spot in a shop or a big purchase. You have to work for it. You are not entitled. Business owners work VERY hard to get their shops up and running and hopefully standing on their own two feet. Respect that you in essence are doing the same thing. Don't ask for a hand out.

12: Don't give up.
Most of my customers for custom orders come to me three months after making initial contact with me. The same goes for when I place an order for stock. I weight my options and then compare some pricing against what I feel about your work, then will come back and place an order. Don't expect people to buy the same day that you go into a shop. Be patient and persevere. Good things will come of it.

If an order doesn't come from a store. Go to another one and another one. Improve your work. Improve your presentation. Failure isn't forever. Brush it off and move on. For every item, there is a perfect person. For every artist, a perfect store.

14: Establish a relationship.
If you make a sale, follow up. Don't deliver the goods and call it good. Keep contact through email or pop into the store every once in a while. Once every couple of weeks is enough. But keep yourself in the forefront of that businesses mind. If you make a sale and disappear. Your likely to get replaced by an artist who makes the same types of items who does make contact.

15. Promote the businesses that promote you.
The more you show you care about the places that stock your items, the more reason they have to stock your stuff. Word of mouth and gorilla advertising is PRICELESS to a business owner. Think of how much time and money you spend marketing yourself and multiply the cost for a B&M. If you put forth effort, the store will be more likely to reorder, or advertise for you in return.

Hope these guidelines help. And good luck to everyone trying to get stockists.

Posted at 11:56am Jan 7, 2010 EST


Is this helpful to anyone?

Posted at 12:46pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

I'm marking this to read later. Thanks for sharing! I'm trying to figure out how to get my stuff into local stores and it'll be nice to read something from the retail perspective.

Posted at 12:49pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

what a wonderful list, dragonfly!!! thanks for your side of things! ;)

Posted at 12:52pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

I also have a B&M store and this is great advice to those who are looking to consign/wholesale with me! I have a new store so I am always looking for new sellers but it's just as hard for me as it is for them!

I like the charity tip. Very good to remember. I am also an artist so I know the value and time put into pieces but I also have to make sure it can sell and I can make some money off it it and I've had lots of sellers coming in expecting to have their items in the store for very little commission (A $40 item at 10% commission just isn't worth it to me to take up the space when I can buy a similar item wholesale for 40%-50% off the retail price and make more. Granted I don't have to put an intial investment in...).

Also, yes go into the store and look around. Just because it may sell handmade items doesn't mean it would be in the market for your handmade item or that it's the best venue for you. I always feel bad for turning people away because I know it's tough to ask but I always take their card and will put links to their etsy or website on my blogs and fanpages to help support handmade!

Posted at 12:55pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

I checked out this post because I was honestly trying to figure out what a B&M was! Now I feel a little bit silly, but I LOVED your advice! I used to sell my jewelry by walking into a shop and it always terrified me. I'm thinking about doing the same thing again with my lampwork beads so this was a perfect post.

Thanks so much, Dragonfyre!

Posted at 12:56pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

Thanks dragonfyre - have been thinking about trying this out, and your post is really helpful :-)

Posted at 1:00pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

I think reading this was very helpful. It's good to see the point of view from a shop owner's - thanks for the perspective!

Posted at 1:00pm Jan 7, 2010 EST

I've been seeing a lot of questions from different people, and thought I could share my experiences to help out. I know it's terrifying for artists to go into a shop to sell their work, but with a little planning beforehand it can be totally worth it for both sides.

Posted at 1:00pm Jan 7, 2010 EST