While my jewelry-writing career has begun to overtake my jewelry-selling career, on occasion I still find time to hit the streets and sell to boutiques and galleries. Even from my earliest days in the jewelry business, I was fairly successful when selling my work wholesale. It is not for everyone and there isn’t necessarily a one size fits all formula, but with some preparation and organization, selling hand-crafted jewelry to small shops, boutiques, and galleries can help you earn some good-sized sales.
I’ve considered what has and has not worked for me in the past and have come up with a list of Dos and Don’ts when approaching retail outlets with your jewelry.
Do some reconnaissance
Work in the area before contacting anyone. If possible, make a trip to the store first and examine the merchandise to ensure your jewelry will fit in with the current inventory. Some shops also have websites these days, so if you can’t go in person, you can sometimes take a virtual tour online. Be sure to note the complexity and prices of the pieces in the shop as well as the volume of jewelry in the shop. Take note if any of the pieces are dusty, broken or damaged in any way. This will give you great insight into the workings of the shop.
Don’t show up unannounced
Contact the owner or manager and set up an appointment. Most stores schedule specific times on specific days to meet with vendors. If you happen to be in the shop one day and it’s slow, it might be all right to introduce yourself and leave a card, but don’t expect to do more than that.
(Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to have your jewelry in your car just in case either!)
Do look professional
Look professional and wear your jewelry whenever you make contact with a shop owner. Be sure to dress the part. If your jewelry style is free flowing and has a bohemian vibe and that is what your wardrobe looks like - you will know that you don't fit into an uptown, upscale boutique.
On the other hand, if you would LIKE to fit into that uptown, upscale boutique and you've been doing some designing in that line, be sure to wear clothing that fits in with that style.
Don’t mention the word “consignment.”
Unless the shop owner brings it up first, don't mention it. Even then, unless the place you approach primarily consigns its merchandise, I never recommend consigning. If a shop owner can buy from other businesses, then she can buy from you. Another reason to avoid this is the fact that consigning requires the merchant to keep careful records. If the shop doesn’t do this already, then too many mistakes can be made, resulting in lost merchandise and income for you. Again, go back to the first DO - if jewelry is in a state of disrepair the same will likely happen to your pieces.
Do provide a wholesale price list
Sometimes it is referred to as a data sheet. You may also want to have brochures or other promotional materials available. These are helpful when making initial contact.
You can either mail them or drop them off in person.
Don’t be surprised by interruptions
It will almost be impossible to get undivided attention. Be prepared to wait as the owner has to take care of other issues such as phone calls, employees, customers, etc. Plan extra time into your schedule for these meetings so that you do not get flustered or feel rushed.
Do practice your elevator pitch
Know what you plan to say, and while you want to be friendly, be careful about straying off topic or wasting the buyer’s time with too much unrelated chit chat. You are both busy, and it's best to stay on track.
Don’t forget to bring a receipt book
Along with a receipt book, bring a pen, and calculator along with your jewelry. Double check that you have everything you need before you pack everything up and head off to your appointment. I find it helpful to pack everything the night before so I'm not rushing to get out the door at the last second.
Do invest in a jewelry case
You will need a jewelry case to transport and show your work. A few places that carry these cases along with trays and liners include the Rio Grande and JewelrySupply.com. It just makes you look more professional.
Don’t overlook the importance of the “follow-up.”
If a merchant says she can’t buy now but might be interested in a few months, mark your calendar and contact her again. Also, if you do make a sale, continue to occasionally make contact with the buyer. Send a thank you note and/or promotional material about new designs you have available. Your goal is to build a relationship with a buyer which will lead to more sales.
No matter what type of jewelry you are making from beading to wire wrapping to metal work, there are lots of little shops and galleries around that you could approach about buying your own hand-crafted jewelry. You just need some confidence and a plan!
Updated by Vicki O'Dell