I’ve been selling jewelry for over 20 years. I did my first art festival in 1999. Since then I have done craft fairs, vendor events, conventions, and other festivals. I have also had my work in several different brick and mortar establishments. Based on that experience I have compiled a list of things you should know or at least consider before you get started.
Make a connection: This is the first and most important step. Go to the shop you would like to sell in. If possible go to the event or venue you looking at vending for. Meet the people in charge. Talk to the people you will have regular contact with. Figuring out a good fit not only includes the location but the people as well. Are they easy to talk to/work with? Do your personalities clash? The person or people in charge should of course be polite and courteous. But it also has to feel right. And they have to treat you right. I once had a woman who ran a local boutique pick up one of my bracelets like a dirty diaper and tell me I “don’t fit their aesthetic.” Obviously I could see that for myself, but I was willing to work with her on other designs. Needless to say we never got that far. On the other side of that, the minute I walked into the shop I’m selling in now I felt like I was home. The people are wonderful to work with and play an active role in the success of each vendor as well as the shop overall.
Get it in writing: Regardless of where you are selling, there is always paperwork. The contract has information that will affect the entire selling process and could influence the decision to sell at all at a particular location.
If you are leaving inventory at a shop you should always ask for a copy of the rental/consignment contract up front. It should contain the following;
How inventory is handled; tagging etc.
How theft is handled: who is financially responsible if something is stolen
How often new inventory is required
How payments to you are handled
How sales tax is handled
For shows make sure you have the following information;
Hours you are expected to be there
What you are required to bring for setup
Set up/break down procedures
Location, Location, Location: one the most important aspects of selling at a venue or shop is where it is located. How easy is it for you to get there? Is there parking? Where is it in relation to other businesses? How much traffic does the venue typically get? Does the event coincide or interfere with any other nearby events? Visiting the venue and speaking to shop owners or other vendors at a show can answer all of these questions and more. If a shop is far away but still seems like it’s a good fit ask if you can mail in inventory after you’ve done your initial set up.
A visit to the venue will also help you determine if this location is a good fit overall. In addition to speaking with who you will be potentially working with you can get a feel for the overall aesthetic of the venue as well as what everyone else is selling. Some “craft fairs” allow anything. You could be selling next to someone who sells tube socks. Be sure to take note of vendors who sell a craft similar to yours. Some events and shops will only allow a certain amount of each type of vendor. There may be several other people who sell what you do. Find a way to stand out. Are there other vendors selling something you are allergic too? When filling out paperwork for events it is important to note any special arrangements you might need. At an event always note where the bathrooms and food are.
The physical aspects of the location are important also. I have experienced consignment shops that are overcrowded or dusty. I did a con at a hotel and the bathroom in my room was dirty. Where your items are located within a shop or venue are important. How visible are you? Are you in a high traffic area? Make sure to do what you can to maximize your space and stand out.
Always consider thinking outside the box. If you make bathbombs and soaps, consider selling at a fashion show or a spa. If you make jewelry boxes, try an art gallery. It’s always important to think of new ways to get exposure. Just make sure it makes sense for you and that it’s a proper fit for both parties involved.
Inventory: As stated above, make sure your inventory fits the aesthetic of the venue/shop and make sure to stand out. It is important to keep track of your own inventory regardless of what how the shop handles it. Make a list, take photos, make sure everything is properly priced and clearly states that it is your item. Some shops have their own tagging system, some will have you use your own tags. Also find out if you are required to participate in any storewide sales or events they may have.
Almost every shop I’ve sold in has stated it is not responsible for theft. If something gets stolen, you will most likely not be reimbursed. Make note of where in the shop your items are, how they are stored/displayed, what security measures the shop has and do what you can to make your inventory as theft proof as possible. Breakage may or may not be covered by the shop. At venues try to secure your small items to their displays or keep them in a small case. If leaving you things at a venue overnight take note of the security measures offered by the venue. Break down and cover as much as possible.
I have a website and do in person sales. My website inventory is different from the rest of my inventory and stored separately. Most of what I do is limited in quantity and a lot is one of a kind. Keeping them separate makes keeping up with inventory easier and gives people an incentive to shop both online and in person.
Thanks for reading! Part 2 will come out next week!