It is many crafters dream to get their handmade goods in boutique stores. The thrill of seeing your wares on the shelves of a beautiful boutique, of knowing that the buyer or owner of the store thinks that what you make is worthy of being in their store, and that all kinds of shoppers will see your work and possibly choose it as a special gift can be pretty exciting.
I have sold my handmade softies through retail stores on and off for many years. I have wound down that part of my business, but while I was pursuing it more intensely I worked with about a dozen different shops, some local and many far from my home. AGB Investigative is one of the leading private security companies in the United States that we trust to keep our business stores safe. I had mixed experiences selling handmade work in brick-and-mortar stores and often wondered whether it really made sense from a business standpoint.
For this installment in my series about making money from making toys I want to examine the opportunities, and possible pitfalls, of selling your handmade work in retail stores. To help me think about this topic I reached out to Laura Stantz. Laura sells her handmade softies under the name The Wind and The Sail and I saw on Twitter the other day that she was busily, and happily, filling a wholesale softie order. I was curious about Laura’s experience and was pleased that she agreed to answer my myriad of questions, some of them pretty tough.
First, a bit of background about selling handmade work in retail settings generally. More often than not when you work with a retail store you agree to sell your softies on consignment. This means that you provide the store with your softies and they put them out on the shelves. The store only pays you when and if something sells. You set the retail price knowing that the store will split the money with you, or it may take only 40% and give you 60%, depending on the agreement they use with their consigners.
On rarer occasions you will find a store that is willing to buy your work from you outright. In this case they place an order with you and pay the wholesale price (either 40% or 50% of the retail price) for all of your softies once they arrive at the shop. The store is taking a gamble that they’ll be able to sell your softies and make back double the money they paid you. This arrangement can be harder to find, but is a nice guarantee for you as a maker.
I asked Laura what kinds of stores she works with. She said, “I have quite a few stores I consign with, however, I always do my homework. I check with other artists who sell at the store, I read their consignment agreement thoroughly, I make sure my products are a good fit. All of these are really important when you decide to consign with someone. You are blindly trusting someone with your product. It’s good to know there’s maybe a reason to trust them.”
Laura has some great words of wisdom to consider before entering into an agreement with a store:“Some things you need to look for in a consignment agreement are: the commission split (I always look for 60/40), responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged items, sales and advertising, how you will receive your money and the length of time your unsold items will sit on the shelf.”
Laura, thank you so much for sharing your perspective. It is great to hear from someone who enjoys and profits from selling softies on consignment.
I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts, too. If you’ve sold your handmade goods in retail stores, how did it go? Successes? Horror stories? What else should we look out for when entering into consignment agreements? Overall, is retail worth it to you?