I'm in a unique position because I'm both an artist and a shop owner. Meaning I buy for my shop and I sell my prints to other shops. This has given me some good perspective into the wholesale process and I thought I'd share some tips / lessons I've learned along the way in case you're considering selling your products to shops.
These are just tips from a real life buyer (me) – not hard or fast rules. Make the process your own and don't feel like you have to follow my advice to do it properly. Do what works for you!
If you're just getting started
Wholesale means you are selling your product to a shop who will then sell it to their own customers. As an artist, this is really good for two reasons. 1) usually, the orders are on the larger side so it's a nice opportunity to make money and 2) you get exposure to an entirely different audience! I love when I get orders from shops in places outside of Chicago – I think to myself, one more opportunity for people to find me and my work! I've seen this success even within my own city – a larger retailer in the area now carries my prints and I've had customers tell me they found me through this other shop. So cool!
A few little hot tips:
- Price: Your wholesale prices should be about half of what your retail prices are. So if you sell prints for $20, you would charge the buyer $10 per print.
- Minimums: Decide if you want to have an order minimum. I would advise doing something that isn't too high that it turns buyers away, but it also isn't too low so it's worth your while. Remember, you are only making half the money per sale so it's good to set a minimum quantity for yourself. Some sellers don't have minimums, which is totally fine, but I have a minimum of $150 for my art prints. This ensures that the retailer is getting enough prints to see if we're a good fit and gives me enough profit to justify the sale.
- Sales tax: Don't charge buyers sales tax for wholesale orders. The buyer will tax their customers at point of sale. I learned this the hard way!
Tell me about line sheets...
I personally think line sheets are outdated. They are bulky, loaded with info I don't always need, and I can't buy directly from them (I usually have to email my order to the seller when line sheets are involved). Which I'll totally do if I want to carry the seller's product...it's just more of a pain and sometimes I put off ordering until I have time to do all the steps required.
I strongly prefer a website over a line sheet. It can be an entirely separate website (this is what I do, my site is wholesale.ponnopozz.com) or it can be your current e-commerce site with a 50% off unique promo code for wholesalers that you've vetted. Both of these are much easier for ordering, and trust me when I say you want to make ordering as easy as possible!
I also realize that making wholesale part of your website via a promo code or separate site is not always possible. I'm lucky enough to be dating a wonderful person who also happens to be a web developer. He custom coded my wholesale site from scratch (thanks, Seth!) but that can be a costly endeavor unless you know someone like I do.
If you don't want to deal with a custom wholesale site or adding wholesale to your current website, then a wholesale marketplace might be perfect for you!
That site called Faire
Faire is an online wholesale marketplace where buyers go to find things to carry in their store. I'm on Faire in addition to having my own wholesale site because it gives me lots of value in the form of exposure. It's like Amazon for wholesale brands – buyers go there to find new wares and your shop might be the one that catches their eye. From there, you may have a longtime relationship with that buyer especially if they keep ordering. SO worth it!
There is one downside to Faire and that's their 25% commission. If a buyer finds you on the Faire marketplace, Faire will take 25% of your earnings on that sale. Luckily, if you want to personally invite a retailer to purchase from you on Faire, you can send them a personalized link. If they use that link to order, Faire will take NO commission since you brought that buyer in directly.
Here's an example of two buyer's journeys:
1. The buyer wants to start carrying colorful art so they search "colorful art" on Faire and find Ponnopozz. They've never heard of Ponnopozz before, like what they see, and place a $300 order. Since Faire is the reason the buyer now knows about Ponnopozz, they take 25% ($75) and Ponnopozz makes $225.
2. The buyer finds out about Faire on Ponnopozz's website (here's my page for context). They click on the Faire widget that Ponno has embedded on their site and place a $300 order on Faire. Faire takes no commission because Ponnopozz directly referred the buyer to Faire. Ponno gets the full $300.
Even though the commission seems high, I find it worth it for the exposure that Faire gives in return. Plus, Faire makes it really easy to make shipping labels and print packing slips (you do all of this on Faire) and they have nifty Shopify integrations that allow you to keep your inventory up-to-date.
They are an approval only marketplace, meaning you need to apply and get accepted. If you apply and get denied, reach out to me and I can put in a referral for you! Sometimes this helps the Faire team take another look (plus I get some Faire credit I can use when I buy for the shop).
Once you get into the practice of wholesaling your work, it can be a fun and rewarding experience. The following best practices are handy tips to keep the relationship between you and the buyer flourishing for years to come.
- Be honest about lead times: Seriously. Even if the lead times are long, be honest about them. As a buyer, if I really want to carry your work, I won't mind waiting but I'd want to know about it up front. When retailers buy my prints and I don't have them in stock, I give them a 2 week lead time. This gives me enough time to get the prints back from the printer, package them, and ship to the customer.
- Package your work in a ready-to-sell way: No buyer wants to spend time fiddling with wares that aren't ready to be put on the sales floor. When I get an order, I love it when tags are already attached or products are packaged nicely. All I have to do is add my own barcode and put it out on the floor. When I sell my own art prints to a retailer, each one is sent with a cardboard backing and inside a plastic sleeve. I also include an info card about myself and my story, along with a Ponnopozz sticker on the front.
- Promote the buyer: Wholesaling is a two way street. Once the buyer decides to carry your work in their shop, it's instant promotion for you. Usually the buyer will list your work on their website (which is searchable on Google) and on their social media. And, obviously, on a shelf in their store! A kind thing to do is to reciprocate this promotion in an easy, low key way. I do this by listing the buyer's store in a Stockists section on my website. This way, if someone wants to find my prints at their local retailer, they can easily see if my prints are sold there. I also do an Instagram story post whenever a new store carries my work. It makes me look more legit AND it gives the shop some free promotion. Easy!
My prints, packaged and ready to sell!
I just threw a lot of information at you and several of you have already messaged me wondering what I prefer to do as a buyer. As of now, I strongly prefer purchasing things online in any capacity (your website, Etsy with wholesale prices, Faire, etc).
Of those online options, I prefer to use Faire. Something I didn't mention above is that Faire offers lots of perks to it's buyers that don't affect you, the artist. Things like:
- Net 60 terms for buyers
- $100 off their first order
- Free shipping for a year (covered by Faire)
- Free returns (handled by Faire)
Additionally, when you shop with Faire, all your orders are stored in one place. Faire also automatically updates new products you order to your store's Shopify website.
These perks alone make Faire my go-to spot to shop for the PonnoPlace. If I'm ordering from an artist who links to their Faire page (as I do, here) I always make sure to click their Faire widget so that Faire does not take a commission from them. I know how big a bummer 25% off your earnings can be, so I try to seek out artist's direct link first. I've also found amazing new products that I would have never come across if not for Faire so yes, it's my preferred buying platform! And no, this post is not sponsored or affiliated with Faire at all, BUT if you do want to sign up, email me so I can refer you (I'll get $300 to spend in my shop)!
All in all, wholesaling is super fun, but a bit intimidating at first. I hope my post helps you navigate the unknown waters of this new income stream. Did I miss something or do you have further questions? Let me know in the comments or email me directly.
Other wholesale marketplaces that are like Faire that you can try out!
- Handshake by Shopify
Thanks for reading!