Monday, January 11, 2010

Q&A with Alexandra of Poni's Parlour and Paper Theatre

Right now I am a new brand trying to get the word out about my jewelry to the public! Which isn't always easy. We have Walmart and Zellers mass producing cheap (cost and quality wise) jewelry that is "trendy". I'm sorry but that's something I HATE... If I'm going to wear something I want it to be unique me. So how do you get your OOAK (One of a Kind) jewelry/artistry out into the stores? Well you surely don't start with Walmart, that's for sure, start local. Local boutiques are all the rage right now and fledgling designers are what makes there shops POP. So my thing right now is checking out how to "wholesale". Wholesaleing can be a great way to get a big payoff and a guaranteed sale. After poking around Etsy ( my favourite place to shop and sell), I found Alexandra of Poni's Parlour in New Hampshire and Paper Theatre here on Etsy.

Alexandra has had 4 retail stores, 5 product lines which were featured in Country Living twice, Cat Fancy, The New York Post and 30 other national magazines.

So without further adoo its Q&A time!

Should you already have a following online before going to stores to prove that ur pieces will sell?

No, you do not need any type of following online to start selling. Most manufacturers come out with a product and start selling day one to stores. I say manufacturer as I am talking about the retail world outside of etsy and selling to stores in that world which is what you want to do. A great deal of people have not heard of etsy and etsy does not set the retail standard so most retailers will not even ask how much you sell online as it is a completely different market and venue.

What is the most common way that stores set up an agreement? I have heard some like commission and some do wholesale buyout.

Both wholesale (buyout has a different meaning in retail, it is not the same as wholesale) and consignment (commission) are common, though the terms of each can vary in consignment. However in wholesale the industry standard is 50% of your retail price makes your wholesale price with an opening order minimum of anywhere from $150-$200. That is the most common. Stores set many different consignment arrangements, but the average would be 40%-store, 60% to the artist.

Does OOAK (One of a Kind) tend to sell (that you have heard of in your personal opinion) better then mass produce?

I think the average store carries much more manufactured goods than handmade or OOAK so manufactured items do sell better or the NY Gift Show would have 90% Handmade instead of 90% manufactured. Easy to gage what is selling by that show as it is the main industry gift show for retailers to buy from. As I am writing this to you I am using industry terms not etsy terms so that when you talk to retailers you will sound all the more informed. Manufactured instead of Mass produced for instance (hope you don't mind).

What would be one thing that you would recommend a designer do to prepare before even making the phone call!?

Before making the call to a retailer, know their shop to make sure your products are right for it, prices included. If they sell handmade goods and their price points are $20-$40 and you want to sell them a necklace that will retail for $150, chances are they will not buy your line. If you want to really get in good with a retailer buy something from them. Retailers hate the tons of people who live locally but only come into a store to sell them something instead of buying. Know ahead of time if you will or will not sell wholesale or consign, and know your prices, arrangement, etc. A retailer may want to buy from you or she may just want to consign. Either way she may ask you your policies so you need to know them. Don't call first thing in the am or after 3 to talk to a retailer. Those are the worst times to call. NEVER go into the store to try and get an appt. Always call first to set up an appt. Do not sell to other retailers in the same town and wait on the first retailer you get an appt to see if they want to carry your line before making appts with other stores. Let them know you want to get into a store in your town so if they are not interested to please let you know so you can try elsewhere. Being respectful goes along way too. If they decide not to carry your line then go to other stores.Retailers are very competitive about their lines. One way to burn a bridge is to try to get your products into more than one store in one town. Also you over-saturate your market.When you call be friendly but short and to the point as they may have customers waiting or that they are watching, and if not, you only have a few minutes in any conversation when selling to get them interested.

What suggestions do you have for me as someone wanting to sell to my local retailers?

Before making the phone call practice calling a friend on the phone and act it out. Do it over and over again until you feel confident. Give your friend a list of questions to ask you back. Have all your info in order in your head and on paper to show a retailer.

The last question I have gone over pretty well already. But I would add that you don't have to be perfect to sell your product to a retailer. If you are nervous going in just tell them you are nervous and that it is your first time. Being humble and kind goes along way. Wear something that is nice that fits with who you are but also professional.Keep in mind that while you are in your appt the owner will still be watching customers and may leave you to help them. This is how we make our money and we cannot loose sales for appts so don't take it personally. Send a thank you note after the appt to thank the retailer for her time. Hopefully she will order with you right there but don't be upset if they do not. I never order with my reps sitting there. I need time to decide, and add up costs, figure out shelf space, etc.

If a retailer does not buy your product there are tons of reasons why and please don't take it to mean your product is not good enough as many artists tend to think that way.

[I will be adding more to this as I learn more. As well I will also update always on my experience as I start this journey!]


  1. This is a great interview with excellent information. I learned a lot!

  2. Great info for newbies to wholesaling - thanks, Elizabeth & Alexandra! I would add a caveat to your advice on not selling to multiple retailers in the same town. This may apply in some, but not all towns. I'm in Madison, WI where several stores, a gallery and a day spa carry my work.

    I would also say go ahead and book those appointments and don't wait on a retailer to finally get around to calling back. Be up front about who else carries your work. The wider your design selection and price points the more each retailer will find to meet their needs. They will tell you up-front if they want exclusivity.

    Thanks again for the great info!

    - Rachael Brooke

  3. BTW - thanks Indie CEO for tweeting the article!

    - Rachael Brooke

  4. This interview was a great read. Thank you for putting this together. I am working on opening my own store and I like to read the perspective of the shop owner.

  5. Great Article! Thanks for sharing!





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...