One of my goals for this year was to get another shop to sell my jewelry on consignment – where they provide the storefront, I provide the goods, and we each get a cut of the resulting sales. A couple of years ago I had 3 shops with my jewelry on consignment, but with the downturn in the economy two of the shops closed. I managed to bump up business online and through trunk shows, but I missed those shops. So recently I heard a shop owner speak about what she looks for in a consignor, and I took a risk and contacted her. Here’s the scoop:
Hanna Curran, the owner of Sanctuary in Westlake, came to speak at a Team Etsy Austin event, and as part of her discussion she mentioned that she wasn’t a fan of the “drive-by” designer visits. I’ve done these before – you’re in a shop that sells things similar to yours and you think you might be a good fit, so you ask the manager or owner if they’d like to see your goods. The problem with these kinds of visits is that the manager of the shop is working – they may not have the time to give you, and may feel uncomfortable sending you away.
Instead, Hanna said, put together a “Line Sheet” of your work and email it to the shop manager or owner. As she described it, the Line Sheet is basically a catalog page, with descriptions and photos of your work, along with suggested retail and wholesale prices. After listening to Hanna talk about the kinds of merchandise she looked for, I put together about 25 of my earrings and necklaces on a sheet, and emailed it to her. I followed up about a week later, and arranged a time to drop by and show her the actual pieces. Even though she was a little busy with customers, she was able to spend time with me, and ultimately she said she’d take all of my items for her store.
Different shops offer different consignment fees – I’ve done a 60/40 split, a 65/35, and a flat 20%. I have never been charged a monthly fee although I understand some shops require that. In all cases I’ve marked my own products up to the consignment price, and worked out a code with the shop so that they can keep track of my sales and compensate me. Most of the shops I’ve worked with have cut checks monthly and included an inventory or tally sheet of what sold.
I’ve only ever had one somewhat bad experience – one of the shops I worked with was struggling in the bad economy over a year ago, and I was cut a check for only half of what sold that month, with the owner including a note that she was having trouble paying all of her vendors. It was a really tough choice, but I explained to her that I needed to pull my inventory, and that I expected full payment within 30 days. She made good on the payment, but I agonized over the potential to alienate a shop owner, versus the possibility of my inventory “vanishing”. At the end of the day it was the right move – but I kept the tone very professional and calm.
There are lots of good guidelines for selling on consignment online, so this is just my experience, limited as it may be. I’m excited that I’ve achieved one of my goals for this year, and I’m hoping it’s a profitable relationship – meanwhile, if you’re on Bee Caves Road in Austin, drop by Sanctuary!