Having a wholesale plan for your art business is a great way to keep a steady stream of income year-round. When done right, putting your work in the hands of a wholesaler means they will concentrate on getting your work out the door so that you can spend more time actually creating.
If you’re getting started in this market and looking to sign deals with wholesale customers, there are a few important things to keep in mind. At the end of the day, these are business relationships and should be treated as such by both parties. Here’s what you need to know:
You’ll need to sell in volume
In a wholesale deal, you sell your artwork to a buyer at typically half the retail price. The buyer then sells the work to the public at its full retail price.
Selling your work to a wholesale buyer can provide a consistent source of revenue while expanding your product to new audiences. This could potentially lead to huge sales boost. However, the key to wholesale is volume.
Don’t undervalue your work
To get the most out of wholesale, pricing is key. Don’t undervalue your work in a wholesale setting. One of the biggest concerns about selling wholesale is that artists don’t think they can earn a profit. The only way to benefit from these relationships is to price your work consistently and fairly (for both you and the retailer).
Your prices should remain the same among various retailers for similar work. “Your wholesalers will be turned off by having to compete with your personal pricing or the pricing of other shops selling the same things for less,” says Shanalyn Victor of Shana Logic.
Know which pieces are right for wholesale
Retailers usually double or even triple the cost of your item. It's important for artists to accurately factor in all the operating costs (materials, hours, creative time, etc.) in order to set prices accordingly.
If something took hundreds of hours to make, and the wholesale price just can’t come down, then maybe that isn’t a good product for that market. Consider a streamlined alternative to cut down on overhead and diversify your line of work.
“Lower-priced prints and reproductions of products are perfect items to be purchased outright by galleries and shops, rather than consigned,” said Wendy Rosen, founder of American Made Show in an interview with Artsy Shark founder Carolyn Edlund.
Keep up-to-date line sheets
To make sure your production schedule and prices are running smoothly, stay on top of inventory management. You don’t want to be missing delivery deadlines or losing inventory info. Wholesale clients don’t have a high tolerance for these kinds of missteps because it impacts their overhead.
By effectively managing your inventory, you’ll have line sheets, catalogs, and invoices that are both consistent and current. These are necessary resources in the wholesale market. In a worst case scenario, a retailer has an easier time exploiting an artist who is disorganized and inconsistent. In the best case, retailers will view you as professional partners that they look forward to working with in the future.
Paying attention to inventory also means you’ll be able to react to changes in demand and use your production time more effectively.
Make it easy to find information for potential leads
Inventory management is an essential part of your business practice. Services like Artwork Archive make it easier to spend less time on the administrative aspects of organizing your inventory and offers seamless cloud-based management for your art business. The goal here is to spend time making art instead of shuffling papers!
Side Note: You should expect wholesalers you work with to keep accurate and organized records as well. This is a sign they’ll be easy to work with and on top of their sales.
Build relationships with potential clients
Stay in touch with prospective and current clients. Following up is an essential business skill when it comes to cultivating new wholesale customers and increasing sales to existing clients.
Send retailers up-to-date line sheets and catalogs ahead of key retail buying times. This is usually at the beginning and of the year — right before the third quarter. Invite established and potential buyers to your events. Send them postcards of new products. However you decide to reach out, make sure you are engaging your retailers!
Social media can also be a great way to reach out to retailers you’d like to connect with. Implement a comprehensive social media strategy, and make sure to work across platforms.
Consider LinkedIn to get in touch with key people at trade shows or interior decorators looking for local art. Leverage Facebook to post videos and engage an active audience. Use Instagram to show a glimpse of your studio and your latest work. Combine them all and you'll have a winning strategy.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Wholesale accounts have both advantages and challenges when it comes to expanding your art business. Knowing how much to produce, which pieces are right for wholesale accounts, and keeping professional records can help provide your art business with a steady stream of income.
Artwork Archive offers inventory and client management features to help artists expand and streamline their business.