Getting Your Handmade Crafts into Galleries and Shops

Sterling Silver Butterfly RingIt’s the beginning of October and this is actually a great time to get your work into shops and galleries. It’s been long enough since trade show season that retailers are ready for some fresh merchandise but they may be a little cash short if they are just now paying off the orders they received in the summer. (Many established galleries and shops have 30, 60 or even 90 day credit arrangements with their vendors.) Although the stats show retail should be up this holiday season, some small shop owners are still timid about buying heavily for the holidays. The idea of having fresh handmade goods on display that they can pay for when it sells appeals to gallery owners this time of year.

If you haven’t already done so, walk the shops in your town and make a list of those that carry crafts that compliment your work. What you should be looking for is merchandise that would appeal to the same people as your ideal customer: similar price points and style are key. You don’t want to show your work in a shop that sells mostly vintage-look if your work is contemporary and you definitely don’t want the merchandise to be significantly lower priced than what you make.

Medallion Handmade QuiltNote how artfully the pieces are displayed and how friendly and helpful the sales people are toward the shoppers. Does the merchandise appear fresh or is the silver tarnished?  You don’t want to tie your work up in a shop where pieces look tired and show signs of having been sitting for awhile.

Once you’ve identified some galleries or shops that you feel would be a good fit, prioritize your list as to which ones would be your best choices.

Remember, initially you are just checking the shops out.  Do NOT talk to them about your work on the initial visit, unless of course the owner comments on the pieces you are wearing. (You do wear your best pieces when you walk the shops, don’t you?)

Good etiquette for approaching owners/buyers is key. If you walk in with a box of your wares, you’ll likely blow your chance of them even taking time to view them. Ideally, you should mail a brochure with line sheet and photos to each of the galleries. Then, follow up a few days later with a phone call. Ask the buyer if you may make an appointment during her slowest time, before or after hours to bring your work by for her to look through.  A weekday morning is the best time to call.  After introducing yourself, let the buyer know that you understand they are busy and customers are their first priority.

Handmade Wood Shaving KitWhen you do go in for your appointment, arrive prepared with two copies of a printed inventory of your work with the retail prices. Ideally, number each piece so that you and the the shop owner both have a reference for what items they have. This will help them know how to pay you when pieces sell. Be sure to edit both lists if the shop doesn’t take all the pieces you have with you.

Bring in a well-thought out collection of pieces that represent your craft rather than just showing up with a random selection, It’s more likely the owner will sell your work if the pieces compliment one another and will display well as a grouping.

While you’re at the shop, be aware of the flow of customers and respect that the purpose of the gallery is to sell craft. Imagine how you’d feel if your work was already on display there  and the shop personnel ignored customers while working with another artist. You’d want them to be selling your work, right? Keep that in mind while you are there and let the buyer know that you are fine to wait while she caters to customers as they come in.

To find more detail on getting your work into galleries and shops, read this post on Craft Biz Blog  while you’re there get your f*r*e*e copy of  “13 Easy Low-Cost or NO Cost Tips to Turn Your Crafts into CASH NOW”.

Written by Terri Belford




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