Online Sales and Galleries~The Business of Lampworking

The International Society of Glass Beadmakers (ISGB) hosts a booth at The Buyers Market of American Craft (BMAC) every year in February. BMAC is the show gallery owners shop at to fill their stores. Members of the ISGB have the opportunity to participate in the show at a reduced rate. It’s a great opportunity for artists to get a feel for the show without a huge financial risk.

But how does an artist balance online sales with gallery sales? Many people will say galleries will not deal with artists who sell online. My question is as a modern artist: How can you not sell online and expect to be successful? The trick is to respect your wholesale accounts.

By this I mean: Do not undercut galleries by selling to the general public below your retail price. Your retail price is usually double your wholesale price. That means you should not list a piece on Etsy for one-hundred-dollars and expect to sell the same piece to a gallery for one-hundred-dollars as well. The gallery must mark your products up to earn a profit. If they can’t, why would they buy from you? And why would anybody buy a piece from a gallery for two-hundred-dollars when they can order it direct from the artist for half the price? Or worse, the person buys from the gallery, goes home and Googles the artist’s name and finds out they’ve overpaid. That gallery just lost a customer. Bad business.

So if you want to sell to galleries and maintain a working relationship, respect them and their need to turn a profit.

Also consider making pieces specifically targeted for galleries. These are pieces you do not offer online and are exclusive for wholesale accounts. That way there isn’t any danger of undercutting and the gallery can then charge whatever they want for the piece. The rule of thumb is wholesale is fifty percent of your retail price, but galleries sometimes mark things up two to two and a half times. If you’re selling it at double your wholesale, you are still undercutting them and they may choose not to do business with you.

I’ve already mentioned the BMAC show which is one way of introducing your work to galleries. Another is Wholesalecrafts.com. They are an online gallery exclusive to wholesale venders. Consider putting together a brochure and mailing it to the galleries you are interested in.

For local galleries call to set up appointments to meet with the gallery owners/buyers. Do not just show up with your work in your hands. Often the buyer won’t be in, plus you need to respect their time. Also they could feel put on the spot and that isn’t a great way to start a business relationship.

Be prepared. Know your wholesale terms. What dollar amount does the gallery have to meet in order to qualify for wholesale? Do they have to meet it again each time the order, or can they reorder less at wholesale rates after the relationship is established? Will you accept net-thirty payment terms? Does the gallery have to pay upfront? Are you willing to offer pieces on consignment? If so, have a boiler plate contract ready to go. Does the gallery pay you if items get lost, stolen or broken? What is the consignment rate? fifty-fifty? Sixty-forty?

The more professional you are, the more likely they are to take you seriously. We artists can be flaky. You don’t want to give them a reason to say no.

With all this said, I confess, Greg and I don’t sell much work through galleries. We have done some in the past and may in the future. But currently, I just have too much on my plate with online sales, shows, wholesale bead and murrine accounts, and the books I”m writing. Adding wholesale gallery accounts and doing it right is just one too many things right now. It’s important to know your limits.

Good luck!

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9 thoughts on “Online Sales and Galleries~The Business of Lampworking

  1. A glass beadmaker sounds like such a cool hobby and I know it’s a career for some people. I think tradeshows and events like BMAC are a great way to network and also learn more about the trade. Good advice to keep in mind about its business aspect.

    Red sent me. http://redtash.com/

  2. I only think of you as a writer, I confess, so it always throws me a little when I see the beadwork posts! I got used to seeing your Bourbon Street cover on KB forever. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The glass beads are amazing, though. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry right now, just won’t work with my lifestyle, but someday…

    Beautiful work! Hope you are enjoying the visitors, they sure seem to like you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You know, Red, I’m a beadmaker and I rarely wear jewelry. lol Thanks! Working from home in the studio everyday means I rarely dress up…or even decent. Burn holes are hardly fashionable. And don’t writers work in their jammies? ๐Ÿ™‚

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