Beyond Etsy: A 4-Step Guide to Selling Your Art and Jewelry in Local Stores

sell your art
Christina Clendenin Tate under Creative Commons

When you’re just getting started as an artist or jewelry designer, it’s hard to stay motivated. You put time, love and hand-crafted goodness into each and every piece, design a first-class website and upload photos of your products, and wait patiently for the first sale (that sometimes doesn’t come).

However, you’re overlooking an important part of the sales process. While it might seem like ecommerce is the only way to sell your art and jewelry, you can make lucrative sales offline as well. You’ll just need to embrace some good old fashioned legwork!

Not sure how to get started? Here are fourthree easy steps for placing your art or jewelry for sale in a local retail store.

1. Identify Local Stores That Fit Your Brand

Don’t make the mistake of bombarding every retail store within a 30-mile radius unless you’ve got a lot of energy (and product) to spare. You’ll get much better results if you carefully target local stores that fit your product brand.

Start by clearly identifying your target customer on paper. Write down everything you can think of that would help you identify where this person likes to shop and what this person likes to buy. Use this information to guide your selection of local stores that might be interested in carrying your products.

For example, if you design beach-themed, large-beaded jewelry, your products might be very attractive to a store owner who caters to upscale, middle aged women interested in nautical and beach clothing or accessories. It may not be the best fit for the local college fashion store that features more trendy, modern jewelry.

If you live in an area full of more big-box brands like Walmart and TJ Maxx than local outlets, you might need to expand your area of focus. Look for nearby small town and downtown areas that tend to offer more local business opportunities. When you’re first trying to place your art or jewelry, the smaller the store, the better.

2. Prepare to Pitch Your Goods

When you’ve identified 10 to 15 local stores, it’s time to prepare your sales pitch and marketing materials to make a connection with each store owner. For this step, you’ll want to write a brief elevator pitch that details your experience and your unique approach to designing your products. Express your passion for your product and highlight what makes your products different than others the store owner might stock.

During this conversation, you should be prepared to hand over a simple one-page press kit or trifold brochure that features examples of your products and notable press mentions. If you can, include details about how your product sells online or in other stores.

Finally, bring along one or two product samples that you can give to the store owner as a gift. Not only will this establish a polished presentation and a sense of goodwill between the two of you, but providing a sample allows the store owner to get a sense of the quality of the product over a long period of time.

3. Place Your Pieces in Person

Take two to three days on your calendar and visit each store at a slow time, such as between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on a weekday. As you walk around the store to take in the products and presentation, start a polite, personal conversation with the salesperson or business owner. Compliment him or her on the product displays and the quality of the items in stock, and use that as a natural segue into your brand’s elevator pitch.

As you end the conversation naturally, don’t try to close the placement or sale the same day. Finish your conversation by asking for permission to follow up with the business owner in a few weeks and then do so.

4. Negotiate a Reasonable Wholesale Rate

When you make your follow-up calls, you will likely have a few store owners who are interested in working with your product line. That means it’s time to establish a wholesale rate for each of your products.

Wholesale rates vary from industry to industry and provide a margin for both you and the store to make money off of your products. It also makes it more attractive for a store to stock up on your goods. When establishing your wholesale rate, you’ll want to take into account all of your expenses and possible profits, like this wholesale pricing formula from Etsy:

Materials + Labor + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

For example, if you design custom jewelry, your formula might work out like this: you spend $3 in supplies, work for 30 minutes at $20 per hour, and would like to cover 5% of your monthly business expenses of $150 and earn a profit of $2, then your wholesale cost for each piece is $32 and your retail cost is $64. Using this formula to set a consistent price for each product placement will help you establish a professional brand and secure the profit you deserve for your hard work.

It’s important to have a professional web presence and an ecommerce option for your art and jewelry products, but don’t limit yourself to the digital world. Put in the effort to make connections and place your products in local stores to maximise your profitability in the long run!

Your Turn: Do you sell products in local stores? How did you first connect with retail owners and place your wares in their shops?

Sarah Greesonbach is the magic bean behind Greesonbach Creative, a distinctive copywriting and content studio, and a former budget-hater. Compare mistakes in personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.