Dealing with Returns

You love orders, and especially reorders. Acquiring new wholesale accounts, closing the deal, writing that big order, working in the studio and shipping out the boxes.

But returns? Not so much.

Every wholesale studio has to deal with this issue at times, because accepting returns is part of business. Today’s consumers expect excellent customer service, and wholesale buyers are no exception. Handling returns and complaints properly is part of nurturing business relationships that you will want to keep well into the future.

Here are some ways to cut down on the number of returns, and keep your customers happy at the same time:

1.  Have your return policy written out on your line sheet under Terms, and on invoices. Make sure that your galleries know what your terms are. You may want to point this out when giving them their copy of the written order.

2.  Always ship the exact items that were ordered. Substituting merchandise, or shipping a partial order commonly leads to returns from stores.

3.  Items that are damaged should be reported to you promptly, not six months later (when they were probably broken in the store). If this occurs, you may want to take a look at the order history and the value of that account. If you make an exception to your return policy and take back merchandise that ordinarily wouldn’t be returnable, have a conversation with the retailer so there is an understanding going forward.

4.  If you have a guarantee on your work, honor it graciously. That means when a retail customer returns a piece of your work to the gallery, it may end up coming back to you. Make sure you offer to replace the item. You may find that it saves the sale, plus it makes the retailer look good when you provide a quick response.

At other times, artists may want to use returns to actually boost their business:

Offer Approval Terms. Some artists, like Sergio Lub jewelry, offer a no-risk trial period for new wholesale accounts. This is a guarantee that if the line doesn’t sell well, the retailer can return the product by the end of that period, while only paying for the items sold. It’s a great way to build confidence in new buyers and offer them peace of mind that you stand by your work – and can really boost new opening orders.

Trade Back Unsold Merchandise. There is always some merchandise that just doesn’t sell. Work with your accounts that have old product sitting around by making a trade. This method can jumpstart your line at their store again with fresh merchandise, leading to reorders. If the returned merchandise is discontinued, you may be able to discount it at retail and still make back the wholesale price.

Have you found creative ways to deal with returns that boost your business?


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