Gallery Relationships 101

Developing strong relationships with your wholesale customers will increase your sales and your income. Here’s a primer on working with your galleries.


Gallery window display


Repeat business is what builds your small art business, so drive those repeat sales through developing strong relationships with your gallery customers. Think of them as “partners” rather than customers, and work together with them to help promote and sell your work.

Trust is the basis for all relationships, and this is especially important when working with wholesale buyers. They may have had negative experiences with artists in the past who didn’t deliver, or disappeared without a word. Reinforce to galleries that they can trust you through taking steps such as:

  • always shipping on time
  • never charging credit cards early
  • keeping your prices consistent, and never undercutting your retailers
  • working with them when issues come up, such as trading out slow sellers for fresh merchandise, offering repair services, or taking custom orders when requested.

To create the best possible partnership, you must understand your gallery customers’ needs and concerns.

They want to receive fresh merchandise in their stores for their customers, who are always looking for “what’s new.” Introduce new product on a regular basis to keep your work from becoming stale and slowing sales.

They need displays that work in their space and appeal to customers. Include merchandising ideas with orders, or even display fixtures if they are appropriate for your line. Other helpful items are hang tags, sales aids that tell your story, or extras such as recipes with cooking ware.

Help them with customer service. Some artists will pre-price merchandise if they know the markup. Other times, artists provide excellent marketing photos for use on postcards or ads for the gallery. Provide line sheets without prices for gallery owners to share with customers to take special orders.

Make an appearance, turning a trunk show into a special event for the gallery. Trunk shows usually bring in a big surplus of customers, who may buy from you but will also shop for other items in the store. This can be a win/win experience. You might sell one-of-a-kind pieces, new untested designs or unsold items near the holiday season. The store gets the benefit of your additional merchandise without making a financial investment, and customers love the excitement of this type of event.

Evaluate the relationships you have with your current customer base, and consider ways that you might reach out to make your own partnerships even stronger.


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