Retail vs. Wholesale

Have you been selling your work retail but looking for a better way? Wholesaling has a lot going for it.


Shopping at a wholesale show
Wholesaling as a business model makes a lot of sense for a lot of artists. Especially if you have a collection or line that can be made in production, the efficiency of wholesaling has a lot to offer.

Even though your prices on individual items are lower, the benefit to you may be higher:

1. Artists who wholesale have increased time in their studios, because they simply don’t have to travel and exhibit at retail shows. Have you been traveling the retail circuit? Spending days on the road, setting up, selling, breaking down and returning home take a lot out of every week. You may end up with only 2-3 studio days before you are back out again. During the busy selling season, that isn’t much. And it doesn’t include a lot of time to relax or have a life, either.

2. With travel comes expenses. Staying off the road and in the studio producing work saves the cost of gas, hotel, meals, and paying your assistants, not to mention booth fees. These savings alone can reduce your bottom line costs significantly.

3. Unpredictability. Retail shows can be wonderful. They can also be disasters. We can’t control weather, or how many people show up at any given fair or festival. Of course, artists will use their best judgment and experience to choose retail shows that will provide the best return. But a bad weather season can affect revenue for the whole year.

4. More unpredictability. You may choose shows to apply to, but you can’t control the jury. Most shows are juried (including probably all of the ones you want to do) but if you don’t get in, your chance to sell is gone. Wholesale trade shows may offer guaranteed acceptance after the initial jurying. They may limit number of exhibitors per category, though, so if you plan ahead and apply on time, you don’t have the worry about being rejected and losing your opportunity to sell.

5. Potential. When you retail, you must make inventory to do the show. That means stocking up and hoping that you have enough prepared. Creating new designs? You spend time, energy and money designing and making stock. If a design sells out, you lose potential sales at that point. If the design is a bust, you may be stuck with poor sellers to mark down. In the wholesale world, you don’t have to stock up to do a show. You make one sample of each piece. One. And you will take orders during the entire show on that one sample. No chance of selling out and losing sales; you will always realize your potential on every piece in your line. If it doesn’t sell, you have only made one. Your time, energy and money invested in that sample is far less than the inventory of new designs that didn’t work out.

The beauty of selling in both the retail and wholesale worlds is that they work so well together. They are complementary, and can create a wonderful balance for an art business. You needn’t give up one for the other. Sell at retail and wholesale, and enjoy two streams of income from your art.


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