With the gift shows going on this January, there has been a lot of talk about the wholesale shows. Retail buyers can find quality items for their stores, catalogs, and businesses, and artists and craftspeople can find venues to sell their wares.
But how does one compare the options that are available? Here's a quick overview.
photo via AmericasMart website
Let's start with the Trade Shows. And they are scattered all over the country. Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, East Coast, West Coast. Some are larger. Some are smaller.
This is where retail buyers can see, touch, and feel items in person. You can spot trends in tune with your local market. We have all bought items online or from a catalog only to realize when they arrive, the item actually looks better in the photograph or on the model. Great lighting, creative cropping, and a little photoshop magic can go a long way to making things looks better than they really are. That is the problem with relying only on a website to stock your retail establishment. Websites are a great adjunct, but nothing replaces actually seeing items in person. Skip the tradeshows and your business suffers.
Here's a list of the major US tradeshows grouped together in a Squidoo Group.
Artists and Buyers also find each other on wholesale websites. With these, an artist wants to "cast a wide net". You never know who might be browsing the sites. And it's very likely that not every buyer is looking at all of them. If you have time, both to manage the site and make the products, you want to list items available on several of them.
Both the artist, and the buyer, wants functionality in a site. Buyers want to easily see the items and find contact information. Some sites even process orders. And provide stats on those orders. Which is fantastic. You are able to see dollar amounts of order placed, number of orders, number of retailers listed on the site, and number of craftspeople selling on the site.
Some sites are heavily juried. By just a few, or 1 person. I am uncertain if that's a good thing or not. If you have a store in Southern California, there is no way possible that a site halfway across the country, with items selected by 1 person, is going to be in tune with what is going on in your local retail market. You want great functionality to be able to find your own items. Not be told what items you should be purchasing.
It's also good to know some background on the site.
Who owns the site?
What is their background? Do they have experience in wholesale or tradeshows? as an exhibitor? as a buyer?
How do they promote the site? advertising in trade publications? exhibiting or sponsoring trade shows? How are your items found by buyers?
Are there any other issues?
There are all good questions to consider when selecting where to sell your products. Some craftspeople only sell their products through wholesale channels. They don't sell directly to the retail consumer. Wholesale is their livelihood.
Whether you are all wholesale, all retail, or a little of both, you want to make sure your name and products are affiliated with professional, ethical people, in the right places.