Let's talk a little about Galleries and/or consignment shops as a possible way to market your products. The biggest advantage of using a venue like this to market your products is; it's a way to have your products on display in a retail atmosphere without having to own or operate a store yourself. You do not have to deal with a building, overhead, how to staff it and all the other details involved in operating a retail store. Someone else deals with all that expense and headache and does all the selling for you also.
The downside of having your items in a gallery or consignment shop is the amount of commission you will end up paying when the item is sold. They can be pretty steep; anywhere from 30 to 60%, which makes it a little harder to see much profit in it for you after all is said and done, but don't give up the ship yet. If you take into consideration how much time you would have to invest, the amount of money you would have to spend and considering someone else is selling your products while you are still in the shop building, then the 30 to 60% is not really that bad.
This is one of the problems related to a small woodworking business; some times we fail to realize what it truly cost to design, build, finish and "market & sell" or products. It's the cost of doing business.
What's the difference between a gallery and consignment shop? In some cases it can be pretty hard to distinguish between the two. Let's start with Galleries; most galleries that would be of interest to the typical woodworker is something like an "Art Gallery" or "Arts & Craft Gallery".. You would have to check out different galleries to see if what they sell and the customer base they try to target would work for your type woodworking. A gallery is usually a little more "picky" about who they allow to display in their place. A gallery is usually looking for more unique type items to have in their store, so you need to realize that not every gallery will want to have your woodworking in their location. Now don't get me wrong, not every gallery is so "upscale" that they will all snub their noses at you, because there are a lot of places that call themselves a gallery, but really more of a basic consignment shop and I'll cover that in a couple minutes.
As an example; I love building band saw boxes and I've designed some pretty unique ones over the years,so I decided I would try to find a couple galleries to display some of my boxes in. I talked to a number of galleries before I found one that showed interest, but that was a little skeptical interest to say the least. They had never displayed anything like that before, so was willing to give my work a try, but only a few to start with. They allowed me to put 6 boxes in their gallery to start with and they said they would give it a couple months to see how their customers would react. I really wanted to display in this gallery because they where well known in the area and promoted a number of different artist.
At the end of the first month, I received a commission check for three boxes they had sold, with a little note attached to the check that they would like me to restock to replace the three that had sold, but also I could bring more if I wanted. It was a win win for everyone, but it still came with some draw backs. One of their stipulations was; I had to sign a non-compete clause that they had exclusive rights to display and sell my boxes within a 50 mile radius and I could not have any of my work in another location within that radius of their gallery. So........even though they did a great job of selling my work, they also tied my hands when it came to having my work in other locations in the area. Every gallery is different, so make sure you understand everything that will be required of you before you job to a chance to have some of your work on display.
Consignment shops in general are usually not as picky about having you display at their location. They work on the same premise as a gallery. You put your inventory in their location, but they do not pay for it until it's sold. They take their commission and send you the balance. The reason a consignment shop is not as particular as say most galleries is they are targeting and selling to a totally different customer base. A consignment shop is targeting more for the masses and the gallery is a much more targeted customer base.
Some consignment shops will display your items randomly throughout their store, or some you can actually rent a booth or space within the store and display strictly your items, depending on the size of the store and how they like to operate. Some consignment shops make their money more on selling booth space then the actual merchandise, so you have to be a little careful. Some could care less whether "you" sell anything during the month or not, you still have to pay a monthly booth fee and that can be pretty expensive (especially if you're not selling anything during the month).
There's a lot more to galleries and consignment shops and you have to realize each and everyone will operate differently. Check each and everyone out, see what their location is like, what kind of traffic they have on a weekly bases, what kind of merchandise is displayed and sold, what type customer may frequent their location and would your type woodworking be able to be sold in a location like that. Make sure you understand all their terms before you sign up for anything. It's also a good idea to talk to some of the other artist or vendors that may have displays at that location and see what their experience has been like.
One more thing to consider when trying to decide if a gallery or consignment shop might work for you is the distance that may be involved in finding a gallery or consignment shop. It's not that hard to have inventory in a shop that's a 100+ miles away, but you will still have to consider how often you may have to visit their location to either check on your display or restock.....and if you're going to be that far away, make sure it's a place of business that's well established and trusted.
I had a gallery close and go out of business and conveniently forgot to tell any of the artist. I was lucky and was told by a friend about the closing and was able to get my inventory back by going to the sheriff's office with all my documentation of what was there on consignment.
Selling Wholesale; one more way to sell your product. You may want to consider selling your product as a wholesaler. That's basically finding a retail store or chain to carry your product and you sell to them in volume. Usually selling wholesale requires you to be able to produce and supply larger quantities of inventory at a time and being able to sell it at a much reduced rate. Usually when a retail store buys their inventory wholesale, they want to be able to double the cost for a retail price, another words, if the retail value of a product is $100 they expect to be able to buy it for approx. $50.00.
- What's your marketing budget? One of the first things you have to realize when it comes to selling your woodworking, marketing will need to be a large part of your overall business. You will find out that you need to spend almost as much time marketing as the actual time in building your product. You just can't pick one form of marketing and only do it one time and expect to have everlasting sales. Business doesn't work that way and especially when it comes to selling your woodworking.
- What do you build and want to sell? Your type of woodworking may play a role in how you market or where you market your product.
- How many of each item do you expect to sell or need to sell to have a profitable business? I would guess you would need to sell a lot more $20.00 items then if you were selling $5,000.00 pieces.
- Who is your Customer? Do you have a product and price point that can be sold to the mass majority of buyers or do you have to target your market more closely? You really need to understand who will be your customer base so you will know the best way to reach them.
- Can you sell enough locally or do you need to sell world-wide? Do you live in an area that can support your type woodworking within a reasonable distance, or will you need to reach out further to find your customer base and if so, how far?
- Can you ship your product easily? It's obvious you can ship a small object pretty easily and in-expensively, but if you're selling large items like furniture or cabinetry, shipping or delivery is something you will need to consider.
- Can your product be sold simply from a picture? Certain items and certain price points can be sold pretty easily from a brief description and a picture, but the more details and higher the price the harder it will be to sell strictly from a picture.
- Can you sell your product better yourself? Again, some products pretty much sell themselves, but others will require someone to actually describe and sell a product. Would you rather do that selling yourself or leave it up to someone else?
- Would you consider selling Wholesale?
- Would you consider selling @ shows?
- Would you consider Galleries or Consignment Shops?
Word of mouth advertising can be one of the best forms of marketing, but it takes a long time to build a customer base to be able to depend on that (and that alone will not support a business). The more types of marketing you can incorporate into your business, the more sales you will be able to create and if one slows down the other forms of marketing helps to maintain constant sales.
Company name, Logo, Company sign, business cards, brochures, rack cards, flyers, ads, internet ( web-site, blogs, face book, pinterest or online stores), retail stores, shows, galleries, consignment shops and wholesale just to mention a few.
Market, market, market and you will see your sales grow.