More Lessons Learned at the California Gift Show

See Part I here

#3. Alot of makers selling wholesale do not sell retail.

This surprised me because the idea of a 100% wholesale income seems challenging, but maybe my price points are lower than many makers. I was told by quite a few sellers that the headaches of selling retail are not worth it to them. Also I heard quite a bit of anti-Etsy ramblings

(and I feel only people on Etsy are allowed to rant against Etsy - this is the same way I feel about New Jersey)

about the junk sold there. And, of course, we all know there is alot of junk on Etsy (and I don't mean the good junk called vintage), but there is alot of amazing stuff on Etsy, too and the truth is the cutting edge stuff - well, for better or worse, it's all on Etsy.

And I did have a couple sellers tell me they look on Etsy for ideas and I was hoping by ideas they meant inspiration and not any ideas resembling "oh, I should make that".

Some also said they didn't sell on Etsy because it wasn't worth the hassles of taking new photos all the time and that they thought they would be copied if they put their work there (both valid issues).

I don't think I can go cold turkey off my retail sales (although maybe Etsy's new relevancy search will change my mind about this), but it was inspiring to see people making it work for them with just wholesale sales.

#4. Rules get broken at big wholesale shows, too.

I thought that unlike retail craft shows where we all see "makers" whose makings have everything but a Made in China sticker on the bottom - a big wholesale handmade show would be pretty much exempt from this.

Sometimes I can see where show organizers can be fooled, but if putting an NFL metal charm on a chain is handmade enough for a premier handmade show someone needs to give me a new definition of handmade.

This type of thing was definitely the exception though.

#5. People do amazing work.

The work at both shows was amazing. The displays were amazing. The people were amazing. I often saw work that made me think - what the hell am I doing here? - and displays that made me tired just thinking about all the work and money that went into them.

(make sure your act is together before doing one of these shows - not to scare anyone, but you kind of need to be amazing or have amazing packaging and an amazing display and it kind of helps to have all of these things, but we knew this already, right?)

These shows are located within larger gift shows that are not handmade so buyers have walked through an incredible collection of colorful, exotic and stunning giftware - think almost everything sold in Bloomingdale's and Target, Fred Segal and Urban Outfitters before they get to your booth. We need to sizzle.

(luckily I had my day-glo orange roots to help me stand out in California - I did get my hair fixed in the one day I had home before Chicago though so they didn't help me there)

More lessons next week. Have a wonderful weekend all!


1 comment

DancingMooney said...

Being a soap maker, I can see how some might run a small business strictly wholesale, but it had never crossed my mind that people are actually *doing* it that way.

Approaching the market sans retail sounds terribly challenging, though I have to say, sometimes my best months are those when wholesale orders are included in the bottom line.

And, since your flair for thought is on broadening your horizons, do you have any tips to share about building wholesale accounts, via the internet?

I can't say I'm ready to do trade shows, nor do I know if I'll ever reach that capacity on my own... partly by choice {I'm simply just trying to make a living here} but there is power in wholesale, when it comes to larger orders more often. Perhaps this is something I need to put more focus on, once the holidays are over... oy, the holidays... it's only August, and we are thinking about them already, aren't we? ;)

p.s. I have always admired your courage to step beyond simply being a maker, and going for something bigger... kudos to you miss. ♥