Managing Consignment Opportunities

Continuing on from her last post, fibre artist Kelly Ruth discusses some of the pros and cons of wholesale vs consignment and offers some tips for smooth “saling” regardless of which option you pursue.
Selling your craft based work through consignment opportunities can have its benefits.  It’s a great place to test your product, and generally the percentage the artist makes from a sale is higher than when selling wholesale.  One of the main benefits of wholesale, as I wrote in my last post, is that the artist is paid for their stock on delivery, giving the artist a quicker and more reliable return on their investment of time and materials.

I’m a BIG fan of contracts.  Although they are broken ALL the time, at least a contract gives both parties a clear idea, from the outset, of what is expected and what each party is promising to provide. So whether you choose to go the retail or consignment route, get a contract in writing that lays out the agreement between the artist and shop.

Trust is another key component of doing consignment in particular. It is important to know that the store you are working with has been in business for a while and has experience managing consignment artists. I have had most success working with stores who commit to a payment schedule and a term for how long the merchandise will be in their shop.  In turn, as a maker, it is important to be clear on the expectations regarding the removal of work by the artist before the term has ended.  Some stores may have occasional promotional sales, and the maker should be advised in advance if their work may be put on sale, in which case the artist will get less money for the product that they had set out to expect.
Keeping clear records of what had been sent to a consignment store is critical.  Using packing lists, which are copied and saved in a folder on your computer, is a good and simple way to do this.
Be careful when shipping to stores outside of Canada.  I learned the hard way about the potential pitfalls of this once when I had some unsold items shipped back to me from the US.  On top of regular freight charges, I had to pay $75 for customs fees on my own products, which were made in Canada!! This completely had not occurred to me at the time.  Merchandise shipped across borders is subject to customs fees, and you should look into working with customs brokers if you do want to sell consignment over the border. (Or order material form across the border for that matter.)
If you’d like to find out more about consignment sales, check out this Info-Entrepreneurs site or this link to the Canada/Manitoba Business Service Centre.
This post was by MCC member and fibre artist Kelly Ruth who is, to quote her, “causing mischief by daring to carve out a lifestyle that is most authentic to who she is.”