Selling what you create is very important and research is key.
This is called finding your route to market.
You are more likely to be successful in your approach to a retailer of any kind if your work fits in with the type of products they sell because this will mean their ideal customer is likely to be your ideal customer. Finding a good retail match is critical because a retailer already has loyal clients who buy from their store. And they might be interested in your work.
Important factors to get right before you begin
1. Ideal clients vs financial implications
Decide who your ideal customer should be, what kind of products do they need and what are they willing to pay.
Research similar products to yours - where do they sell?
a) Make sure your business model fits in with the ideal client model.
Make sure you will actually make enough profit on your jewellery work if you are making for a fixed idea of your ideal client and what they are willing to pay.
b) Consider where your ideal customer will buy your Jewellery.
Now research these places to check your Jewellery will fit nicely into the pricing parameters set.
In this retails space what is the product price range to and from for similar items to yours?
If you change your pricing structure to suit the Retail place will you still make a profit?
Remember you will most likely have to pay a retailer commission for selling your work on average 30-50% of the retail sales price.
Careful financial planning is required. You will be selling wholesale price to the retailer not your standard selling price per piece.
2. How to be an appealing Jewellery supplier
Retailers or Distributors of Jewellery are inundated with requests from makers to take their work. So why should they?
You should carefully consider the needs of the Retailer;
a) What can you offer them that they don't already sell?
b) Does your wholesale price per item mean the selling price of your jewellery fits into their sales arena?
c) Is the type and quality of your work of a similar standard to what they are selling?
d) Does the style of your work offer something unique? Does your work stand out but still fit in with a Retailer's sales environment?
e) Consider - can you really be absolutely reliable in your supply to demand.
f) Are you professional in the way you go about your business and do your business practises prove this with professional documentation and communications etc.
3. How to be a creditable Jewellery supplier
The most important factor for being selected as a supplier is credibility - will a retailer believe in you and what you make?
Being an appealing supplier is not a gateway into a successful retail selling partnership alone. You need to prove your credibility by having a clear brand for your jewellery work. A simple and cohesive brand is sufficient if you don't have lots of money to spend.
See this blog for tips on creating a brand for your jewellery work.
Any Retailer of repute will check you out before starting a dialogue with you about supply.
Have a really good website - even one page will do as long as it expresses the story of your work and who you are as a maker. It need not be a selling platform.
Ensure every single image you use of your work is good quality resolution - white background works best.
Check your social media - Anything on there derogatory about you?
Create a good Facebook business page or an Instagram page with images of your work.
Create a business profile on LinkedIn.
4. How to make an approach to a Jewellery Retailer or Distributor
If you have done your research and you are ready to make an approach, when should you make contact?
a) Most retailers will be looking for new jewellery suppliers in the Spring. This gives them time to try out new suppliers before their most critical sales periods begins (Christmas etc).
b) Send a simple email and include:
A concise interesting introduction about yourself and explain, based on your research of their current products why you think your work MIGHT fit into and sell in their sales environment.
A link to your website to provide information about you as a maker (see the blog above about Branding before you do this)
Images : Provide 3-5 images (make sure the size is not too big or your email won't be delivered or if you have a video short or Dropbox file of the kind of work you might like to sell via their outlet provide a link for them to view it.
Your pricing (Wholesale and suggested Retail prices) and Terms (Sale only or Sale or Return).
Ask about the possibility for a meeting in future, if your work is of interest, so that you can bring sample work to show them.
5. Final important notes
Don't make a cold call visit to a Gallery, Store or Business, they will be busy and won't have time to look at samples of your work or talk to you properly.
Don't email a numerous page CV.
Follow up on your email by telephone about a week later, to check to see if your email is received and ask if they have any questions.
If you take samples of your work to show a potential business partner makes sure they are pristine and packaged nicely. Include a document showing an image, description, wholesale price and suggested retail price of each item so that any discussion is easy. All this will reflect on positively on your professionalism as a Jewellery Designer Maker.
If your work is not accepted, don't give up. Find another outlet, any decision made about your work is purely a business decision only. Maybe your research hasn't identified the right place yet.
About the author
Dawn Meaden-Johnson has over 30 years’ experience working in customer facing Creative and Commercial Industries and in Further Education, including at Birmingham City University School of Jewellery for 10 years, during which time she has worked extensively with national and international clients.
Dawn is a Jewellery training consultant , Jeweller and founder of The Bespoke Jewellery Training Company which provides national private tuition courses for those working in the Jewellery Industry such as :Fine Techniques, CAD Design, Gemmology, History and Business skills. Recently introducing courses for International students, absolute beginner Experience Days and courses purely for Jewellery enthusiasts.
A Silversmith graduate of Birmingham City University School of Jewellery, Dawn still creates jewellery under the brand Dawnstorm.co.uk which specialises in limited edition anodised aluminium jewellery combined with silver.