From 2014-2016 I chronicled my crafty endeavors on the site Adventures-in-Making. I’ve selected a few of those DIY’s, Recipes, and other posts to share on the site.
Our brick and mortar shop has been open less than a year, but I feel like I’ve already seen everything under the sun. The advice below is directed mainly at approaching stores for consignment placing, but many of the elements can (and should) be applied to any type of interaction. It all comes down to starting with a great relationship.
Most stores will have much of the information you need right there on their websites. Take some time to look around, find out who the owner is, what their submission policy is, and the general feel of the place. It shouldn’t take too long, but I would recommend taking notes, and maybe keeping a spreadsheet or list with notes (you can also keep track of who you talked to, when.)
VISIT THE STORE (THE FIRST IMPRESSION)
If you’re approaching a [local] store without visiting it first, you’re missing a big opportunity. Visiting the store gives you a chance to see the general style of goods that the store owner is drawn to, which means you can send a targeted email with photos that you know they’ll love. It also gives you a chance to size up the owner, and see if it’s someone you’d want to partner with (more on this later.) You can do all this without even talking to the shop owner, if you feel shy or if the shop is busy.
There are a few things I think everyone should do when they visit a shop they are interested in selling products at. The first and most important step…
Take a look around.
When you go to the store, give yourself plenty of time to look around. Pick a day when you have a babysitter, some time to kill, and maybe a friend to shop with. Really spend some time taking in the store and its goods.
It isn’t absolutely necessary to buy something, but if you have the interest and the funds, pick something out. Whatever you do, take the time to absorb the feel of the store, the kind of products it carries, what its specialty is. If you make something exactly like a product they already have, you should keep that in mind. Don’t let it stop you from talking to them, but be aware that you might have to wait a little while to have product in their store.
Don’t forget to give yourself time to get an instinct. Do you feel comfortable? Does the store seem organized? Do the people working there seem polite and happy? You will be entrusting them with your beloved goods, and with your brand’s reputation. If it seems like a fly-by-night operation, let it go for now, and apply if you feel differently later.
If you have a hard time approaching the store owner, I think that it’s fine to skip that on your first trip. Feel free to reference your trip when you contact them later.
But if you’re up to it, and the shopkeeper is free…
Talk to them.
You might not be talking to the person who makes the decision, but there’s a good chance whatever you say will make it back to them. I like it when people express interest in my store. Ask about certain items, artists, etc. Once you’ve broken the ice, and introduced yourself…
Ask about their submission and vendor policies.
“How do you find your artists?”
“What kind of things are you looking for?”
“What are your terms? Do you take goods on consignment, or buy them wholesale?”
“That all sounds amazing, how do I sign up?”
You probably know all the answers to these questions, from the research you did on their website, but it’s worth asking anyway.
Listen, and do what they say.
Most likely they have a policy of only meeting artists by appointment; which means even if you are wearing your product, you should arrange to apply the right way. This sets the best tone to your interaction. As with most things in life, if you show respect and kindness, you will probably get it right back.
Then, when you have all these details flying around in your head…
Check out the second part of this series for my hints at making the best impression when submitting work.