The whole point of doing a major wholesale show is to put your work in front of many, many targeted store buyers.
But maybe you just don’t need a lot of stores carrying your work right now. Maybe it’s just you in your business, and you can only make so much stuff a year. Maybe you already have a part-time or full time job, and don’t need your craft biz to go full time.
If a wholesale show is overkill for you, if you only need a few good accounts, then build your wholesale business the slow way–one store at a time.
Of course, the simplest way to find stores to carry your work is to look around you. What stores in your hometown might be interested in carrying your work? If you did your required reading at the beginning of this series, then you’ve learned how to approach local stores and how to talk about your work.
And you’ve learned that the biggest mistake artists make is that they quickly saturate their local markets.
The next question is, how do I expand past my local market?
You can start by figuring out what is a comfortable driving distance for you. Say you can handle a three hour drive in one direction–perhaps 150 miles. Pull out a map, figure out how far 150 miles from your location is, and draw a circle with your home at the center. Voila! There’s your next sales territory to explore. (We’re really lucky here in New England. Three to four hours of drive time will generally get you to at least five other states.)
You can now use the internet (and all its incredible search functions) to locate and research potential stores within driving distance of your studio.
Or you can simply pick a town and spend a few hours poking around the stores there, deciding which one(s) would be the best fit. This is where our God-given love of shopping becomes….market research!
You can call ahead for an appointment to introduce your work. Or you can use that cold-calling technique I described in Work Your Retail Shows.
Again, don’t saturate any one town or area. Remember, we’re not looking for fifty stores to carry our work. We’re looking for a handful of really good matches.
As you travel during the year–on vacation, family visits, business trips with your spouse–decide you will use that opportunity to scope out yet another store. Maybe these trips are just to the next state over, maybe they are across the country. Prepare for each one by researching a handful of new candidates for your work.
The next few articles will explore how to actually find stores that might be a good fit, especially if your potential market is hundreds, even thousands of miles away. The internet is our friend here. We will use it to find potential stores, explore niche markets and vet our candidates–before we even set foot through the door.