This is one of the most fun tips you’ll ever get about how to build your wholesale business:
Read more magazines.
Stores and galleries pay big advertising bucks to attract customers. They advertise in local newspapers, regional and national magazines, and on the internet.
They jump at the chance for good publicity–being interviewed for articles, participating in fund raisers, joining in art walks. Sometimes they piggyback with other local businesses, like bed-and-breakfast establishments, to entice tourists and visitors. They ask to be listed on their artists’ websites, so the artists’ collectors know where to find their work.
You, the artist, can benefit from that. You are going to look for ads, articles, store listings and store reviews for venues that might be a good fit for your work.
Most of us get the first, most obvious places: general craft trade magazines. Magazines like AmericanStyle Magazine, American Craft Magazine, Niche Magazine, etc. deal with American craft in general. (The Crafts Report targets artists and craft retailers; Niche targets retailers; American Craft and American Style target collectors.) You will find tons of stores advertising in all of these magazines.
My very first wholesale mailing were stores culled from reviews in The Crafts Report, a monthly magazine for the crafts professional now available only by subscription. (When I first started reading it, you could find it in bookstores and craft supply stores.) They would review a few galleries in each issue, with information on their store location; clientele (tourist, retirees, college town, etc.); popular price points; focus (home wares, jewelry, wood); what they were looking for (bridal jewelry, bird baths) and whether they did wholesale, consignment or both.
I’d carefully read each entry and decide if the store looked like a potential customer, and add them to my mailing list.
What’s exciting is when you take this idea a few steps out, fine-tuning it to your craft and your aesthetic.
These trade magazines focus mostly on American contemporary craft. If your artwork is American country, then find the trade publications that cater to that aesthetic. Early American Life is a great magazine for upscale traditional American Crafts. I’m sure there are many, many more.
What about your medium? Every media has its own trade publication. And many stores that specialize in that media will advertise in those magazines. Sometimes the magazines feature artist interviews. If they mention the stores that carry their work (and your work is compatible but distinctive), check out the stores.
Now take it even further. What is your product? If you create items made from beach stones, have you check out magazines such as Coastal Living Magazine? (Yes, there is such a magazine!) If you make pet stuff, have you checked out the zillions of pet magazines out there, for every animal from the usual cats-and-dogs to birds, snakes and geckos? People love their pets!
If your accessories or jewelry is trendy or hip, have you checked out the advertisers and store reviews in Lucky Magazine? (I love this magazine. It is unabashedly devoted to….shopping!)
If your work fits a special interest group–runners, opera lovers, book collectors–there is a special interest magazine for you. Perhaps several!
What area of the country might be a good fit for your work? Try travel magazines that feature that region. Many will do in-depth articles on places of interest and things to see and do–including….shopping!
And then there’s lifestyle. This is one almost everyone overlooks. These can range from the general (I’m not going to link everything, it’s taking too long!!) like Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Women’s Day, Country Home, Country Living, Martha Stewart Living, etc. All of these either carry lots of like-minded store advertising, or feature great store reviews. Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion Magazine often features dozens of stores in a certain city or state, and artist interviews.
We also tend to think only of the magazines we see on our local magazine racks. But there’s a whole nother world of lifestyle magazines out there. In my area, there’s the obvious and venerable Yankee Magazine/. But there are also smaller publications like the brand new Monadnock Living Magazine. All will feature store ads and reviews that reflect the aesthetic and values of the magazine.
I traveled out west to a show last year, and had a one hour layover in a Utah airport. At the news stand were over a dozen regional and local lifestyle magazines I’d never heard of. I snagged as many copies as I could, and made note of the titles of others for future research.
To get the best results, take the time to check out each store as much as possible. Almost all stores now have some kind of web presence. See if you feel the store, location, aesthetic and mix of artists would be a good fit for your work. The store owners will also be glad you did–it shows you aren’t just throwing yourself at every store, but carefully choosing which ones might really be interested. They will be flattered you took the time not to waste their time.
Last, how do you find these magazines?
Check out big bookstores. They often carry magazines you won’t find at your local supermarket.
Check out your local library. If you have colleges and universities nearby, check out their libraries. They often carry large and eclectic collections of magazines.
Go on-line. Most magazines now have an internet presence. You may be able to snag a free sample copy. Or go in with like-minded friends on a few subscriptions. You might even go in with them on a group mailing to targeted stores.
Check out local news stands when you travel, especially at airports. They’re a gold mine for local/regional lifestyle magazines.
Share with friends. Ask around–you may be surprised at the variety of publications your friends subscribe to.
This is a stretch, but….. In one community we used to live in, the public library hosted a free magazine exchange. You brought your old magazines to them, they stored them and set them out in a “free” rack. You browsed this stash of free magazines and took whatever ones interested you. That was how I first found out about formerly esoteric magazines on geology and jewelry that I’d never heard of before. Maybe your local library, or craft guild, or school would consider a similar project.
Of course, all these great magazine ideas are also good candidates for a press release or new product release. But that’s a whole nother series of articles!
So get out there and get some cool magazines. The next time you take a coffee break, pull them out–and start your market research. Hey, you’re not goofing off–you’re working!!