Thursday, 20 June 2013

Selling your work to shops

Covered hangers waiting for upcycled cashmere cardigans in Handmade Happiness
 In recent days several makers have offered Handmade Happiness their work and it reminds me of when I used to show what I made to shops. The first shop I ever approached, many years ago now, was Casa Fina in Chichester. I was a bag of nerves and once I'd steeled myself to approach the man at the counter I just wanted to get it over and done with and out from that shop as soon as possible. He said no and I was crushed. 

It takes guts to show your work to shops. It can feel awful if someone turns down your work in an insensitive, rude way. You've designed and created something original. It's feels like you personally are being rejected.

So how to prepare for showing your work to a shop? I think it is a good idea to ring the shop first. The times I've shown my work to a sales assistant only to find that this person cannot make any decisions and just tells you to come back on another day when the owner/ buyer is in. If you've travelled any distance this is frustrating. And a waste of your time.

Next a bit of market research. No point in offering say, jewellery to a shop that doesn't sell jewellery. Check out the shop online first. Then have a good look round and decide whether you think your work will fit in. Most people skip the market research entirely. But with my shop owners hat on I'd say this is important.

As I got better at selling my work to shops I'd visit a new town and choose which shop to approach. If you love the shop chances are it will love you and what you make.
Don't hold back from giving the shop a compliment by the way. Saying you like the shop before offering your work is a good ice-breaker. Also I prefer to think that would be sellers are interested in the shop they sell to. So looking round the shop before talking to the person behind the counter about what you make is polite and makes a good impression.

Decide before talking to a shop about how much money you want for your work. It's very difficult to discuss prices with makers who don't know how much they want to sell for. Don't be afraid to be business like. Have a pen and notebook or better invoice book with you. And don't agree to anything you aren't happy about. You have half the power remember. And it's important that you leave the shop happy.

Lastly, listen. Your work is lovely to you and to lots of other people but the shop may turn it down for a reason. What is that reason? Does the shop have any suggestions for you using your unique skills to make other things? Listen and enjoy talking about your work.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
Thank you so much for this - such useful and precise advice. I make all sorts of things but have never had the courage to try and sell any of them before. Perhaps I'll give it a try! Keep doing what you do, lots of us love it all!
best wishes,
Nicky from Haslemere

jenny said...

Thanks for your encouraging words Nicky. Come and show me what you make one day.