Consigning Your Products to a Crafter's Market--What Happens?

Consigning Your Products to a Crafter's Market--What Happens?
by Donna, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

When the beading bug hit me, it slowly took over my house; first it was the corner of the kitchen table, spreading to the end of the kitchen table, moving to the sunroom table (better light), the window-sill next to the table, the hutch and finally the bookshelf. I added two Rubbermaid® totes and a few dozen display stands. When the earring count went over 200 pairs I realized that space was going to be an issue. I went to a few craft fairs--but I was still bringing back more than I sold. The days preceding a show would send me into a fury of making "more," just in case I didn't have "enough." I increased my own personal displays and they were taking over.

I decided that I needed more room. I sought out the local Crafter's Market; I talked to a few local artists that used or were still using the Crafter's Market as a place to show their work. I walked through looking at the displays; looking at items for sale, how they were marketed, craftsmanship, pricing, price tags, use of space, lighting and location within the room.

I felt myself becoming excited at the prospect of having my own "store." Feeling inspired, I walked through the market again, this time noting locations of security cameras, availability of space and who your neighbors would be with this space, that space, etc., also noting time of day, how many people were in the store and what they were looking at. This went on for about a month. I would stop in on odd days, primarily weekends, different times and look at available spaces, number of customers in the store, displays, etc. I was a prospect and the store manager approached with a brochure on their pricing structure.

Their recommendation was to start small with just a wall space and if the items were high-priced to put them in a locked display; neither suggestion was what I wanted to do--how could I have a "store" on a 2'x3' wall display in the middle of an aisle? I fought the urge to go "big" and started with a 4'x4' stall in the middle of the store; I had "tiaras and scarves" on one side of me, antiques on the other side and toys in front of me. It wasn't the ideal location but it was a start--it was exciting.

Next came the setup of the booth; I picked a theme that was comfortable and complimented my jewelry--I went with a "South Pacific" theme staying away from nautical, Caribbean and East Coast designs. Tables and displays came from my own home to minimize my start-up costs.

Getting started with the Crafter's Market was a little intimidating; I had to sign a four month lease and agree to give 30 days' notice of intent to leave. They required approval rights of new ideas coming in, as to not compete with other vendors, and my commitment to work at least 1 three hour shift a month. My rent was to be $75.00 a month--requiring first and last to be paid up front. Additionally, they would collect 10% commission from any sales, and then I would be paid after the first of the month. I paid for everything, signed the contract and scheduled myself for a three hour shift on an upcoming Saturday.

Disbursement of "sales" worked on a number system; at the end of the month total sales for your number would be calculated minus 10%, and the remainder on a check issued for payment. Each price tag on every item had to have this number to allow proper credit/disbursement of payment. This meant I had to get that number on everything that I had for sale. I tried everything from stickers to label guns to price tags on how to get a cohesive "artsy" versus "professional" look to my pricing. It has been my biggest obstacle to overcome. I bought gift tags, label guns, regular labels, stickers, ink stamps, blister peels, shark-skin labels, etc. This has also been my biggest expense to date. With everything re-priced for competitive pricing and compensating for the 10% commission--I was ready to "open my store."

Once everything was setup I used the camera on my tablet and phone to take a picture--showing the contents and display on all three walls; boy was I glad that I did that. I checked back every couple of days, anxiously checking to see if anything moved--and it did! I was so excited. On week three I had my first Saturday to work and the other vendor showed me how I could check on sales. I poured over the sheets for my number; it wasn't there. I talked to the owner saying I knew for certain that items were gone--I had proof on my tablet and phone that they were gone and she said, "Sorry we had a shoplifter." Sorry? That was all I got? Evidently that shoplifter "really liked" my booth. I was out almost $100.00 in jewelry. They assured me that they captured her image on their security camera and talked to the police about it but they did not know her name or location. I checked back the following week and more things were gone ... another "shoplifter."

I decided to pull out my higher-priced items, replacing them with cheaper items to minimize my loss. I started talking to the other vendors; they suggested placing jewelry in locked cases, many said that is just the risk you take when you make things that people like. I came up with another idea--I had a spare webcam at home; I took it to my space, mounted it to the wall and put up a big sign that said "Smile! This booth is monitored." Amazing--I have not had an instance of theft since putting this camera up. (No one knows that it is not connected to anything.)

Month two and three have both showed positive sales; I am covering the rent of the space and making a profit. I moved this month to a larger space that just came available which will take me through the holidays. My cost has gone up $15.00 per month but I am on an outside wall and have a 5'x7' space now with good visibility. I am looking forward to seeing what the holidays bring--hopefully not more theft. An additional benefit of moving to a larger space was that I did not have to renew my four month contract, so I have the option to leave sooner if sales do not continue.

Lessons Learned:
  • The security in most crafter malls only shows the aisles and not the stalls; once a person steps into a stall--visibility is lost
  • Location, location, location ... watch the flow of people when they come in--most will stay on the outer perimeter of a building and then walk through the center aisles
  • Take pictures. This is your proof of inventory.
  • Get friendly. When you are restocking and folks are walking by, invite them to take a look and tell them about your product. They will come back and take a look when you are not restocking and most likely buy from you as you have created a personal connection with them.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Promote their crafts and more than likely they will promote yours.
  • Change out your product and displays often to keep it fresh and current.
The Benefits:
  • Seeing my jewelry--my design on people around town, in stores, etc.
  • Meeting other vendors that I most likely would not have met before.
  • Gaining new work experience. Working those three hours a month in a different environment than what I do on a daily basis has been interesting. It also gives me time to really look at each display; what attracts people and what doesn't.
  • Learning what people are actually buying; it's a small window of time that I can actually watch what people look at, come in for and purchase.
Resources ...

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "Consigning your Products to a Crafter's Market," as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"Hi Donna, Excellent article on consigning items to a crafter's market! I'm at home recuperating from an accident and was starting to ponder the idea of putting some inventory together for Christmas craft sales. I've heard more bad stories than good ones, so it was interesting to read about your experience. It's obvious that having a good experience with this kind of sales means putting the work in first! Thanks for the words of wisdom! Regards,"
- Anne

"Useful article, I have considered selling my work in such a manner and this gives me insight."
- Anonymous

"I really liked this article! There are so many useful bits of information included and lots of great ideas. I was especially impressed by the amount of prep time the author put in before even deciding that a craft mall was a useful outlet for her jewelry. Thank you for publishing this particular article!"
- Alice

"Wonderful! It is good to learn from someone who is in the start-up stage with a small home-based business."
- Jane

"Very informative! She really did her homework scouting out times, locations etc! I hope she is extremely successful! I'll be using her ideas for sure!!"
- Laura

"The article ''Consigning Your Products to a Crafter's Market'' by Donna was excellent and very enlightening. I have been considering joining an artists' coop in Sedona, AZ for a while since they have a lovely shop near the hotels, mall and golf courses in the high-end community of Oak Creek Village. They don't have anything like my jewelry (chainmaille) so it would be a good fit for them, PLUS my absolutely favorite polymer clay artist Judith Skinner sells her awesome jewelry there. Now I know what to expect when I approach the shop owner about selling my work there. Thanks again for another excellent source from Fire Mountain! Regards,"
- Susan

"I just wanted to give a little feedback about the article on the crafter's market. I thought it was very well written and very informative. I also enjoyed the way the author wrote it. It was kind of like sitting at the coffee table and chatting with her. A very good article. Yvonne Torburn-Clark PS 'Thanks for sharing'"
- Yvonne

"This was a very good resource, thank you!"
- Lynn

"Liked the article on craft markets. I show my wares in an art gallery gift shop and the tags are also the issue~ professional and attractive giving all the info needed to keep the sales records straight. "
- Tish

"The article was very helpful. I had no idea how or where to start."
- J. Mariann

"I am the owner of a craft/gift mall in Madison, Wisconsin. Other than the 10% commission, this sounds just like my store and the typical jewelry vendor. The best part of displaying this way is developing those regular customers who like to buy in quantity since you are willing to personalize the size, clasp, etc. Those customers tell their friends where they bought their jewelry and your customer base slowly grows with your sales. I encourage every crafter to consider this as well as craft show events where customers can be directed to your year-round display."
- Anonymous

"I like the article of selling in a crafting market. I tried selling on consignment and it didn't work because the owner of the store probably did nothing to call attention to my work. Also, where you try to sell you work there should be work of similar quality to yours. If your work is high quality with pricier materials, you will not be able to compete with individuals using cheap materials and therefore lower prices. I like the comment of spending a lot of time in the store and the web cam to keep your work safe from shoplifters. Most people who work in those stores are not likely to keep an eye on shoppers to see which ones are shoplifters."
- Barbara

"Excellent!!! I was wondering about all these things, and your answers have provided inspiration and courage!!! Thank you so much!!!"
- Sandra

"With regard to the article "Consigning your products to a Crafter's Market...." by Donna, it is obvious Donna put a lot of effort, time, resources and ingenuity into this venture. I commend her, but have to say for me a similar experience was extremely negative as the company went bankrupt after less than 2 months when I signed the contract. This happened over 5 years ago. I never sold anything, and lost the money I paid upfront. Spent HOURS developing a security system so that the jewelry could not be stolen. This company sold security sensor tags, but I had to develop a fool-proof method to attach them to jewelry and still have it professional looking. Presently I am developing a website and hope that it will over time prove profitable. For me, the website offers the best security system, although it is more difficult to reach potential buyers."
- Karen

"I really like this article about having a space in a crafter's flea market. I have been checking into one in my area and there are some great ideas, especially about the camera. Earrings are easy to pocket. Thanks! "
- Cheryl

"Just read this article, boy can I relate. I love to make jewelry, and grow out of house, finally rented space at an open air market, my husband built me cases, learned to lock everything. We are by the coast, sea air really messes with findings and beads. I'm over 65 and standing out in the 110+ weather is not too good for me, but to go into an air-conditioned space is too expensive so now what, looking at other areas, spaces, but need to try online store, otherwise may have to try and sell stock and stop. Not sure what to do now."
- Norma

"I like the article. Well written and extremely informative! I can certainly use this as a guide for my future plans. Thank you soooo much. Thanks,"
- Carolyn

"Very interesting and informative article. The security camera did the trick in your space. Very clever. As a slightly experienced vendor, any suggestions like yours are very helpful in deciding what is worth the trouble."
- Sheryle

"Great info for those starting out in a craft kiosk."
- Ave'

"Good ideas—thank you! I posted the article on ''Consigning with Crafter's Markets'' on the Creative Crafts Guild facebook page."
- Beck!

"This was the best article I have read yet from the FMG newsletter (in 2 years). I have been making stuff to sell for awhile but am so far from craft fairs that the gas and accommodations is prohibitive. A craft mall is the PERFECT solution. Thank you Donna! More!"
- Tina

"I just finished reading the article on craft markets, and it was a great one! So much good information, well written, enjoyable to read. Good job! and thanks."
- Sally