Monday, March 10, 2014

To Wholesale or Not

I would sell more items if I could lower my prices. I should say, I suspect more of my items would sell, as that is pretty consistent feedback.

I’ve done the record-keeping and determined exactly what I need to make on each item to cover my costs, my time and materials, my almost negligible overhead, and to make a little profit. The little profit helps buffer the changing price of silver.

My rock bottom price on any item is its wholesale price. Retail is twice that. Some wholesale buyers mark up items as much as 2.5 times. In the industry, it is a big no-no to have your items set at different prices in different locations. For example, I shall not sell a pair of earrings online for $50 and at a shop in town for $72.

Here are some further wholesale versus direct retail versus consignment considerations.

I could tally up and use the percentages of types of sales: wholesale, direct retail, and consignment. Then I could adjust my prices accordingly. For example, if I sold the highest percent as wholesale, then I would keep my calculated prices. Then again, if only 2% of my sales were wholesale, I could lower my prices.

Wholesale implies that one attends wholesale shows, goods shows, and maintains a presence with an online wholesale marketing company, such as This means focusing on a few products and marketing the heck out of them. There is significant money to be made. If you take this path, you can count on having employees, figuring out how to have your popular items cast, and starting company-esque practices. Are you ready for this, and do you want to transition into it? Do you have other goals and priorities with regards to your metal clay work for which you want to have time and energy?

Wholesale also implies that you would be turning out cookie-cutter products; that is, you would be making the same item over and over. You might sneak around this if you had a wholesale line of goods that were each one-of-a-kind, which might satiate your creative desires. Say you make a product line that is a certain style and size pendant, each with a natural-stone cabochon. A buyer orders fifteen and you ship them a variety. Be prepared for a random wholesale buyer to make a special request; such as, send only pendants with lapis lazuli.

Product lines are a way to keep wholesale items separate from your retail items. What if you had a wholesale product line and a direct-retail product line? You could price these separately, but they better be pretty different in appearance. A downside to separate product lines and price sheets is that it involves a lot of desk time. Hopefully, time at your desk is less than time at your workbench.

Here’s another way to maintain consistent prices. This may work for items that you have on consignment that you also wholesale: You could tell the shop owners of your consigned goods to have a seasonal or permanent sale on your items. For example, I could tell the local gallery-type shop in town to mark down all my items 15%. We’d keep the same shop-to-artist percentages, so I would receive less money per sale, but maybe the number of sold items would increase.

The bottom line is, how hard do you want to work? "How so", you ask? Well, lower prices mean more sales, which translates into more production at the workbench. Or, would you rather sell less often, receive more dollars per item, and cherish your time at your workbench? Work smarter, not harder (coined in the 1930s by Allan H. Mogensen, the creator of Work Simplification). Within this phrase lies your choice.

If you have any experience or information on any part of this balancing act, let us know. Someone out there has a handle on this, right?

by Kris Kramer


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