Jewelry Business Tips: Gift Shops and Hard Lessons Learned

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There are TONS (like, many truckloads) of places – physical places and virtual places – to sell your handmade jewelry. I’ve tried some of them, but I’m not a gambler and I’ve been burned. Doing your homework (ie. research) before you sign up to sell your jewelry is a really really smart idea and totally worth the time!

A couple years into my Handcrafted by Heather business I was looking for local stores to sell my goodies in and new place right here in Canandaigua announced that they were opening up. Super awesome! I was pumped.

I put my application in, got accepted by the owner to sell my jewelry and even brought my stuff in and set it all up using my own displays and forms.

About 2 months later, I hadn’t really heard much from the owner so I figured I’d check in to see if she needed anything – more jewelry to sell maybe? I was fully expecting her to tell me it’s been so crazy busy she hadn’t had time to contact me to let me know how well it was going!

Boy, was I way off base! Her brother emailed me back about 2 weeks later letting me know that the shop didn’t work out so she had to close and that I had less than a week to collect my stuff. I wasn’t able to get over there when someone would have it open to collect my jewelry and my displays, but when I finally was able to stop by a couple weeks had passed. I looked in the windows and the whole place had been cleaned out.

Tips for choosing the right local gift shop to sell your handmade jewelry

I was devastated to say the least, but I learned many valuable lessons:

  • If it’s a brand new place, waiting 6 months to see how that store does before you sign a contract isn’t the worst idea. In fact, it’s an awesome idea.
  • Read your contract BEFORE you sign it. If something looks fishy, take it to your lawyer to glance over or ask around online about the contract. If you have a gut feeling something is off, you’re probably right.
  • If the shop has been open a while ask around about it. Ask the owner for references and call 3 or 4 other artists that are selling there. If they love it then you’ll probably love it too. If they’re considering pulling their own stuff out of there, I’d say pass on it.
  • If they’re taking more than 50% commission, I personally would pass on that. Actually, if they want more than 40% I say nay, but there are some exceptions to this:
    • the shop is well-established and well-known in the community
    • they’re super busy year round
    • other artists make ‘good’ money by selling their items there
    • the owners are very professional and respectful
  • If you do put your stuff into a new shop/store to sell, make sure you find out what the procedure is if they do close. How much notice will they give?
  • If they do end up closing get there ASAP to get your items. I was out $300 or more after displays because I didn’t make it a priority.

When you’re looking for a local shop to sell your jewelry in, go into each place you’re considering as a customer. Look at the items currently for sale + displays + environment + prices + talk to the person behind the counter. Maybe even buy something.

Be thinking the whole time if you were a regular customer – why would you buy YOUR item(s) from this particular place? How would this shop make your goodies stand out amongst the other items in that shop? Would your jewelry flow well? (meaning, if you make boho type jewelry and you’re in a modern looking store, it may not be a fit.)

If it is a fit then go ahead and ask if they’re accepting any new artists. Many times the answer is yes, BUT they want to know if your jewelry will be a fit in THEIR shop. Be honest about what you make because again if it’s not a good fit you simply won’t sell anything. The owner knows what sells and what doesn’t, so if they don’t think your jewelry will go with their place then thank them for their time and just move onto the next shop.

I hope that this advice helped! If you’re an artist that has items in local shops and you have more tips to add, please feel free to comment below! If you’re an artist and have a specific question, post your questions in the comment section, too.

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