Many artists and crafts people love the idea of selling their work in upscale galleries, stores and boutiques but don't have the first idea how to go about it, or what it really involves. Here is a basic overview.
Pricing: Can you afford to sell? It may seem odd to think about it, but a lot of woodworkers sell their work at cost to their customers. This means only their time and cost of goods are covered, if that. Stores will often mark up 30 to 60% of the cost to cover their overhead and make a profit. When you wholesale or consign your work to a store, they take care of customer service, marketing and selling of the item. When a woodworker sells their own work directly to the customer, they often don't take into account this work and time. Most stores will not sell your work if they know you are undercutting their prices, meaning their customers can go directly to you for a better deal. So before you begin to approach stores about selling your work, ask yourself if you can afford to sell your work at true retail prices, or be willing to sell only through the store and not your workshop.
Do your Research First. Before approaching a gallery or store about selling your work, get to know that store. Ideally you can visit and see the kind of work they are selling, evaluate the staff and level of professionalism and see how work is presented. If you can't visit in person, look through the website. You want to be sure your work will fit in and that it will be presented in a positive way.
Make Contact. Whether in person or online, try to find who you should contact about your work. Ask if there is a purchase manager or artist liaison or representative, and ask if they are accepting new work. It's important to be professional, always try to make an appointment or ask if there is a good time to come in and present your work for review. Some retailers may only want to see brochures and price lists, others may want to see the work in person or have a different set procedure for accepting work.
Presenting your work. Again, professionalism is important. Be serious about your work and take care to put your best foot forward. This means having a price list, or at very least an inventory list of your available work. If sending a brochure, make sure that the photographs are the best you can afford, and the descriptions are accurate. Be sure to include your contact information on any correspondence. Always be positive about your work! Enthusiasm is contagious.
Accept rejection. It's always a risk when putting your work out there that it will be rejected. If this happens, there is no reason to go back to the woodshop, close the doors and never show your work again. There are many reasons for work not being accepted, and you have to trust that the person who runs the store knows their business just like you know yours. It may be a timing issue, a cost issue or a saleability issue. It's better to learn from the experience. Whatever you do, don't get angry or pushy with the contact person. They might not be in a position to carry your work now, but they may be able to in the future, and they may also have important information about where you can market your work or what you can improve upon. Don't give up! Sometimes it takes time and effort to find the perfect store to sell your work.
Look ahead. Selling your work in a store or gallery may open many doors but it also has challenges. In this very competitive economy you need to periodically evaluate what you are doing and how you can improve. Look at what is selling and see if you can expand on that market. Customers and stores get excited about new work and designs, so try to avoid getting into a rut or relying on past designs that did well. There is some risk in trying something new, but it can sometimes pay off in a big way.