Chain designed by artist Laura Waldusky
This article is a continuation of my previous post about selling your artwork to a retail store. I interviewed Jennifer King, who is the Divisional Merchandise Manager for The Houston Museum of Natural Science. I tell all my artist clients that if they have not set foot in this store, they need to make a date to go. It reminds me of what the old Gump's looked like in the Houston Galleria (if anyone remembers this). They have an amazing collection of not only handmade artisan jewelry, but also some cutting edge designers like Alexis Bittar and Charles Albert. And they carry the cool stuff from these artists - showpieces. The museum's clientele is stone savvy and many of them like to take risks, and their selections offer these undeniably original pieces.
I posted the picture above, because it represents a piece of work that Laura Waldusky made, an artist that I represent, and whose work is shown at the HMNS. This is a picture I shoot in my office, sent to Jennifer King and then got feedback from her. This part of the job is really the best. Collaborating with artists, taking the information from the buyer, and then interpreting it for the artist. It is not every retail store who will let an artist have free reign to just "work their magic." And I wish more would take this approach, because look what it yields? And the bezel Laura created on this is CRAZY-good. And all done by hand.
So you have a little more information about what the museum carries and how they work with artists. Now let's get to it! Last post I wrote about what Jennifer thought were the 10 really important things to do before you try to sell to a retailer. Always wanting to start with the positive, today I wanted to help you focus on what NOT to do.
1) Do not be a pest. Buyers are bombarded with product submissions - it takes time to go through everything. Constant phone calls and emails will not speed up the process and will just irritate the person you're trying to make your customer.
2) Do not pop in to the store and expect the buyer to drop what they're doing and meet with you. It shows a disrespect for the buyer's time. Also, do not harass the sales staff about your product, about the buyer's whereabouts, etc. Basically, don't be a stalker.
3) Do not take rejection personally. Understand that buyers must make many decisions when looking at a line such as, does it fit into my store's image? Does it compete with my existing product? Are the prices too high (or too low) for my customers? Do I have Open-to-Buy dollars for this classification (Buyers work on a flowed budget - they may like your product but not have free funds for the line)? Am I expanding or narrowing this classification? These are business decisions that may have absolutely nothing to do with the quality and worth of your product.
4) Do not over saturate your market. Consider carefully where you want to sell your line and what products you want the store to carry. While I may carry some of the same lines as MFAH, I do not want the exact same product assortment. That lessens the line's impact. Be strategic and thoughtful about your product placement.
Speaking as a rep here. . . I have to really educate the artist about the above things. Sometimes they put undo stress onto me to call or keep bugging me. I know when to call for follow up, and when to leave people alone. Trust whoever you enlist to know the basic ebb and flow of business.
Touching on her point about over saturating the market, I cannot tell you how often someone tells me to call on the person right across the street from the store we have already sold to. You must remember to keep your first customers first, and to broaden your market further down the road. If someone can go across the street to buy your design, it does not hold much worth to the store that it is currently in.
Look for one more post about the RULES of retail. Following these will make or break you, I can promise you.