by Rena Klingenberg.
Approaching shops about carrying your handcrafted jewelry is easy and even fun – if you do a little research before contacting them.
Find out everything you can about a shop or gallery first – because the more you know, the better you can present your jewelry (and yourself) as the solution to their needs.
Before Approaching Shops and Galleries,
Do a Little Research
If possible, first visit a shop or gallery in person as an anonymous shopper.
Pick up one of their business cards, and look around the establishment to get a feel for its character or atmosphere. Notice what lines of merchandise they carry, and how their wares are displayed.
What price points do they emphasize?
Pay special attention to their jewelry lines. Is it mostly a particular style? What’s on the tags? Do they have too much jewelry already? How would your jewelry fit in here – and how would it stand out among the competition?
Jot down a few notes when you get back to your car.
Now visit the shop’s website (if you can’t visit a shop or gallery in person to conduct your research, this step is especially important).
Read all the text and examine all the photos closely. Check for as many of the previously mentioned points as you can online.
Make an Appointment
to Present Your Jewelry
The next step in approaching shops and galleries with your jewelry is to telephone or stop in to set up an appointment with the establishment’s owner or buyer.
(If you make your appointment in person, have your jewelry displays ready in your car in case the buyer has the time and motivation to see them right then.)
Shop owners often tell me how much they appreciate it when artists make an appointment to see them, rather than just waltzing in off the street, expecting the shop owner to be idle.
Shop and gallery owners are extremely busy keeping their establishments operating profitably, and find it annoying when artists don’t understand their busy schedules. And that won’t get you off on the right foot in this business-to-business relationship you’re hoping to forge.
What If They Say No?
If a shop owner declines to make an appointment with you or decides not to buy any of your jewelry because they “already have enough jewelry” or some other reason, don’t take it personally or feel stressed about it.
Sometimes it’s just the wrong time of year for that shop, or they may have just stocked up from other vendors. It’s also possible that their sales may be slow or their finances are tight.
And none of those situations are profitable for your jewelry business anyway.
There’s also the possibility that you may still have an excellent opportunity from this shop owner:
* You may get a great referral from them. If it feels right to do so, you can inquire politely whether the shop owner knows of any other shop or business that may be interested in carrying your work. I have found some excellent shops this way, that I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.
* They may want to carry your jewelry in the future. Even if they decide not to take any of your jewelry on this visit, leave on friendly terms, giving them your business card and any photos or printed literature you have of your work to keep on file. Often a shop owner will contact you in the future about carrying your jewelry if you make a positive impression; call or send an email periodically to check whether there’s anything they’d like to order from you.
So if this shop says “no” for whatever reason – don’t worry! Just let that one go and contact the next one on your list.
Make a Professional Impression
On the day of your appointment, it’s best to dress nicely and with a thought to the shop or gallery’s general style and degree of formality.
Don’t forget the most important part – wear a tasteful amount of your own jewelry!
And it’s a good idea to be on time for your appointment; better a little early than late. That demonstrates your reliability when it comes to business matters.
If you don’t make it to the appointment on time, they’ll wonder whether you’ll deliver your jewelry by your promised deadlines.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Nervous About
Approaching Shops with Your Jewelry
Are you nervous about approaching shops and galleries?
I used to be, until I realized that the store isn’t doing me a favor by accepting my jewelry. Instead, I’m doing them a favor by offering them a unique line of jewelry art that their customers won’t find in other shops.
That boosted my confidence, and made me able to talk to them about the beauty of the stones I use and the originality of some of my one-of-a-kind pieces.
See my 3-minute video, Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone, where I share the story of how I overcame my fear of contacting my first shop.
Smile and be enthusiastic about your work without pressuring the shop owner or buyer. If you have unique, well-made jewelry and a pleasant attitude, things tend to fall into place with the right shops and galleries for you.
Your Jewelry Displays / Presentation
for Shops and Galleries
You’ll make the best impression with a professional-looking, portable jewelry display for transporting your jewelry to the shop or gallery and showing it to the owner.
Odds and ends of boxes and bags that you pull your jewelry out of won’t make a professional impression.
If you plan on approaching shops and galleries with your jewelry, it’s worth investing in a couple of jewelry display trays or cases for your presentations. However, this doesn’t need to be expensive.
Depending on your jewelry, you might consider using a few presentation displays like jewelry rolls, jewelry folders, gem trays, sample cases with a window in the lid, sample trays, bracelet rolls, necklace rolls, jewelry portfolios, or other similar items.
You can also get carrying cases designed to protect and transport these special presentation displays.
Good sources of jewelry presentation displays are Fetpak, Nile Corp, Jewelry Supply, and Rio Grande.
Shop around and compare prices (especially shipping charges) before buying any jewelry displays, because prices can vary widely.
Start with an Overview of Your Jewelry,
and Be Prepared
with the Rest of Your Inventory
When going to your appointment to show jewelry to a shop owner, I recommend having an overall sampling of your work in a couple of jewelry presentation displays, and the rest of your inventory handy in other jewelry presentation cases / trays / displays.
That way you can start by showing them a good overview of your line, so they won’t get impatient to see your necklaces while sitting through tray after tray of earrings.
It may seem like overkill to bring along the entire rest of your inventory. But while you’ve got the shop owner excited about your work and in a buying mood, you want to be able to show them anything they’re interested in.
You never know what they’ll ask to see, and it won’t help if you’ve left at home the one thing they’re interested in! If you have to bring the requested jewelry back later for them to look at, their interest may have cooled and you could lose the sale.
Have Your Literature Handy
Have your business cards, price lists, order forms (ones with a carbon or carbonless copy for you), copies of your artist statement or bio, and any literature with photos of your jewelry in a folder, briefcase, or pocket of your jewelry display case.
It’s a nice, professional touch to give the shop owner all your literature in an inexpensive folder as a convenience for their files.
Also have some pens and a calculator handy, for filling out your order form.
My Current Presentation for Shops
Currently I use aluminum cases which hold stacks of 14″ x 8″ jewelry trays loaded with my inventory.
Each tray has a velvet pad or a flocked, compartmented tray liner that’s just right for the pieces in that tray.
You can see photos and details of exactly what I use – my portable jewelry display setup that works perfectly for showing my jewelry at shops, shows, and home parties.
My Old Presentation for Shops
I used to use a nice-looking suitcase that was almost perfectly sized for the 14″ x 8″ jewelry trays.
I used the taller trays, that are about 1.5″ high, and for my presentations to shops and galleries I had each piece of jewelry in a cardboard gift jewelry box, opened so the bottom of the box nested inside its lid.
(Sometimes a shop wants the gift boxes if you have them, and sometimes not. But just in case they do, I figure the cost of the box into my wholesale pricing whenever I’ll be showing the jewelry in boxes.)
I filled the trays with these boxes in neat rows, and stacked the trays inside the suitcase.
Because the suitcase was a little larger than the trays, things inside rattled around a bit and my inventory could wind up pretty jumbled by the time I arrived at the shop for my appointment. So I pinned necklaces to velvet pads inside their jewelry trays, and placed a second foam pad on top of the jewelry in each tray to help hold things in place.
My order forms, other literature, and pens went in a big zippered pocket on the outside of the luggage.
Why I Like the Jewelry Tray System
I can just open the jewelry tray case (or the suitcase I formerly used), and unstack the loaded trays onto the store’s countertop for fast and easy showing.
When the shop owner has made their selections, I can quickly restack the trays and put them back in the tray case / suitcase, write up the order, and be on my way without taking up any more of their time.
Does the Shop Have
Special Labeling Requirements?
Some shops and galleries are concerned about the information that’s on the tags of products in their establishment.
In particular, some prefer that your tags not have any of your contact information. They don’t want their shoppers to be able to contact you directly so that the shop loses its part of a sale.
So it’s a good idea to ask whether the shop has any special requirements for the labeling or packaging of your jewelry.
I personally don’t like to sell my jewelry without my contact info on the tag. I think customers feel more comfortable buying jewelry when they can contact the artist if they have a problem or question about the piece they purchased.
After all, when you buy any other consumer product, the company’s name and contact info are on the package.
And if the shop or gallery ever goes out of business (which happens more often than shop owners want to think), how does the buyer contact the artist for product support?
However, I can see the shop’s point of view too.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether you want to re-label your work for shops that don’t want your contact info available to their customers. Anyway, it’s a good point to be clear on with each shop.
Keeping the Shops and Galleries
that Sell Your Jewelry
After your appointment with the shop or gallery owner, it’s a nice touch to follow up immediately with a handwritten thank-you note, expressing your appreciation for their taking the time to view your jewelry.
This is very important, regardless of whether the buyer decided to carry your jewelry or not.
Very few people take the time to handwrite a personal thank-you note, yet this small touch makes a tremendous positive impression that can really open doors for you!
It’s one of those personal touches that make a one-person handmade business special.
A good shop or gallery where your jewelry fits in well can be a dependable source of steady sales for years. A shop may be a source of additional types of sales and contacts for you too, such as trunk shows and referrals.
Stay in touch with all your shop and gallery owners regularly with brief e-mails, phone calls, or notes. Your jewelry business will thrive if you establish warm, solid, personal connections with all the people you do business with.
When the shop or gallery has an event, ask what you can do to help and how you can be present. Spread the word about their event to your own contacts.
Anything you do to promote the shop / gallery that carries your work helps you as well – and encourages them to reciprocate by promoting you and your jewelry.
Make Yourself a
Valued Supplier to the Shop or Gallery
Shops and galleries are constantly on the lookout for new and different merchandise that will give them an edge over competing shops.
Owners want something unique and popular with a good price, and they need suppliers (including jewelry artists) who are reliable and professional to do business with.
Shop and gallery owners are concerned about their bottom line, and how your jewelry can help them cover their expenses and retain a profit.
Remember, you’re not just selling them jewelry – you’re offering them great solutions to their customers’ gift-giving and fashion problems!
What’s the best way to keep supplying the jewelry that the shop or gallery wants?
Ask regularly what they’d like, what trends they’re staying in tune with, and whether there’s anything in particular their customers are asking for that they can’t supply.
Approaching shops and galleries can open all kinds of wonderful doors for your jewelry business!
I wish you every success and serendipity in finding the right shops for your jewelry.
Also see my Jewelry Consignment Checklist
My post, Jewelry Consignment Checklist, has a ton of info on consigning jewelry successfully.