Jewelry Consignment 101
by Rita Juhlin.
(Private Stock Jewelry)
Jewelry Consignment Sales 101:
What You Need to Know
First and foremost let me say that I am in no way discouraging people from doing jewelry consignment sales.
Consigning my work has made me a very good income and I highly recommend it.
However you need to be careful and be informed.
My personal choice for marketing my jewelry is consignment sales; after 6 years of doing that I have some valuable experience to share.
My purpose here is simple:
If I can save one fellow jeweler from losing money to a less than “ethical” store owner (consignee) I will have succeeded in my small effort.
How NOT to Lose $1000
When Consigning Jewelry
What was learned from losing $1000.00 or (60%) to a less-than-honest store owner was, for a good part, my own fault.
Why my fault? Well, here is a list of things NOT to do:
Don’t over-extend your friendliness:
Going beyond a business relationship – such as help setting up the store, providing display items, giving more than you’re getting in respect, or anything else that may apply – can signal the consignee that you’re not a serious business.
Don’t let anything be un-businesslike or just go:
Such as accepting a sloppy handwritten note for an invoice of your jewelry consignment sales.
Don’t be shy about stating your terms up front:
Make sure your terms are clear and in writing BEFORE you start your business relationship – including what YOU expect from the consignee.
Don’t ask twice for your payment for sold merchandise:
If you have to ask even once, it is a big RED FLAG. The shop should always pay all artists promptly – on a regular, pre-determined schedule.
Don’t accept any excuse for not returning your phone call:
Lack of communication from the shop is often the first indicator that something’s wrong. Don’t let it go.
Don’t allow the consignee to price your jewelry:
Be sure your consignment agreement includes the provision that YOU determine the prices on your work.
Don’t let the store owner co-mingle your jewelry with everything else:
Keep your work together for two reasons.
- First, your jewelry may be a standout, and shoppers may look for more of your work to buy multiple pieces.
- Second, because it will be easier to do your own inventory REGULARLY.
Don’t put too much jewelry in one store:
It’s kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. Ten or fifteen pieces are plenty; you can always add a piece when one is sold.
If it’s the first time you’re doing a jewelry consignment with the shop, you may want to start out with fewer pieces while you test the waters.
Before You Hand Over
Your Jewelry Consignment Merchandise
You must first check the shop’s business license, city and state.
Do a little investigative work and find out, on your own, who else is consigning work there.
Contact a few of the other artists directly (NOT through the store owner); that alone saved me some time and money in one instance.
Visit the store a couple different times during the day and evening, to look things over and check out the traffic before you introduce yourself.
Maybe a friend could help you out with observing the store operations too.
Does the store move merchandise around now and then?
Is it clean and neat, or cluttered and in disarray?
This may sound silly, but I think we all get a little too excited about displaying our jewelry in a storefront.
It reminds me of a note on a blog about how excited a local gal was to get her jewelry in a particular store that I had just pulled out of for the reasons I describe!
Consigned Jewelry Items
Taking a picture of everything you place in the store is very helpful for remembering what merchandise is in which store, the price of each item, and when you placed it.
The store should carry insurance for theft or loss – but that doesn’t mean you are going to be paid if something happens.
Ask for a copy of their insurance policy, or at least ask what the deductible is. I was assured that the store had the coverage, but that didn’t help me.
I don’t believe my jewelry was stolen from the shop. There were many excuses given on that subject.
I would guess that many of you are thinking, “What about small claims court?” The answer to that is, you can’t get blood out of a turnip!
The great part about this one store and its problem owner is that when the door slammed shut on this one, two other doors opened for me. Woohoo!
Tip-offs for Trouble
with Your Jewelry Consignment
- All of a sudden, your sales are really slow.
- A piece of your jewelry is stolen.
- Dusty shelves in the shop.
- Lack of merchandising by the store’s staff.
- The store’s appearance overall.
- The owner and staff’s appearance.
- Less than great attitude; lack of enthusiasm.
Your Jewelry Consignment Experiences!
There is plenty more to say about selling jewelry on consignment.
I hope you will participate here and leave a comment to share your experience, good and not so good!
My best to all of you,
by: nupur arora
Dear Rita, thanks for sharing your insights in this maze of consignment opportunities esp now when things are slow, a lot of store owners want to keep the gun on the artist’s shoulders and then fire the shot.
You are right when you say that there are those who lack enthusiasm and gratitude for your hard work and we must beware of such shop owners.
As far as missing or broken pieces of jewelry are concerned, i always include a one liner at the bottom of the invoice, “Consignee is liable for all stolen or damaged merchandise”
“all merchandise is the property of (artist’s name) until sold”.
No one questions this when the invoice is presented, but when there is a conflict, it is implied they accepted your terms since you have them in writing and they are in possession of the invoice.
If i am on great terms with the shop, i normally don’t charge them full retail for broken or missing pieces, i settle it at my wholesale price so that i dont lose my material and labor cost.
Seems to work fine, for now!
SO all of us artists who bend over their work laboriously need to understand that even though we value the exposure our work gets, we need to stay away from being exploited!
what is ‘your’ mantra?
Thank you, Rita!
Thank you so much for these fantastic tips for avoiding jewelry consignment problems!
You also made an excellent point about being so excited to get our jewelry accepted by a shop that we don’t stop to investigate the situation carefully.
Also, as you’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s so important to stop and listen to our intuition when it comes to selling our jewelry.
In one of my first jewelry consignment experiences, I was invited to have some of my work included in a brand new gift shop.
The shop owner was loving my work and took about 6 dozen pairs of my earrings on consignment! Yes, nearly my entire earring inventory.
She was very certain my earrings would sell like hotcakes in her new little shop.
My intuition tried to tell me that her tiny brand new shop – located on a very quiet side street where there were no other businesses – couldn’t possibly sell that much jewelry.
But I was so new to selling my jewelry – and so thrilled by her assurances that my earrings would sell quickly in her shop – that I agreed.
Four months later this little gift shop closed down. The owner hadn’t sold a single pair of my earrings, and I don’t think she ever sold anything else in her shop either.
I did get all of my earrings back without trouble (although the shop owner had stuck big, messy price tags on my earring cards so I had to make all new cards).
This shop owner was honest and had good intentions – BUT she had absolutely no knowledge of how to run a business.
She daydreamed of having a cute little gift shop, but was clueless about promoting it, bringing in customers, and making it profitable.
During the four months when my 6 dozen pairs of earrings were tied up at her shop, I couldn’t display those pieces elsewhere or pursue other opportunities for selling them.
So although luckily I didn’t lose $1000 like Rita did, I did pay the “opportunity cost” of not making any money on those earrings elsewhere during that time.
This experience taught me to listen to my intuition in all things related to my jewelry business.
And that 6 dozen items is a huge jewelry consignment order – especially the first time you work with a new shop!
It also taught me NOT to assume that other businesspeople know what they’re talking about.
Because even though this shop owner was honest, her sales forecasts were based on her hopes and dreams – instead of on a well-thought-out marketing plan!
This experience was a good lesson for my future jewelry consignment opportunities.
Its all about them
by: Twisted Ginger Jewelry
I went through an ugly consignment shop break up last year. They store advertised for original designers for an upscale consignment shop on a college campus, I responded. They LOVED my work, my prices were great and they were super excited; so much so that they hooked me up with another shop in a busy lakeside community owned by family members. Everything was great for a few months until I found out the shop was closing and no one contacted me. After 3 weeks of calling, emails and stopping by (they were never there) I finally left a note asking for the entire value of all pieces under their door. They nasty call I finally got told me how unprofessional I was and that I could get my stuff at X time. And then they haggled and berated while I was there. Now 8months later I am going through it again with the other shop. I have learned my lesson TWICE!
thank you for the info. I love your piece’s, say what type of a camera do you use the pic’s are so nice?
The ups and the downs
by: Linda Stewart
I have had good experiences with consignments because I have relied on my initial gut instincts. If I have a doubt about a shop’s owner, I won’t sell my stuff there unless they buy it wholesale. I still set the prices of the pieces, because I avoid conflicting prices if I happen to refer a client to that store. I had one owner bring all of my inventory to my booth at the local swapmeet because it had been in her store for a long time, but, since this was a new venue for my stuff she brought it down. We figured that it might move in a new location.
The other place that I sell at is the stained glass store where I buy my glass. They have a separate area with display cases, etc. with some of the artists’, who shop there, works for sale. It is the only store that I have ever gone to shop at where the owner greeted me at the door with hands outstretched with cash, saying, “Here, this belongs to you!” with a smile. If only all of our business relationships could be this good, the world would be a much better place.
by: Rita Juhlin
I’m enjoying the comments, I used my gut instint too, didn’t work that time, LOL. I’ve had good experiences too, I’m just really careful now.
The camera is a Fuji, I use a tripod because when I hit the shutter button I can’t stop moving the camera. Sometimes I use a delay on the timer, that helps too. After I take a few pictures I load them on a photo program and tweek the best picture(s). Usually I adjust the contrast and brightness. It’s fun and a great deal of time is required.
What a great article. Thank you so much.
I would love to see more articles about consignment! Like a checklist, Things You Must Have Ready,’ or a step-by-step guide. This is something I really want to get into, but I’m such an introvert that I just can’t seem to take the first step. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot for not looking professional.
I did have one bad experience. There is a polish pottery shop in my local small town. It is speciallized, yes, but I heard through a friend that they were looking to carry local artist’s work and when my friend told them about my jewelry, they were interested.
I checked them out and everything seemed perfect. The shop brought in a lot of people from Baltimore and Washington, amazingly, and the clientele was just what I was hoping for demographically.
I made contact, showed them a few pieces and they were very interested. I *made an appointment* for the next Wednesday morning to talk business. Then I went home and worked in a crazy panic to get ready.
Wednesday morning rolls around, I go in with my work. The owner isn’t there. The lady that WAS there didn’t know anything about an appointment. (Strike 1) She explained that an ’emergency wedding’ had come up and the owner was running around trying to get ready for that (what?). She took my name and phone number.
I never received a call. (Strike 2).
So, I called them and left a message. Never received a reply. (Strike 3).
At this point, I’ve pretty much written them off, but still I emailed them. No reply again. (Strike 4).
I didn’t waste any more time with them. If this is how they do business, I want no part. It was painful, though, because the shop was so perfect.
What really threw me was about 2 months after that my friend who originally suggested it to me told me they had asked about me and was I still interested!! I couldn’t believe it.
StoneScapes Jewelry Designs
by: Di in NH
This is the first time I share my comments here, but I would like to chime in as I think it is valuable info to help others. I consigned my jewelry to a hair salon after a friend suggested I sell my jewelry at the salon she uses. My friend had worn some of my jewelry and the shop owner commented, the conversation turned to selling my jewelry there and my friend passed along the info. This was my first consignment opportunity. I had another very reputable shop selling my jewelry, but it was not on a consignment basis, the owner and I came up with designs to suit her clothing line and she purchased the jewelry outright. I was excited to add another store to my clientelle so I jumped right in. After a discussion with the jewelry shop owner it was agreed I would bring in a display rack of earrings. I purchased a nice large revolving rack and filled it with earrings. I did not get anything in writing (first problem). I left them with an inventory sheet (I kept a copy) with prices. I called after two weeks to find out what had sold. An employee told me only one or two pairs, so I waited a month before going to the shop. The same employee told me the owner was not in and she could not get to my money. There were several pairs missing. As the shop was about 1/2 hr. away I waited another month. Again I was greeted by the same employee and the same excuse. I found out the owner had cancer and was out most of the time. I was torn between feeling bad for the owner and wanting my money. Fortunately I did not replace any of the missing stock. The third visit (a month later) I was handed an envelope by the employee with a little money in it. When I asked for the rest she shrugged her shoulders and said the owner must not have put the money in there. She said she would check on it. I took what was there (about 25% of what should have been there) and left. (Big red flag!! I should have pulled out long before.) I finally removed the rack the next month and never got another cent for the missing items. My friend felt terrible and relayed back to me that the owner was going to make good on the missing stock. This sounded good but never happened. I then found out about a year later that the employee I saw each time I went in was the one taking the jewelry. I was out a lot of time, some stock, and the money for purchasing the rack (although I did use this at shows). As others have commented, beware when you do not receive payment, or there is any excuse given for delaying anything.
by: Rita Juhlin
I’d like to take the opportunity to re-emphasize a couple points.First, if you think you are in trouble with your consignment relationship you probably are.
Sometimes I think we live among wolves and they lurk around looking for trusting people. The employee, in Di in NH’s experience, being the wolf should have been held accountable. I’m not pointing fingers because I’m guilty too; when the employee said “she would check on it” that’s when the hammer slams down; the second point: cut the loss and take action.
Why do we do this? My opinion is that we lambs don’t want to believe the worst in a situation; we are hopeful that things will straighten out and be made right. If DI in NH had followed up to find out where that shop owner was and talked to her directly the entire situation may have been different.
Protecting ourselves means being pro-active and take the attitude that business is business, emotions and excuses cannot run our business. An experience such as DI’s is a valuable lesson for future transactions; turning that negative into a positive. DI, thank you for sharing your lesson with us, at least you didn’t let it go as far as I did.
how do you charge
this is very good news and thank you for the heads up! i have a question though how would you advise to charge? do the shops dispaly and sell and give you the money and get a percentage or they buy off u and sell at their own price.
Answer to Eyza
by: Di in NH
I had one shop that bought my jewelry outright. The salon displayed the jewelry for a percentage of the sales. We agreed on the percentage before I brought the jewelry in to the salon. The inventory sheet listed the items with the sell price and the amount they were to pay me for each piece.
I have a comment and questions…
by: Janine G.
I do not do too much consignment. I would like to do more but cannot get the time to research how to do it properly or the guts to sell my own stuff to shop owners.
I have been in a few situations I stumbled upon to sell my jewelry but I do not have any out for sale at this moment.
I found a grade school friend on fb and found out she had a gift/book store. She was really interested in my jewelry and wanted to sell it there. Her shop was cute and had some traffic. So I set up my own displays and jewelry. I came in once a month and she promptly gave me a check and a printed out invoice of what sold in accordance to the inventory sheet I gave her. She said her customers were only interested in the items less than $40. I left a few pricier items just in case (for show mostly).
It was nice to chat and catch up while I set out the new stock and cleaned items still there.
Then she said she has to take a bigger cut. I assume must have been hard for her to ask and I felt like a fool. I didn’t do my research and find out what is the proper percentage a store most likely will get? I had given her 10%. Real low right? Then I had to give her 30%! And I didn’t price my wholesale items correctly either. So I lost some money and I am still not sure she was happy with 30%.
Well unfortunately she couldn’t make much $$ with this lousy economy and had to close. I had to pull my jewelry outta there. She was nice in every other way but I did not have any paperwork with her since she was an old friend. And yes, a bracelet was stolen, but she paid for the wholesle price and I didn’t have to ask. So, what is the correct price to give the shop?
Jewelry Consignment Percentage
In my experience the most common jewelry consignment split is 60% to the artist, 40% to the shop.
If you can get 70% to the artist, 30% to the shop, that split is also sometimes done.
However, if any less than 30% goes to the shop (in my experience), the shop has a hard time staying in business – it’s just not enough to cover their overhead.
You can see more about Jewelry Consignment Percentages for further details!
Your experience selling your work via your old friend’s gift/book store sounds lovely – it’s too bad she couldn’t continue.
by: Rita (again)
Just to add a little to Rena’s right on comment. I’ve received a couple emails about percentage charges from shops. This is my experience with consignment charges.
When I first started consignment sales the split was 30/70, a couple years later it went up, generally, to 35/65 and now most of the time it is 40/60. Brick and mortar shops have tremendous overhead and often time’s payroll and payroll taxes to pay among all the other expenses.
But that’s not to say charges aren’t negotiable. A shop may offer a discount down to 30/60 if you agree to work in the shop for a few hours a month or during holiday seasons. The best way to handle your agreement is to ask questions.
You also need to take into consideration where the shop is. In one instance my split is 50/50 because the shop is in a really high rent district in downtown Portland, OR. however, the price of my piece will bring more $$$ so it really doesn’t matter to me. I actually often times come out with more in my pocket. People just pay more there, they expect it.
There was another instance where my split was 15/85. It was a restaurant, nothing special about the location; just a nice average restaurant and I sold a ton of jewelry there. The problem came up when the owner observed the waitresses making a bigger deal over the jewelry than the menu. He informed me I needed to move my display near a door so I pulled the jewelry.
You just need to make sure that YOU are happy with the agreement.
I’m delighted we are having interest in this way to sell jewelry; I encourage everyone to try it at least once. The store often will ask you to put on a demo if you have special skills and that can lead to great regular customers. Everybody likes to meet the artist!
Hope this helps!
by: Janine G.
Thanks for your response. Now I really know that my friend was being especially kind.
I wish she did better- it was a cute place and was a bookstore/cafe. She tried everything and did her research and all paperwork was perfect. She will make a good shop owner when the economy picks up.
JodyM – Jewelry Consignment Checklist
I’ve just put together a Jewelry Consignment Checklist, thanks to your excellent suggestion! :o)
It’s a step-by-step list guiding you through the entire consignment process.
Hope this helps – and let us know how your jewelry consignments go!
Rena’s Consignment Checklist
Wow Rena, good job!!! Perfect Checklist!
Thank you, Rita!
Much of it was inspired by the experiences you generously shared with us! :o)
Thank you! I will check it out and when I do start working with consignment I’ll be sure to write about it.
I can relate to a few
by: Cindy Devine
Rita; as I read this article, I could relate to a couple of the negatives or red flag signs that you mentioned, as they happened to me too.
I had my jewelry in a salon and; first, I did have to contact them a few times in order to get paid. Then, I did have a piece stolen, with no explanation from the salon owner. And finally, after taking out my jewelry for a show, I tried for 2 weeks to contact them to bring back items, with no response. Next time I will remember these tips and catch the red flags sooner, I hope!
Rita, thank you for sharing. You can add me too. Sadly, the list of us with similar experiences is far too long. I think most shop owners have good intentions but lack basic business skills. In my case, many of my pieces were selling and they kept asking for more to replace the sold items. Everything seemed promising, but a missed payment to me should have been the big red flag. They were so kind and apologetic and full of promises, so I let it ride, for more than one payment period. Then they closed unexpectedly and I did get the remaining pieces…but, no payment. It wasn’t nearly as much as you, so I let it ride. An expensive lesson well learned. Hopefully others can avoid our mistakes.
Oh if there only was enough time
by: Rita Juhlin
If I had the time I think I’d open my own shop for all the hard working jewelry artists out there.
You know it would be so easy if the shop would set up two accounts and put the designated payment in the artist’s portion account. It just isn’t that difficult!
I’m lucky though, I have two good shops now.
What great conversation! I wanted to add my 2 cents from the other side of the fence. I am a jewelry artist myself but had a gallery for about 5 years with a lot of consignment artists. I agree that you should listen to your instincts. I did that as well & failed to sometimes with the result being much harder to deal with later. However, according to my insurance agent, my policy did not cover my consignment items. I even tried specifically to find a policy to cover their things because I felt so badly when an item was stolen. I did everything in my power to prevent theft even going so far as to use beading wire to attach them to my display. We still occasionally had things that got jacked. I specifically had a clause in my contract that said that I was not liable for theft. I was told by my insurance agent that the artist could file a claim under their homeowners policy. Thanks for such great topics & the wonderful discourse!
software to keep track of consignment
Thanks for a great post! Can you recommend any software for keeping track of the stock, shops, monthly sales of each shop? Or do you simply create your own excel file for this?
Great thread! Add me to your list with consignment theft issues. So when I go to collect my pieces and hopefully a check for sold or missing pieces, and they say, sorry, this is all I have, do I have any recourse? Any choice comments to them (obviously the arrangement is ended) or to any reporting agencies? How BEST to handle this professionally?
by: Rita Juhlin
Well, first don’t do consignment without a contract. Have the “owner” of the store sign for what jewelry they receive, that’s just good business. You should always make a list with stock numbers, descriptions and price. (Good Record Keeping) Let it be known that you expect prompt payment, just like they do. Keep lists, records, etc. for each individual shop separate.
Recourse: Notify the owner of the shop you intend to pursue payment legally. You have two options. Small claims court, if you have proper documentation. Or, turn them over for collection. You probably won’t get much money back, collectors take a big chunk. But, maybe you will save someone else a headache.
Well, there is one other way, bug them so much they pay you to go away! I got a partial payment that way.
I just wanted to thank you for your post. I am doing a consignment deal with a coffee shop/gallery this week, and have been looking all over for some advice. Especially the importance of inventory etc.
I saw someone were asking about an inventory program. I have just started using BENTO 4 and find it great!
All the best!
Yeny Stromgren – Dirt By Earth<
by: Bobby Lawson
where do i order jewlery to sell on consignment
Bobby, we make out own jewelry, hence “Home Jewelry Business Success tips”
Bizarre shop owner behavior
The strangest behavior I’ve encountered was by a small shop owner in Ocean Springs MS. While I was at the checkout counter, I was complimented on a pair of earrings that I was wearing. The shop owner asked where I purchased them and I explained that I made them. She immediately asked me if I would be interested in making more and selling them. I agreed that I would be interested and she gave me a card and told me that she would like four pairs–one for herself and three for the shop. I made one pair for her to approve and proceeded to email her but I got a mailer demon bounce (dead email account). When I tried calling the shop, the owner claimed to have no idea what I was talking about!
I’m grateful that I only made one pair instead of four!