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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Business Chat - Store Buyers

OK, so now you’ve all put together your new LINES for your collection and you want to get these into a store. Excellent. First, find a store. Not just any old store, it must be a store where your work will fit in and where you think your work will sell. If you have a store in mind the best thing you can do is to actually visit the establishment anonymously and see if you can picture your work in there. Are you and the store a good fit? If you are making base metal steampunk jewelry perhaps a high end gallery isn’t a good idea. If you’re making gold/diamond/expensive/small delicate work then a local hipster store won’t really work for you. Always do your research first. Check to see how busy the store is. If possible visit the store a couple of weeks after your first visit. Do they have new work? Does it look like they’ve sold a lot? Chat with the store clerk, are they friendly and forthcoming with information (like what sells well)? What price points do they emphasize? Pay special attention to their jewelry lines. What's on the tags and who provides the tags, the jeweler or the store? Do they have too much jewelry already? How would your work stand out among the competition?

If you decide that you think you are a good fit the next step is to make an appointment with the BUYER. Every single store has a buyer even if it’s just the owner wearing a different hat. Shop owners are busy people trying to run a shop, if they know you’re coming in then they are ready to deal with you. Do not just wander into a store waving a pair of earrings in the air. The best thing you can do is to present yourself as a legitimate business. You are a professional and so is the buyer. Act professional.

Call for an appointment. Show up on time. Have your business card ready. Have your jewelry ready to be seen. Dress well, meaning dress like your brand. Oh, and DO NOT forget to wear your own jewelry (you’d be surprised how many jewelers don’t).

Sidebar: You are as much on display as your jewelry is. You are part of your brand. Branding is all about consistency. You must be the same style as your jewelry. If you’re making little tiny expensive diamond studs and hand engraved gold then wearing a heavy metal t-shirt and ripped jeans may not be the most appropriate look. If you’re making industrial chic work, perhaps leave the Armani suit in the closet. Be your brand.

When meeting with a buyer, I recommend having an overall sampling of your work in a couple of jewelry presentation displays (simple trays with your work pinned down work well), and the rest of your inventory handy in other jewelry presentation cases / trays / displays. Shoe boxes and baggies in the bottom of your purse do not give the professional air that you are trying to achieve.
This 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. Buyers will usually zero in on a certain line or lines and want to see just work from that series.

Have your business cards, price lists, line sheets, order forms, copies of your artist statement or bio, postcards, and any sales material 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.

Insiders tip: When filling out an order form (at a store or at a craft show booth) you need a copy of the form for you and a copy for the customer. You can get a 2-part carbonless form (sometimes called an NCR form) printed at Kinkos for about 50c each. My forms are on 8x11 paper, they have my logo and then the information that I need. I print out one then take them to Kinkos and they produce a 2-part carbonless form for me! Simple and easy. And so professional.

After your appointment, send a thank you to the buyer for taking the time to meet with you even if they didn’t place an order. It’s the little touches that get you remembered. If they did place an order, go home and do your happy dance and then get down to work.

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