Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Introduction to Wholesaling Jewelry

by Barb Macy of Accent Yourself

I've been a member of various jewelry-making forums for the past several years and have learned a ton from people who participate. I've learned everything from blogging & website design, to new jewelry-making techniques, to basic business principles. One person I've learned a ton from is Megan Casto of Castocreations. (Here is her Etsy Shop) And, she is the person who I looked to originally for advice on selling wholesale. 

Why Wholesaling Works for Me

I've come to terms that my website is only a gallery. I don't have the knowledge or resources to have a high-profile website, invest in advertising, continuously update, or hire a web designer. Plus, my photography skills are marginal & I'm horrible at taking photos of new creations. As a direct result, I do not get many sales online. I also do not participate in many craft/art fairs or shows. At this point in my life, I do not have the time or resources to commit to an entire weekend fair or nag people to host in-home jewelry parties. I have a family and family activities that take a priority to my jewelry business. So, that is why selling my things on consignment & wholesale work perfectly for me.

Benefits of selling wholesale include:

  • A large sale at one time. Payment is usually made in full immediately or within a few days.

  • I don't have to sit at art and craft fairs and sell my goods. I don't have the time to commit to fairs at this point in my life. Maybe someday when the kids are older and more independent. 

  • I don't have to take photos of every single piece of jewelry I make. I only take pic of pieces I'm especially proud of. Even then, if I need to get things to a shop, and I didn't get a photo, I don't sweat it. 

  • I don't have to constantly monitor my website - that doesn't get much traffic or sales! Selling online is a very competitive market. I don't have a large online audience or customer base. 

  • I work on jewelry, tag & package, write up an inventory, deliver to the shop, and finally get paid. 

Not For Everyone

Wholesaling is not for everyone or every product. Not every crafter or artisan wants to wholesale & give a 50% discount - this would dip into their profits greatly - plus, a lot of artisans & crafters are already well-established online and do quite well on personal websites & other selling venues like Etsy. I don't wholesale all of my products. Most of my chain maille jewelry is not sold at high discounted rates because they are so labor intensive. For example, if I sold my Jens Pind necklace at 50% in a huge wholesale order, I'd end up making less than minimum wage for my hours spent cursing at that thing! When I sell a piece on consignment it is for a rate of 60-70%, which makes it more worth my time. Plus, most pieces I sell on consignment in galleries are things I can duplicate and list on my Etsy site.

What Works For Me

I do sell quite a bit of sterling silver fashion jewelry & simple metalworked pieces at wholesale prices because I can make a decent profit and the buyer can also make a profit. Earrings are a perfect example. Although they can be labor-intensive, when you account for making headpins & earwires, the market will allow for a higher mark-up when compared to the actual cost of components. Earrings are an "impulse buy". Generally, they are sitting in a display near the cashier and are priced between the $15-30 mark. An easy sell. I've also found the simple metalworked pieces that can be duplicated or varied easily are also popular - simple necklaces, simple rings, bracelets, etc. Mostly, I sell things on wholesale that range in price from about $15 - 75.

From the Shop Owners Point of View

A recent forum thread on this subject helped inspire me to write this entry today. Etsy Member NormaW gives these tips from a shop owners point of view:

  • Wholesale price needs to be 1/2 of your retail price. 50% is a general rule of thumb, although some artisans & crafters give a smaller discounts for large orders - 30 or 40% is also sometimes a wholesale rate. The store needs to be able to mark up the pieces and be able to make a profit, too. The shop owner has to pay for the retail space, utilities, advertising, staff, etc. All the overhead that the artisan does not have to pay. If you can't give a 50% discount, consider marking up your prices a little.

  • Don't sell your things online for less than they are priced in a retail setting. It isn't fair to the shop owner if you sell the exact same product on your website or in your Etsy shop for 1/2 the price. Shoppers are generally Internet-savvy these days, and can find out how to buy your things online. Why would the customer ever return to the store? The shop owner will be upset and won't continue to purchase your goods. Plus, as Normaw says, this situation makes it impossible to promote you in her shop. . . She isn't going to promote your website or Etsy shop if everything you have is 1/2 the price! 

  • When taking a large wholesale order that isn't local, it is OK to ask for a down payment of 50% when the order is placed, then payment in full when the order ships. 

  • You don't need to spend your time & money on boxes or fancy packaging. Normally, a shop owner is going to use his/her own boxes and bags. I do put all my earrings on my own earring cards that have my name, my business name, and/or website. One of my shops does not allow me to have my website address on my tags. 

My Guidelines for Wholesale Orders

A lot of my guidelines came from Megan Casto, so "Thanks, Megan!"

  • I give a 50% discount on orders of $400 (retail) or more. For follow-up orders, I'll go less ($200+), but only if the relationship with the shop is healthy -- things are selling, I get paid in a timely manner, my jewelry is displayed professionally, etc. 

  • I offer some display options, but generally the shop provides their own display items. Earring card adapters are a must, though! I couldn't live without these little guys . They instantly turn my business card size earring card into a hanging card that can be hung on earring racks and spinners. 

  • I give my retailers a Sunshine Polishing cloth so they can try to help keep the sterling silver looking good, although that is a challenge at times. I also will routinely take home items to run them through my tumbler to brighten & polish. I want my things looking their best, even after the sale has been made. 

In conclusion I have to say one thing . . . Of course, I'd love to sell all my things at the regular retail price. But, that isn't reality for me. If I sat here at home, listed all my jewelry on Etsy or on my website and waited for them to sell online, I'd be way in debt! Whenever I do sell a piece of jewelry from my website or Etsy shop, I consider it a bonus and usually end up putting that money back into my business to buy new tools, equipment or more silver! Best wishes in all your jewelry making adventures!

The SATeam blog features artisan handmade creations by the etsy starving artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current etsy shop owner members can be found at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insights in wholesaling Barb ;)

Blue Scarab Jewelry said...

what a fabulous writeup, thanks so much for sharing your insight!