Success With Stockists by Charlotte Hupfield

From North Yorkshire to Devon, Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics are stocked across the country. Here UK Handmade Portfolio Member Charlotte shares some thoughts on working with shops and galleries.

I have been supplying shops and galleries with my work for the past 8 years, since I graduated from University after completing a BA (Hons) in Surface Decoration. I'm no expert, but I do have some pointers from my own experiences that people might find useful.

How to approach a shop or gallery

In my opinion, you should always research the stockist well before approaching them. Make sure your work fits in with their current theme or display and that it offers something different to the pieces they already stock. The shop or gallery are less likely to be interested in your work if it is similar to another artist/designer that they stock. If your work offers something unique - tell them. What are your best sellers and why do you think they will sell well in their particular shop or area?

Photos of the work you are trying to show the stockist need to be of a high quality, reflecting an accurate size of the pieces. If the stockist isn't local and you are contacting them by email or post, photos are especially important as they won't be able to see your work in person.

Don't be disheartened

Galleries must receive no end of enquiries from artists and designers wanting them to stock their work. If you don't hear back after a couple of weeks, you could try giving them a call to check if they received your email and follow it up. This shows that you are keen but I personally wouldn't call back again if after the call you still don't receive a reply as I don't like to seem pushy, but that's just me. I believe that if they like my work and can see a potential for it, then they will get back to me.

If you do receive a reply to let you know that they won't be stocking your work at present, they might give a reason as to why. You should do your best to take this reason on board and learn from it. I will always show my appreciation of a reply and reply again just to thank them.

If a gallery is not currently taking on new work, perhaps take the opportunity to enquire about upcoming or future exhibitions that they might be running where your work might fit in.

My experience with stockists

I started off using the above method, which was a case of trial and error for me. Most of my current stockists actually contacted me directly from finding examples of my work on my website or on Facebook.

Some of my stockists purchase work upfront, but I work with most of them on a sale or return basis. The terms and conditions vary depending on the stockist and the quantity of stock that they take. This is an agreement between yourself and the stockist so you should decide on how you want things to work.

Each stockist works with a different commission rate. On occasion when a gallery has approached me and I think their commission rate is too high, I have turned them down because I can't afford to let outlets take more of a cut from my work than I do! Sometimes there is a fine line ... you want your work to be stocked in a shop but you also want to receive a fair price for each item that you have lovingly handmade.

I have a few local stockists that I like to pop in and see every now and again. This is a good opportunity to change or replenish your stock if you need to and it is good to build a relationship with the shop owner.

Advantages of stocking your work in a shop or gallery

  • Your work is seen by a wider audience
  • Something may sell if it's on display in a shop; it won't if it's sitting in your garage waiting for the next craft fair
  • It could be an opportunity to generate commissions
  • It’s a good way of marketing all your stock
  • You don't have to individually wrap and package each piece when sold - someone else does it for you!

Disadvantages of stocking your work in a shop or gallery

  • Sometimes you don't get paid on time
  • You could lose your work forever! In my early years of selling, I was contacted by a shop who 'wanted to sell a selection of my work' on sale or return. I was so excited about a shop finding me and showing an interest, that I sent my work off blindly without doing any research into them, and never heard anything back. The shop was too far to travel so, after numerous emails, in the end I left it but learnt from my mistake and won't do it again!

If a shop contacts you directly, be sure to do your research - have they got an active business Facebook page? An up to date website? Check out the address of the shop and ask for a telephone number.

How can you get found by a shop or gallery?

From experience, I think it is really important to have a strong, eye catching website. A high percentage of people use the internet nowadays, so a website with good images is a must. Your website should also have all of your relevant information easily accessible to users and they should be able to contact you easily.

Get your work out there - promote yourself and your work as much as possible without being spammy. Post images of new work, work in progress etc. on social media. If you have a blog, this is a good tool to use for being found on search engines. The more your work is posted and shared, the more chance you have of being found.

Be prompt and professional

If you do get contacted by a potential stockist, send them all of your images of available work and any information that they ask for as soon as possible. Ask the stockist to sign and return a copy of your own terms and conditions, if you have them. Showing them that you are efficient helps set the foundation for a good relationship. You could even have more of a chance of getting paid on time etc!

To find out more and buy, visit Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics'


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