search  current discussion  categories  business - sales & marketing 

wholesale work/crunching numbers

updated fri 12 jan 01


Don Jones on thu 11 jan 01

Dear group,
I apologize for quoting Stephanies entire message but I wanted to say
something about degrees of wholesale business.
I don't want to scare people off from wholesale. I sold wholesale to
galleries a small 5" sphere that was cast. I had a little part time help
and I didn't make HUGE quantities of them nor did I break my back doing it.
I charged 41.00 a piece for them wholesale. I thought that was very
expensive. I made 75/ mo and after expenses made a profit of 32.00 a
piece. I could have made more if I wanted to. I also make larger spheres
and closed forms that I also wholesaled. All of this was manageable for a
small operation. A good year for me was 48k gross sales. I lived on that
quite nicely. My expenses are low since I work out of my garage.

I have personally witnessed wholesale customers ordering works at A.C.E.
shows that were very expensive (starting at $900.00 wholesale for an
elaborate mixed media piece) and not blinking an eye. Volume isn't the only
way to go.

It was a personal decision to stop cranking out 5" spheres because I don't
have the personality for
production work. There was just too much other stuff I wanted to make.
I agree with others that doing only Fine Craft fairs and other outdoor
venues is too much work and far too much expense; it is also very risky in
terms of damage, weather, and transporation.
A combination of wholesale, retail fairs, and front door (internet and
phonecalls) sales is the ideal I am working towards. It is slowly
happening. I think it can happen for others too with not alot of upfront
expense and a little time working towards it. Lifestyle is the key but it
also true that there is alot of variation in how to make money in clay.
Don Jones

>I agree wholeheartedly with what you say.
>The RAM PRESS has kept Laird alive in the wholesale business for years.
>But I wouldn't even WANT to figure out the actual tonnage of clay that
>must be lifted and loaded and lifted and loaded. Sooner or later it just
>breaks your back , OR it increases payroll costs when you need to hire
>people to keep up with the heavy work. Then you find yourself managing a
>small factory instead of making tile or pots. But it does allow you to
>compete and get high gross sales. A few weeks ago, with all the talk of
>power increases we we talking about having things made in Mexico. WHAT
>ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? Then we are suncontracting and dealing with
>problems , not EVEN in our control, in another country. NO THANKS!
>In the past couple of years, Alchemie has been going back to the front
>gate sales and the word of mouth sales more and more. It is a lot more
>satisfying in a personable sort of way.
>Selling acres of field tile and competing with commercial tile is
>likely a losing proposition in the long run. Even if you are high end
>as we are, the 50 percent wholesale discount eats the heart out of what
>you take in. Lairds tiles and architectural ceramics have been featured
>in Sunset magazine and other magazines, with no credit given to him, but
>instead list the distributor as the artist. They do not reveal where
>it is made or by whom. I understand why. They want to protect their
>interests and we do maintain a good working relationship with them.
> But though wholesaling has provided regular business, it is no longer
>as attractive as it once was, for many of the reasons you mention in
>your post.
>I would say nowadays that the wholesale distributors are only one third
>of our sales, and we do not mind if that percentage shrinks.
>Off and on about 5 percent comes from public art commissions and the
>like. One third comes from direct business with architects and the
>other third from people who love to come pick through the boneyard or
>buy direct. Some surprising sales have been coming from the internet
>too, I guess that is another kind of front gate.
>The last two categories grow significantly with each passing year. It is
>a little nervewracking because you cannot forecast it, but it is a
>little hard to do that with life in general anyway (egad ,I am dying to
>say eh?)
> Stephani Stephenson