Stephani Stephenson on sat 8 dec 01
If you are accustomed to selling retail, wholesale will seem like a big
cut, as you will only receive half the amount of money for the same
item.. Usually one hopes volume and consistency in sales will make
that 50% discount hurt a little less. I think the best thing you can do
is review your price list and make sure you are satisfied with you
'wholesale ' prices. Also decide whether you will use a retail pricelist
and give discounts off of that or use a wholesale pricelist. We have
done both at Alchemie. There are plusses and minuses to both ways.
Be sure to send your new wholesale customers copy of your 'TERMS' . In
your 'Terms" spell out such things as your return policy , terms for
custom orders v. stock orders, lead time, variation of product etc.
Terms for First order from a new customer : COD or prepay. There are a
lot of little shops out there who LOVE to try out new merchandise, but
when it comes to payment, they think in terms of 'consignment', i.e.
they think they will pay for it when they sell it,, which might be in a
month or might be in 9 months.....get them use to paying promptly by
asking for prepayment or COD on first order and clearly communicating
your terms thereafter.. if all goes well you can move to a 'net 30
'(payment in 30 days, which usually means you get paid in 45-60 days.
write NET 30 on the invoice in the box marked terms., or prepay or COD
or whatever your terms.
If they have a small store and want you to let them 'try out' some
merchandise, I caution against it, but if you do it, set a time limit, 3
months or so.....but it is far better to not even 'go there' as they
say. In my mind a wholesale discount is for customers who want to
purchase up front and want to buy in some quantity. Doesn't have to be
HUUUGE quantity but it does have to be more than a couple of things per
year and it is NOT consignment.
Kind of tricky issue. Depends on the scale and price of your work I
think. On one hand you WANT volume for wholesale accounts, on the other,
sometimes those small orders pay the bills during slow times. You can
consider a dollar minimum or consider a per item minimum,. and state it
on your price list (example, mugs, min of 3, saki cups, 6, larger items
sold by the 'ea.'.... Whatever you decide, this is common in the gift
industry. Buyers will be accustomed to this.
On the other hand, if a good existing customer has a hot customer and
needs one of something, they love it if you can oblige. Of course the
amount of shipping per item is higher for THEM, if they are ordering
only onesies and twosies....so it is very much to THEIR advantage to
order in quantity. Sometimes they don't seem to mind that they have
just ordered a $40 item which cost $20 to ship.. go figure....but in
the long run, a tiny order barely justifies the paperwork.
be sure to adequately add packing and shipping charges to the Invoice.
Notice that I add the word PACKING, I am amazed at how much time is
involved with packing. Maybe you have standard sizes and can efficiently
reduce packing time, but take into account the cost of packing materials
and the time involved and include a reasonable packing charge in
addition the actual shipping/postage charges. If you are shipping
frequently it is worth it to have UPS or FEDEX Ground or FEDEX Express
come to your door everyday for pickups.
Remember: It takes just as much time to track down unpaid SMALL
orders as it does LARGE orders. A couple of long distance phone calls,
faxes, additional copies of invoices, and written reminders will soon
eat up any profit in a small order, so do think about your minimums and
your terms and stick to them with new customers. Train them to become
become good repeat customers . This will save you a lot of frustration
down the road. If an account is slow in paying, call em up and let them
know, calmly but firmly, that is not acceptaible. Bug em. If that is
difficult for you to do, hire someone part time to handle invoices, and
who is capable of calling to get unpaid invoices paid! (Good cop , bad
cop, with a velvet glove of course!)....Usually one phone call will do
it. If you have consistent problems with late payment on an account
,inform them that they will be put on 'COD' or 'prepay only 'status.
Fortunately of course, most of your clients will be darling ,lovely,
prompt paying professionals who ADORE your work, yes they will!!!!!!!
Ask that a customer notify you in 30 days if there is a problem with an
order and they wish to return something . One way that suppliers (which
you would be) use to discourage 'impulse' buying and returns is to
charge a 20% -30% 'restocking' fee. Wholesale customer also pays for
shipping both ways. If an item is damaged in shipping a claim should be
filed with the carrier. If it is somehow defective, accept it and
replace it ASAP.
Honestly if there is really a problem I think it is best to work with
the customer and make it right, but my philosophy is try to steer most
of the herd down the main road, and take care of the strays on an
If you have a long standing customer who usually loves your work but
for some reason feels the latest order isn't what they wanted, appease
them and replace the items. It isn't worth throwing away a good customer
over a single return, but don't get dragged into competing with the
major chain stores where returns are instant and often.
Also I do not accept returns on custom items, though I must admit, I
have never been asked to accept such a return. I do always request
prepayment or a 50% (non refundable) deposit on custom work.
Pricing and lead time may differ on custom work
Terms should also mention differences in color and size , that these
are (fabulous, gorgeous, unique), handmade objects and that such
differences are natural. Also that glazes differ from batch to batch
and firing to firing, so an exact match may not be possible if add -ons
are ordered at a later date. I think the clothing industry has gotten
us use to this one, but occasionally there is a whiner..."but it isn't
doesn't match the one I ordered LAST year!!!!" (Refer to terms)
Lead Time:. see what is standard for your type of work. 4- 6 weeks is
common for small -studio tilemakers. My lead time for custom handbuilt
work is 4-12 weeks, depending on size, complexity ,etc.
Alchemie lead time is 3-5 weeks, though quite often we ship out the same
day or same week. Sometimes that 3-5 week buffer is crucial, though,
especially if a wholesale customer orders a quantity of one particular
item which you have just sold out of and you need to take it through the
entire fabrication, drying and firing cycle. Better in my opinion to
give yourself a buffer to begin with and beat that time than promise a
short lead time and fail to make it. Though most people will sound like
they need it TODAY , most people are more content if you TELL them it is
4 weeks and get it to them in 4 weeks than if you tell them 2 weeks and
get it to them in 3.
I do not have experience with the big ACC type wholesale market where
one fills up orders for an entire year.
Not everyone necessarily deserves a full wholesale discount.
Designers, etc. receive a 10-20 % discount though they may ask for
'wholesale' discount. 'Collectors' may do the same. Some tiny accounts
that only order a few of everything for the entire year may only
receive a 30%- 40% discount. This is not unusual .
Only you can decide whether a tiered discount system based on volume
will work for you, or whether that will be a pricing headache.
I guess the main thing is to mull over what a wholesale account really
is, How do they earn or qualify for that 50% discount???
Occasionally these come along. Usually if there is a problem with an
order I am very customer service oriented. Though I stick to the terms,
I sometimes bend them to accommodate, in special circumstances. BUT
sometimes it is a slippery slope. Occasionally there is an unscrupulous
client . If there are continuous problems of a real nature, (false
claims about damages in order to procure more goods at no cost, non
payment, etc.) stop doing business with them. One strike, maybe it's
just one of those things, two strikes, hmmmmm, Three strikes,they're
Finally, with regard to Invoices:.Send them the invoice as soon as the
order goes out. I do not attach the invoice to the box. I do attach a
packing slip( that does not have prices on it, only contents). Invoice
is usually sent to the office or 'accounts payable, 'attn. so and so',
and sent separately . Send it as soon as you can, as they won't start
counting payment lead time 'til they receive the invoice itself. On the
invoice also mark down an invoice number the shipping date, reference
the customer's P.O. number, sales person if applicable, shipping charge,
F.O.B. your town, 'Net 30' or payment terms, and quantity, unit,
description, subtotals and totals of the items in the order. You can
purchase duplicate or triplicate blank invoices at an office supply
store or print them out yourself.
Keep a log of the Invoice numbers, with reference to the company and
their PO number, date invoice was sent out, amount and date paid. All
these thing are not hard and fast rules, but things I have learned along
the way. I am still learning and trying improve things, definitely a
'work in progress'
Wholesale can provide a good added source of sales, income and exposure,
though I have to say that many people who sell wholesale dream of
switching over to full retail!!!!! Try it out, just adapt your prices
and terms so that it works for you!