Recently the topic of selling greeting cards out in the real world has come up in the forums.
Having sold greeting cards before through shops and at markets, my humble opinion and experience may be of interest. I’ve got a lot to say on this one so I’ll use headings :)
Be a Business- Not Just an Artist
What I mean by this is consider yourself a business supplier and demonstrate a level of professionality. Yes it is great if you promote the artistic merits of your work but greeting cards are a very common product and so being organised with an ABN, professional looking invoices, online ordering facilities, fast turn around etc will put you ahead of the (always growing) pack. Like all good businesses, know your strengths and show them off.
Provide Good Quality Products
It might sound obvious (I hope it does) but when people are starting out in business they tend to cut corners. In the greeting card business quality is a big deal. This is where RedBubble becomes a huge advantage because the quality of the card printing is so exceptional.
Packaging is Important
Have you considered what your cards will look like after 20 or so customers have handled them? Some people like the ‘no plastic’ look and who am I to tell them otherwise. I always individually wrap my cards and make sure that if the packaging prevents the card being openned, that “Blank Card” is printed either on the individual packaging or nearby signage. If you put together gift packs, wrap them beautifully and make sure people know what images they are getting in the pack.
My little tip: leave one copy of each card unwrapped on display and when you check up with the store, see which ones are the grubbiest to identify the favourites
Displaying your wares
The things people want to see are the images, the quality and the price. Where possible I use clear perspex stands that do not cover the front of the card. By leaving a few sample cards out of their packaging people can pick them up and feel them to check the quality. I also make sure each card has a visible price on it, on the back, on a removable sticker. Some hints would be not to have too many of a particular card out on display at once. Keep a box of ‘top up’ cards out of sight. If you have a series that belongs together, display them together and perhaps highlight them with different packaging or a small separate display rack. Cards should be displayed with the image facing the right way up where possible. Always put your name and contact details on your card stands- so often they ‘magically disappear.’ And if you are providing your own stands, try to ‘claim’ the space so that other people’s cards don’t get put in over the top of yours. This can be hard to police but for example, having “Cards by Artist ABC” on your stand makes it harder for the retailer to stick any old stuff in there.
Get Your Pricing Right
Like all things business, a lot of small shops will heckle with you over money and prices. My advice to you? Know what price you want and stick to it. Think about it in perspective, in a typical shop, greeting cards will be close to the cheapest item in there. If the business can’t fork out $30 to try 10 cards then you don’t want to be doing business with them! But also think realistically about your prices. Most retailers will start saying ‘no thanks’ at about $4 a card so to make RedBubble cards (with a base price of up to $3.50) a financially viable option you need to sell them as premium art cards worth that extra dollar or two. Considering the quality of them, I believe this is possible. Depending on where you sell them, you could get $4 to $8 or even more per card. It will depend on the clientele for that particular store.
Common Mistake: Too many people give their cards different prices when in the eye of the customer they all look pretty much the same. If you want to have a premium range, make it obvious
I should add as a separate but related point, most stores will want to mark up by about 100% on greeting cards. Most people sell there cards for a set wholesale price and then let the store charge whatever they like. The only time in my opinion, you should intervene is if you seriously believe they have overpriced them to such a point that they are not affordable. But think about it before setting your price. If you ask for $4 per card, can the store onsell them for $7.95?
How to actually get them into stores
Here’s an idea for you- send them a card! Of course a rigorous follow up would be required. I would ‘door to door’ with a small sample or my stuff and it worked really well. I also had a bit of a tactic. I’d show a selection of cards worth $20 total. Then when they fell in love with a couple I’d say. “How about you buy this $20 worth from me right now and you keep that one you like for yourself, I’ll replace it with this one” Then I’d pull some other random card out of my bag and add it to the pile. Worked 9 out of 10 times. The other thing I did was band together with a fellow card maker (she did printed ones, I did handmade) so that we could show a greater range and cut our door knocking time in half. Can I also suggest not interrupting businesses during busy periods such as weekends or lunch hours. That happens to me in the gallery all the time and it’s a real pain. Also, if you’re talking to staff and their phone rings or a customer comes in, invite them to deal with the more important thing first and come back to you.
Rotate Your Stock
Basically, if it isn’t selling, get rid of it yourself before the store owner decides to get rid of you! I’m exaggerating but the point it still valid. People will stop looking if your display always looks the same so keep it chaging. Make a fuss. If you have a new range, stick a sign up saying “New Farm Yard Range On Sale Now.” And remember, what works well in one store may go really badly in another so if it’s not selling, try somewhere else rather then giving up and throwing the lot in the bin!
This is particularly just my opinion but I’m against consignment on cards. Especially if you give a choice of what is ordered. Seriously, cards cost so little compared to other things, if a store can’t find $50 somewhere to buy some outright, there is something suss about that right away. It might be good to offer consignment on your first batch which will encourage the store to stock your stuff but don’t get into a habit of it. I would drop off say 50 cards and get someone to sign a consignment form saying how many they were given. Then after a few weeks I would go back, count them up and invoice for however many were missing. Then I’d also give them the choice of buying the remaining ones, or me taking them back. Most would swap a few that they didn’t like and then buy up.
Again I hope this sounds obvious but ask to be paid. So many people get lost in a world of politeness and assume that eventually someone will do the right thing, Most small businesses using MYOB or QuickBooks accounting software will automatically lodge your invoices to be paid within 30 days. Agree on your terms and then chase up late payments. No need to be mean or nasty but a follow up letter and then a follow up phone call is fair enough. Also, be flexible in how you can be paid. Some businesses do everything with a cheque (or for you Americans, a “check”), others will rely on Direct Debit. So know how the business wants to pay you and don’t make it hard for them!
Promote your Cards
The beauty of RedBubble cards is they have the URL of your portfolio on the back which shows off all of your work. But also remember to promote your cards out in the real world. Recently I bought a bunch of RedBubble cards and gave them all to friends. The response was amazing. They all got online to find more! Next step for me is to buy a bunch of my own cards and find excuses to give them to people. webgrrl had this awesome idea too. The cards really do speak for themselves so get them into circulation.
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So if anyone is still breathing after reading all that, I hope you found it useful!
I do tend to ramble when it comes to retail related things- it’s my passion in life.