how to sell your GCU greeting cards to retail stores
Making a pitch to sell your own greeting cards to retail shops in your area sounds scary, but you can do it if you have confidence in yourself and your work. Here are some tips and advice for those artists ready to take the plunge into the exciting world of retail sales.
From Artist to Entrepreneur
It's Not As Hard As You Think
Since Greeting Card Universe - a print on demand company that sells artists greeting cards to the public through their website - gives its artists a discount when buying cards, many artists would like to supplement their income further by ordering cards through GCU and selling them to stores in their local areas, but feel the task may be too daunting. In addition, they aren't sure where to begin or what the "rules" might be. Self-confidence is one key to success, but there are other things to consider before you begin.
ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL
Put aside your artist's beret and put on your business hat. Your art is only one part of the package you'll be using to dazzle store owners and buyers. Don't forget that greeting cards are a common item, and there's lots of competition, so you want to stand out from the crowd. Get yourself organized and make a good impression.
When preparing for a sales presentation, wear professional attire. Have business cards printed with your phone number and e-mail address, as well as invoices, order sheets, price listing (including minimum quantity, suggested retail price, shipping charges if applicable) and consignment forms (including a separate price list for consignment customers). You could also create a four-color catalog and/or brochure, just be sure anything you present to potential clients looks the business. Amateur-looking efforts are likely to turn your clients off.
Check out printers like Vista Print (in the U.S., but they have websites all over the world) for deals on full color promotional postcards, business cards, stickers, magnets, etc. Make up a package of marketing materials to leave with shop owners, and follow up with a call or visit in one or two weeks. Staying in touch is always appreciated.
Be sure when clients contact you, you return their call or email promptly. Ensure prompt turn-around for orders that come in. Keeping your clients satisfied by demonstrating your reliability and willingness to work with them will go a long way towards building a professional relationship..
Does your state (or county) require a tax I.D. number and/or business license? A resale license? A seller's permit? Do your homework and be sure you're prepared for any legal questions that may crop up.
MAKING YOUR SALES PRESENTATION
Be considerate. Don't show up unannounced at a potential shop during rush hours or on busy weekends. Call first, ask to speak to the buyer or the sidelines buyer or owner, and make an appointment. A buyer won't waste your time; they will tell you whether or not they think your cards will sell in their store, so please don't waste their time, which brings me to the second point...
Choose your venues wisely. There's little profit to be made in trying to sell atheist greeting cards to a religious bookstore, for example. Be sure your greeting card designs will suit the venue you'd like to sell them in.
Small to mid-sized local shops are always looking for new items to draw in customers, and you will have more luck with them than targeting mega marts and large chain stores. Possibilities include specialty shops, gourmet grocery stores, bookstores, art galleries, "mom and pop" drug stores, pet stores, botanical gardens, historical societies, gift shops, antique and collectibles shops, pro shops, Art Guilds, fine wine shops, etc.
Is there a company in your area that specializes in holiday gifts or seasonal items (such as Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, holiday gift baskets)? Perhaps you can make a deal to provide them with appropriate gift cards. What about school, church or charity fundraisers? The local Rotary Club? If you think about it, you'll find there are lots of potential venues out there. Don't be afraid to ask.
A printed catalog is a nice touch, however also having card samples on hand when making your presentation will help make your sale. Let the buyer see and feel the print quality for themselves. Give them a sample card (sample means sample, so don't try to charge them for it or ask to get it back - that's a big mistake) and a package of marketing materials. If you can't get a commitment on the first meeting, don't forget to follow up in one or two weeks. You'd be surprised how few freelancers follow up on their initial sales pitch. Just remember, if the buyer never hears from you again, it's guaranteed you won't get a sale.
This ends part one. Part two with even more top tips is below!
Even More Tips
DON'T PRICE YOURSELF OUT OF THE MARKET (BUT DON'T CHEAT YOURSELF, EITHER)
A typical retail store expects to make 100% profit on the items they sell.
You know how much it will cost you to order your cards from GCU using the artist's discount. Don't forget to add in the cost of shipping, plastic sleeves, stickers, marketing materials, gas, etc. Put together a report showing how much each card costs you, and how much you'll have to make per card to show a reasonable profit (as determined by you). This is the wholesale price you'll be quoting the buyer when you make your presentation. Now double that figure - this is how much the store will have to charge customers for the card.
Again, do your homework. As you go around town on your own errands, check out the greeting cards in the racks you see. How much are they selling for? If your cards have special local interest, you can probably get away with charging a bit of a premium, but if you're asking $4 per card from the buyer, do you really think customers will pay $8 per card at the register?
The price you ask for your cards wholesale is a question only you can answer. Just don't price yourself out of the market. If the shop doesn't see a profit in selling your cards, or they think they're too expensive, you won't make any sales. But if you aren't making back your expenses plus compensation for your time, you'll want to rethink your strategy.
Figure out your numbers beforehand so you know exactly what kind of deals you can give the buyer if they order from you in quantity. Print out a price sheet and include it in your marketing materials. Make a separate price sheet for consignments (typically, consignment cards cost 20-25% more than wholesale buys to account for losses).
A final point on this topic: don't give your greeting cards different prices unless there is a marked difference (such as, some cards have glitter or other special features). To the consumer, your cards seem similar and they won't understand why you're charging $3.50 for one and $5 for the other. Keep prices consistent.
RACKING THEM UP
Greeting card racks can be expensive. You might find reasonable deals in your local newspaper or Craigslist listings (or Ebay - check below for some of their listings for card racks), so keep checking. While some stores own their racks and don't mind mixing work from various artists together, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can simply display your greeting cards in an existing rack. That rack may belong to someone else, and it's highly unlikely they'll agree to give space to a competitor.
If the owner allows you to place a spinning rack or a counter rack, be sure you both agree on a display area. If you can, put a prominent sign on the rack with your business name, logo, and any information you think might be important.. In addition, having a sign with your name and logo prominently displayed makes it more difficult for the store owner to stick someone else's cards in YOUR rack.
Be sure each card is presented the right way up. Try not to have too many cards stuffed into the rack. Remember, each card has about 1.5 seconds to catch a buyer's eye, so your designs should be uncluttered, and you should preferably keep the most eye-catching wording or image in the top third of the card.
If you have cards in a series, group them together or close to each other. If possible, include "freebies" like your business card somewhere on the rack, or brochures for customers to take with them (for example, if you make custom cards, that's an opportunity for advertising).
You'll want to check your rack every three or four weeks to freshen up your merchandise (if selling on consignment) or contact the store owner regularly to find out if they'd like to place an order, either in person, over the phone or (last choice) via an email.
KEEP IT FRESH
GCU's cards are printed to a high standard, however another consideration is what subjects sell in your market. You will probably find that all occasion cards may not make a very big splash. Scenes of local interest like touristy places or historic sites and landmarks are much more likely to appeal to shop owners, as such cards get noticed by local residents and visitors alike. Those are the kind of cards that aren't easy to acquire from other sources, so offering exclusive merchandise will give you an advantage.
Don't forget that customers will be handling your cards, so you'll want to protect them with plastic sleeves, which can be acquired from many sources (www.clearbags.com is just one company; a quick search of the Internet or your local yellow pages will give you lots of choices). Measure envelopes, not cards, to ensure the right fit. It's also very easy to put a price sticker on the plastic sleeve. However, customers do like the "feel" of a card in their hand, so leave one card of each design unwrapped as a display sample. This will also help you when it comes time to refill your rack - you'll be able to tell the most popular cards by how much they've been handled (and therefore how grubby they've gotten!).
If your cards are blank, put a sticker stating "blank inside" on the plastic sleeve as well to discourage customers from opening the sleeve and removing the card until it has been purchased. You may also want to position the price sticker so it overlaps the sleeve's closure (even if it's adhesive) as another preventative measure. This will also cut down on your losses as heavily handled, creased, curled and/or smudged cards don't sell.
Don't forget to rotate your stock. Track which cards sell and which cards don't. What works in one store may not work in another, so keep clear records. If you introduce a new range of cards, put a sign on your rack announcing it. Customers get bored of seeing the same thing all the time, and a bored customer isn't a customer who's buying your cards.
SELLING OUTRIGHT OR CONSIGNMENT
Whether you choose to sell your greeting cards directly to the retailer at a wholesale price, or make a consignment agreement is your choice. Some freelance artists choose not to go the consignment route for various reasons, including the cost to themselves of damaged and/or stolen cards. For that reason (and the fact that the store may want anywhere from 20-40% of the retail price), consignment prices are 20-25% higher than wholesale. Be ready with your figures, plan to negotiate, but don't make a deal that will lose you money.
Many artists prefer the shop to purchase the cards themselves, but if a direct buy isn't possible at first, go ahead and offer a consignment agreement (a standard agreement of this kind can be found at www.docstoc.com/docs/1045408/Consignment-Agreement, along with many other professional contract templates) that clearly states the terms, including when payment will be made upon receipt of your invoice. Once you put up your rack and stock it, get the buyer to sign a consignment form stating how many cards are in the rack.
Make an appointment to return in three or four weeks. Take note on the invoice of which cards have sold and how many. At this point, you can speak to the buyer about cards that haven't sold and cards that have proven popular. Would the buyer prefer to swap out the unsold cards for something else? At this time, would they like to buy your stock outright (with or without an understanding that you'll swap unsold stock for new stock after a certain period)? Many initial consignment clients will buy your cards outright if they're proven sellers. Otherwise, you can decide if you're willing to continue the consignment deal or not.
If the buyer is willing to take your cards outright as the wholesale price, great! You'll went to follow up every four weeks or so, checking if the buyer needs new stock to replace sold stock, or wants to swap unsold cards for new cards. If you make new designs you think will appeal, don't be shy about offering them to the buyer.
In fact, if you have several new designs, you could make a promotional postcard featuring them and send these postcards out to the shops as a marketing tool. In a week or two, follow up with a friendly phone call.
DON'T FORGET TO PROMOTE YOURSELF
Send greeting cards to your friends and relatives, directing them to buy from the shop(s) that carry your designs (if they're local) or to your on-line GCU store.
Take card samples to your workplace - your colleagues may snap them up. Let them know where your cards can be purchased locally.
And finally, here are some words of wisdom I was given when I began a career in sales and marketing - if you don't ask, you can't get a yes! Don't be afraid of rejection. Make good quality cards priced to sell AND put something in your pocket. Listen to what your potential clients tell you, and give them the professional courtesy and service they demand. Then you will surely succeed in becoming a greeting card entrepreneur!
More Recommended Reading
Please leave a comment and/or rate me!