How to get your art in boutiques

Apr 12, 2010

My shop [image sources from left: Lucky MagazineBoone Rodriguez, and Hadley Hutton]  

Many of you may be at a place where you are ready to showcase your work in stores other than your Etsy shop.  Although online marketplaces like Etsy are great avenues for artists to broaden their fan base, art, for the most part, sells better in physical spaces than on the internet.  I have been a retailer of art and handcrafted products myself, and I have perused thousands of submissions from artists and designers.  Only a small percentage actually piqued my interest, and here's how they did it.

1.  The fit is right.  Reach out to shops that sell similar art and products.  To know if you're a good fit, you first need to be able to define your target customer.  If your customer would (and could) buy from the majority of the product lines in the shop, then you have a good match.

2.  Beautiful photography.  It's all about first impression and in most cases you only have a few seconds if you're submitting your work to a shop owner via email.  If you're not much of a photographer, then you need to hire someone who can take high quality product shots.  And all you need for a submission letter are three or four really good photos. 

3.  Brief and concise submission letter.  Ideally, you should show your collection in person.  If this isn't possible, then email a submission letter to the shop owner.  The subject line should be a short description of your collection, such as: new bamboo jewelry collection made in Portland.  The body of the email should be no longer than six sentences, including information on artist's background and current collection.

Don't take it personally if you don't hear back from a store.  The store buyer is most likely inundated with other submissions.  Most stores also have buying seasons, so it may not be the ideal time for the shop owner to pick up a new collection.  If you don't hear back from a store buyer within two weeks, try a follow-up email. 

From your own personal experiences, I'm sure some of you can contribute to this list.  Feel free to add more advice for other artists in the comment section.


The Purple Painter said...

Hi, I just happened across this somehow... I think through the poppytalk blog. Anyway, cool art! I love the squares piece (my vote is for the last sketch but they're all cool!). Thanks also for this post. I've been searching for the right retail fit for my art for a while. It's not easy! I think your point about good photography is great (something I need to work on!). Thanks for the info!

Cathy said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for the kind words! Yes, it isn't easy finding the right retail fit. And even when you do, you're not guaranteed a flood of sales. Other factors that play into this include marketing, merchandising, and, of course, the economy ... stuff that I'll talk about in another post :)

Thanks again for saying hello!

LuLu's Tangled Yarns said...

Thank you! I have recently decided to open my Etsy shop and need as much help as possible :) I also have started my blog!! Let me know what you think!

Andralynn said...

Some great advice! I've been selling on Etsy for a few months and now recently started sending queries to boutiques. Any advice about how to approach galleries?

Blazinbeads said...

I really appreciate the info. Marketing is so daunting for me at times. I have not had the best luck in stores. Years ago I had a necklace stolen that was on consignment. I sold a big order of earrings once to a beauty school but that was a one time thing. After many yrs I tried again to sell to stores but many places want to do consignment. I was wondering is there a standard percentage that stores or a boutique takes for selling handmade items? I have a hard time figuring out if it is worth it for me because I have to go down on my price so much.

Cathy said...

Blazinbeads, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about the stolen necklace! Hopefully the shop still paid you. Yes, consignment is the norm for many little shops. At the least, you should be getting 50/50, if not a little bit more.

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