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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Looking back at Wholesale

I received a private message from a potter wondering about how our decision to add wholesale accounts worked out. Its taken me a few days to kind of reflect on what it has done for us. I'll fill in a little background.

 Retail is great for us during the warmer months in the NE and thanks to Etsy and online marketing it continues right through the Christmas sales season.

 But we found ourselves wondering how the hell to survive from Christmas to May. Five months of very few sales and just when the heating and electric bills go crazy!

Also, during a rainy year, sales suffer at outdoor retail events, a great show that pays a lot of bills can produce nothing for you and the phone company still wants their money.

So we needed to find a way to smooth out cash flow so there was regular income without having to run someplace different every weekend. Shows get old as you get old.

So we signed up for BMAC, Buyers Market of American Craft, now known as the American Made show. It was really too expensive for us since it took place in the financial doom time of year. We did a very successful Kickstarter to raise the money to pay for it and off we went to Philadelphia.

It was an eye opener. We got a lot of orders, mostly small orders and a really exciting account with the Gaelsong catalog for our premier line of Oak pieces. It was pretty amazing overall. Mixing those wholesale accounts in with our regular retail helped a lot!

Pub Club Old Forge Brewing Company

Coffee Club Webster's Bookstore and Cafe
2 years later we still have a couple of those original accounts, but not Gaelsong. We have continued to have add small accounts here and there and our hometown wholesale accounts have continued to thrive and expand even through we moved away last year.  Cafes and Brewpubs seem to work out really well for us! We currently make for Websters Cafe and Bookstore in State College, PA, Cafe Lemont in Lemont, PA and Ottos Brewpub in State College PA. In addition to that we have an account with someone who does Renaissance Fairs and Conventions all over the country.

So I don't think we could survive on wholesale accounts alone, but it adds to the income stream and fills in gaps between retail sales. We need a blend of retail and wholesale to keep the cash flowing. We don't count too strongly on any one venue. Diverse and multiple income streams. Multiple wholesale accounts just in case one or two drop out. Website, Etsy, fairs, festivals and a seasonal storefront from May to November. 

The  big selling season is still too short, and first quarter is still difficult, but we are constantly searching for ways to make the cash flow more evenly. So this year we scheduled a big one of a kind event during February that helped a lot! It's still retail, but it's self-generated retail. Not part of the national or regional shopping trend. The one of a kind work was received very well by our customers and also gave us a chance to explore and grow artistically. Overall a joyous experience for everyone!