How Faire? An indie guide to the wholesale marketplace, for makers and retailers.
Like many artists, I've sold in shops and galleries over the years and shown at trade fairs so I had a pretty decent grasp of the basics where wholesale was concerned. At least as far as it worked at an artists level back then - I sold originals or small quantities of things at half my usual rate and they sold it on.
As technology evolved and it became easier for indie artists to do their own prints and cards, the market quickly became saturated and for a while, I drifted away, busy playing with new opportunities such as crowdfunding via Kickstarter. It came full circle though when I worked out that I could fund new print runs and try designs out on Kickstarter and then when it came time to order, use the profits to buy in larger quantities. Suddenly, all kind of things were possible - and this is where I started paying attention to Faire.
First up, I should probably do a quick roundup of what Faire actually is. It's a sales platform like Etsy and so on, but specifically for makers to connect with indie boutiques. In terms of the site itself, it's a very familiar format - buyers can shop by category, narrow things down with additional tags like women-owned, not on Amazon etc. Each seller has their own little shop page with an introduction, behind the scenes stuff, video and pictures so you get a really good feel for what folks are about.
The main benefit for everyone involved is that by taking a percentage of the proceeds on some sales, Faire are able to offer terms that individual makers often can't. These include net 60 - for the uninitiated that's credit extended for up to 60 days from the date someone is invoiced (for buyers that meet the criteria). In practical terms that means if there's a long lead time while say a potter goes off and makes a bunch of mugs, the buyer isn't out of pocket. If it's stock with a fast turnaround they can be selling it off their own shelves before the deadline, so it helps with cash flow. Other perks include free shipping for new buyers and an annual online trade fair where Faire match discounts offered by creators.
It's a great place for buyers and sellers to meet up without everyone doing a Lot of browsing - but what actually happens when we find the perfect partner? Well, buyers add the things they like from one or multiple shops to their basket, and so long as they have hit the minimum order value for any given shop - mine is £100 - place their order. As a seller, you get notified that someone has ordered so you can pop over, check it out and if everything looks good, accept it - which starts the clock ticking on your lead time (the time it takes to get everything together and pass it off to a courier).
Faire cover shipping for sellers, it comes out of fees so that's another expense we don't have to worry about, though we do have the option to book our own preferred service and get it reimbursed, which is worth remembering if couriers are a bit patchy. It's all very friendly and familiar so I think it's an especially good option to anyone new to wholesale whether buying or selling. If you've bought on any of the major platforms you'll have it worked out in minutes and there is loads of advice available on site if you do get a bit lost.
This is all sounding pretty good, right? So what are the drawbacks? To be honest, actually not that many. I do think it's slightly weighted for buyers, you guys get the benefits right out of the gate where sellers only really get any exposure if they are making regular sales on there (though of course we turn up in search). To counter this, Faire waive commission on orders from buyers that creators bring to the platform via custom referrals. If a seller rocks up with a great client list it adds to the fun and they're not losing anything, while their buyers benefit from the move with money off first orders and so on to make it worth the switch. There are also bonuses available to makers who bring other brands on board, which is a great time to point out that This is My Referral Link for makers wanting to sign up :)
At the time of writing, commission on first orders from buyers already on Faire is their standard 15% plus a one off 10% fee which means sellers have to be able to still make a living on potentially just 37.5% of the retail price. There are a few things that can be done to combat that - asides from raising prices across the board. For me, it's a case of looking at which lines have variable costs - a large original is fixed because it takes as long as it takes, and frames are bought in ones and twos. Cards and small prints work better because the companies I use are geared to small business and offer price breaks at manageable quantities, so if I order 100 instead of 50 of something I start to compensate for those fees, I just need to make sure my minimum covers the initial outlay.
I also sometimes run specials when there's another benefit to me - at the moment I'm having a big sort out in the studio to make way for new lines. I'm offering up some limited edition prints and individual cases of things I'm not going to get in again like the screen prints (I've switched to a direct to garment process) so I get some extra cash to invest in projects and retailers get some very exclusive products. Which makes this the perfect time to drop in my Faire seller link. It's quite subtle so be careful or you might miss it...