This is an excerpt from Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide. Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.
If you get positive feedback on your card line, then you can start thinking about selling cards to stores (versus just test-marketing).
Getting store accounts is an important step on the way to getting sales reps. Reps want to know the cards already are in stores. It’s kind of a catch 22 because you need reps in order to get into stores in the first place.
At this point it is helpful to know some basic business skills. There is a false stereotype that artists are bad at business, and I like to joke that there are a lot more business people who are bad at art. Therefore, you are actually ahead of the game.
I believe that if you can do the following tasks below, you will be good at running a business. These might sound like common sense, but stores have often told me that many artists neglect them:
- Ship orders on time.
- Send the correct items.
- Charge the correct price.
- Do not add excessive shipping charges.
- Make sure the cards are packaged so they arrive undamaged and without bent corners.
- If cards arrive damaged, replace them immediately at no extra charge. Add some extra free one to offset hassle.
- Make sure the cards match the quality of the samples. If the samples had yellow envelopes, make sure all the cards shipped also have the same envelope.
- Include a packing slip in the box (a list of all the items that should be in the box).
- Mail an invoice (bill).
By performing these simple tasks, it shows that you are a reliable, responsible, and action-oriented businessperson.
For example, when I started selling cards, I kept envelopes in the garage and soon found out the dampness caused the flaps to stick together. I also discovered that packing cards tightly caused the cellophane bags to stick together because they could not “breathe.” Later on, I also discovered the special Japanese paper I relied on was discontinued, and I needed to find a new supplier.
It is easier to deal with unexpected supply problems when servicing just a few stores than if it were a hundred stores. Otherwise, you will get complaints and returns. You especially need to be careful when using unusual supplies that are hard to find. This is why starting small with a few stores is a good idea.
If you can handle growth, consider working towards having at least fifty good-selling designs and removing the slower sellers from your card line. I think it is better to offer fewer cards with great designs rather than a hundred cards of questionable quality.
When you feel you have a solid line and several store accounts, you are probably ready to approach a rep, but don’t be surprised if one hasn’t already contacted you first, especially if your cards are selling well.
This points to the best way to find reps: Create a product that sells, and everything else will fall into place. Reps will just magically appear!
Getting ReordersTo evaluate card sales, I believe reorders are more important than first orders. A reorder means that customers are walking into the store and buying your cards, which requires the store to restock the shelf.
However, first orders only mean the store bought your cards and put them on the shelf. This does not guarantee customers will buy them. This is referred to as “sell-through” rates, meaning the percentage of cards you ship, that actually end up selling.
For most reps, knowing that one store reordered your cards ten times is more impressive than knowing ten stores bought your cards, but did not reorder.