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.
I jokingly call greeting card reps the “underground sales network.” They do not have a professional association, directory or website, and it can be hard to find them. Most of the reps I have met, I found simply through personal contacts, but if you do not know any reps yet, I have made a list of ways to find them, from 1-7 *, starting with Tip #1, the easiest method: Ask Stores.
Tip 1 : Ask Stores
Stores know many reps. Ask stores for referrals. You can also offer incentives to out-of-state stores.
For example, If your cards sell in one store in Minnesota, and you don’t know any reps there, this is a great opportunity to ask that store buyer for recommendations on their local reps. In a case like this, I would offer the store two dozen free cards if they helped me find a rep in their territory. This system worked great, especially in remote areas where reps are hard to find.
The best thing about doing this is when you contact the rep the first time, you can say “Abby’s gift store recommended you” versus “Hi, I’m an artist looking for a rep.” Most likely, the rep already knows Abby’s store, and value their recommendation.
Tip #2: Put Contact Info on the Back of Your CardsI met several reps because they contacted me after reading the information printed on the back of my card. Reps visit hundreds of stores, even ones outside of their territory or while on vacation. Put contact information on your cards that will be valid in the future. Greeting cards have a tendency to float around for years and end up on people’s bulletin boards or in filing cabinets. Periodically I still receive messages from people who just discovered one of my cards printed ten years ago. Luckily, my email address was still valid!
Tip #3: Reps Recommend other Other RepsAfter you get your first rep, that rep will tell other reps. They have contacts and friendships with many other rep colleagues in different states and territories, and they often refer lines to each other.
Tip #4 Search Online
- Paper Alliance http://paperallianceusa.com/
- Basic Retail Services http://www.basicretailservices.com/
- Peggy Lichty and Associates http://www.plareps.com/
- Daniel Richards http://www.danielrichards.biz/
- Compendium Incorporated http://www.live-inspired.com/
- Park Avenue Agents http://www.parkavenueagents.com/default.aspx
- Anne McGilvray http://www.annemcgilvray.com/ContactUs.htm
- Associates Marketing Group http://www.associatesmarketing.net/
- Winters Group http://www.wintersgroupinc.com/manufacturers.html
- Al Hattendorf Associates http://www.alhattendorf.com/
Tip #5: Visit Trade Shows
As an artist, you might feel like an oddball when you visit a tradeshow, since you are not a buyer, seller or exhibitor, but I believe it is good idea to visit at least one show before you start working with reps.
Visiting a tradeshow will help you see where you fit in the industry. You can learn how different publishers and manufacturers present their products. It is very different from going to a craft fair.
All shows have special requirements for entry, and in some cases you might be asked to pay a $50 or $100 fee to get it. Most shows are free, but it is usually worth paying it since there are classes and seminars available at the show.
The most popular show for greeting card designers is the annual National Stationery Show http://nationalstationeryshow.com/ but if you can’t get to New York, it’s still very helpful to visit a gift show near you. There is a list of tradeshows on the Greatrep blog at http://www.greatrep.com/trade_shows.asp
As an artist, there are etiquette guidelines you should be aware of when visiting a show. For example, you should not interrupt a buyer and seller talking in a booth. Make sure the booth is empty before you enter it and keep your conversation brief. Once you determine if the person in the booth is a rep, ask her if she ever looks at new lines, and if she does, ask her if it would be OK for you to send her some samples of your cards. You can request her business card for later contact.
It is helpful to bring greeting card samples to a show and have a one-sentence description of what your line is about. More often than not, she will be helpful and sympathetic. If you meet some potential reps, it’s always good wait a couple of weeks before you contact them since they are often busy processing orders after a show.
If you can’t make it to any shows because you live too far away, go to the tradeshow’s website, and look for the list of exhibitors. Often, there are several names of sales reps in the exhibitor listings.
Tip #6: Visit Giftmart Websites
Giftmarts are places where manufacturers and sales reps have permanent showrooms year around. Unlike giftshows that only happen for a few days a year, a giftmart is a place that store buyers can visit any time to buy products. Manufacturers occupy most showrooms, but some are also rented by sales reps that display the lines they carry.
On giftmart websites, the permanent showroom listings often provide detailed descriptions of products. If you look closely, you will be able to distinguish manufacturing company showrooms from sales rep showrooms. Rep showrooms usually describe a list of greeting card companies they represent, whereas a manufacturing company tends to only describe a product such as “candles” or “greeting cards.” Try to look for showrooms that have many greeting card line names.
Reps who rent showrooms tend to be rep “groups,” who are teams of independent reps covering several territories, such as three or four states, or large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles.
Giftmarts are not generally open to the public. The best way to gain entry is to go with a friend who owns a business or ask the show management if you can have a visitor’s pass for one day. If you live near any of these metropolitan areas, you probably have a giftmart in your city. Here is a list of giftmart showrooms:
AMC, Inc. / AmericasMart® Atlanta
240 Peachtree Street N.W., Suite 2200
Atlanta, GA 30303
7001 Discovery Blvd.
Dublin, OH 43017
Dallas Market Center
2100 Stemmons Freeway
Dallas, TX 75207
Denver Merchandise Mart
451 East 58th Avenue, Suite 4270,
Denver, CO 80216-8470
1933 South Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Miami Merchandise Mart
777 NW 72 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33126
Minneapolis Gift Mart
10301 Bren Road West,
Minnetonka, MN 55343
New York Market Center
230 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10001
Pacific Market Center
6100 Fourth Avenue, South,
Seattle, WA 98108
Here are several publications dedicated to the greeting card and gift industry. Since publications can sometimes change, you can always visit my blog page http://kateharperblog.blogspot.com/2009/08/list-of-trade-magazines-for-card.html for periodic updates.
Balloons & Parties
65 Sussex Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
600 Rinehart Road
Lake Mary, FL 32746
72 Tappan Road
Harrington Park, NJ 07640
Gift Shop Magazine
195 Hanover Street
Hanover, MA 02339
Gifts & Decorative Accessories
360 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
Gifts & Tablewares
12 Concorde Place, #800
Toronto, ONT M3C 4J2
20 W. Kinzie Street, 12th Fl.
Chicago, IL 60610
4 Middlebury Blvd.
Randolph, NJ 07869
1 Churchgate, The Wilderness
Berkhamsted, Hertshire HP4 2UB
License! Global Magazine
641 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Museums & More
PO Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
38 East 29th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10016
Party & Paper Retailer
PO Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
United House, North Road
London N7 9DP
Stationery Trends Magazine
PO Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties Magazine
10 E. Athens Avenue, #208
Ardmore, PA 19003
If you do decide to place an ad in a publication, you might write up a blurb that looks something like this below for a hypothetical card line.
"New York Pets is a humorous greeting card line seeking sales reps in California and Nevada. Line generates consistent reorders and offers 20% commission. For more information, visit www.website.com or call Betty at 987-654-1321. Everybody loves a pet!"
The key information I suggest you include in a trade industry ad is
- A unique description of your card line.
- Information about your sales trends.
- The commission for the sales rep.
- Contact information, both active (they can call you) and passive (they can look at your website).
- A tagline that represents your cards.