What do Reps do?

Here is an excerpt from the book "Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores."


There are many benefits of starting small and getting your cards into stores before you look for a rep. If you rush to get a rep and then find out your card line has some problems, reps might tell other reps and then it can be hard to get a second rep. Even if you make dramatic changes in your line, you could still end up living in the shadow of outdated information circulating around about your cards.

I learned this after creating three lines. The first two flopped, and the third one succeeded. I am glad I did not try to expand my business early on because the reps would have experienced my failures with me. Then I would have been known as “the artist who has a crummy line”! However, because I waited until I had a good line before I expanded my business, my reps did not experience my first two flops!

On the other end of the spectrum, nothing travels faster than good news. If your line sells well, reps will start contacting you out of nowhere. When I got an account with a national bookstore chain, I had a dozen reps call me, asking if they could carry my line. I did not know any of these people, but they were aware of me because they saw my cards appear on the store shelves. They also told other reps about my line, who worked in adjacent territories.

What Reps Do
A rep’s primary responsibility is to sell cards. She (most are women) makes appointments with card buyers in stores and shows samples made by artists and publishers (collectively called “manufacturers”).

Besides your cards, she might carry dozens of other card lines by different artists, along gift products such as mugs, candles, magnets, or calendars. The store buyer selects items to purchase, the rep writes up order on the spot, and then sends the order to the artist (usually by U.S. mail, fax, or email). When the artist receives the order, he or she is responsible for shipping the cards to the store and collecting the payment. The store then pays the artist, and the artist pays the rep.

If a rep brings ten different lines into a meeting, and each line has one hundred card styles, a buyer could easily see one thousand cards in a single meeting. However, the rep does not want to overwhelm the buyer with too many products, so she may limit the number of items viewed in one meeting. She might bring Valentine’s cards one time and show new releases a few months later.

Other things reps do are: keep sales records, travel long distances, carries heavy boxes of products, and straighten display racks. A good rep builds relationships, is reliable, is aware of community issues and possesses a congenial personality. She is also extremely skilled at finding parking places!

An artist rarely sees all these qualities from a distance, yet they are vital skills that help designers grow a successful business.

There is no comparable advertising investment, online site, mobile technology, tradeshow or marketing strategy that can do what reps do.

It is nearly impossible to perform all of these functions without physically being in a store. Luckily, there are thousands of greeting card reps throughout the United States.

Independent Reps versus In-house Reps
Another type of rep is called an “in-house” rep. In-house reps are usually full-time salaried employees who work for primarily for one greeting card company. They do not generally carry lines by independent artists. I am only discussing “independent reps”, and not in-house reps, but it helps to know about them just in case you hear the term and want to learn more about the card industry.

Larger publishers might have both types of reps. In fact, sometimes an indie artist and large publisher might have the same rep because the larger company cannot afford a full time sales person for a specific territory. Without knowing it, this rep becomes a great equalizer between large companies and indie artists. You can actually have the same opportunity to get your products into the marketplace, as a seasoned publisher does since the rep is carrying both lines.


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This Article is an excerpt from the book: Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores: How to find and work with Greeting Card Sales Reps

If you already make your own greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them sell nationwide. Included are guidelines on: how to price your cards for a profit, how to get professional feedback, where to find a sales representative and and what industry standards you should follow. All the information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc.


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Pricing and Profits: The Tale of 2 Greeting Card Businesses

Here is an excerpt from the book "Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores."


When growing a card business, I learned early on to purchase items that are only necessary, and avoid the enticement of pseudo business expenses, like tax deductable perks.
For example, imagine these two humorous scenarios. Which card business would you rather have?

Business #1:
You are sitting in your rented sunlit art studio with your new computer, loaded with the latest software, and you have just returned from the art supply store to see what fun things you could buy. Earlier in the day, you stopped by the Chamber of Commerce to buy a ticket to a networking dinner at a country club.

When you sit down to add up your monthly bills, you are surprised to find you are spending $2,000 a month, but all the receipts have nothing to do with making a greeting card. Rather, they are for rent, business lunches, a new drafting table, art books and business cards.

The next day, when you share this information with your husband (partner, kid, wife, mother, fill in the blank), they say, “This hobby of yours is too expensive. I think you need to give it up. We could have used that $2,000 to pay for the rent (braces, gas, insurance, food, fill in the blank).”

Business #2:
You just had coffee with a few neighbors who work at home. You learn that one neighbor needs invitations made for her daughter’s graduation and another neighbor tells you about freecycle http://www.freecycle.org/ , an online group where you can get free stuff like art supplies and furniture.

When you come home and add up your monthly bills, you learn you have profited $2,000. You share this information with your family and they are happy for you. Your husband (partner, kid, wife, mother, fill in the blank) suggests moving the exercise bike to the garage, and turning the workout room into your office.

Because your business is profitable, you decide to make a commitment towards growth and purchase larger quantities of supplies for bulk discounts. You have an inner sense of accomplishment from putting your art out into the world.

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When I first started my card business, I had many difficulties when it came to sales. When downturns came, I was tempted to think my business was just something I dabbled in while working a full time job. Then I would stick it out, get more advice, make adjustments, and soon found there were more ups than there were downs.

If you feel like you are on a roller coaster, that is to be expected. Any good business generally starts that way, and things change as you go along. My biggest piece of advice for dealing with this is: If you start feeling disappointed, take action. Ask for advice; make adjustments and work on new ideas.


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This Article is an excerpt from the book: Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores: How to find and work with Greeting Card Sales Reps

If you already make your own greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them sell nationwide. Included are guidelines on: how to price your cards for a profit, how to get professional feedback, where to find a sales representative and and what industry standards you should follow. All the information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc.


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Pricing Your Cards



Here is an excerpt from the book "
Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores."


Pricing Your Cards
Selling to retail stores is very different from selling to individual customers at craft fairs. Stores usually buy cards in larger quantities, and for wholesale prices.

For example, if you normally sell your cards for $4 each at craft fairs, you cannot expect a retail store to buy them for the same price. Stores need to make a profit, which requires them to double the price at which they buy them.

It may be unrealistic to expect a store to just double your $4 price and sell your cards for $8. Unless your cards are very unusual or have detachable gifts, the average consumer may not purchase a card in that price range. Therefore, it is helpful to evaluate your costs, look at your profits and manufacturing processes so you can sell your cards at a good price. You and the store both need to make money!

Even though your profit per card is smaller if you cut your price half, in the end, you will actually make more money. One store might order two hundred cards at once and then reorder quarterly. Therefore, it is better to sell large volumes of cards to several stores for a lower price rather it is to sell a few cards at a higher price to people at a craft fair.

Sometimes artists get so excited about getting their cards into stores, that they neglect to look at their costs of making a card. It is important to know early on that you will make a profit. Six months down the road, you don't want to find yourself working for ten cents an hour. It’s not fair to you, the store, or the rep if you suddenly quit the business because you are not making any money. Therefore, I think it is important to make sure all your numbers add up before you look for a rep.

Determining Materials Costs
Like any manufacturing businesses, the greeting card business has different types of costs, but the most important one is the materials costs. Materials are the physica supplies used to make your cards. Examples might be: glue, paint, cellophane bags, envelopes, and paper. As a rule of thumb, if it cannot be “touched,” and is not a part of the greeting card, it is not a materials cost. For example, a shipping label is not a materials cost because it is not part of the actual greeting card.

When determining materials costs, disassemble your finished card, and make a list of all the parts, including things like a spot of glue, an envelope, paper and ink. Determine how much each item costs per card. If your cards are printed, you might only have two costs: The card and the envelope.

It’s easy to have your heart set on one specific type of paper for your cards, but if the cost is too high, try to be flexible. Sales reps have often told me that artists have a tendency to be overly picky about things that store and customers don’t really care about, such as how thick an envelope is, or what kind of paper the card is printed on.

Profitability Formula
As a rule of thumb, I have found that if you make 20 to 25 percent profit on each card, then you are doing great!

Use these guidelines below to evaluate your costs. If they do not match, look at where you can make adjustments by either using less expensive materials or changing the design.

These percentages are based on wholesale prices. For example, if I sell my cards to a store for $1.50 each, my goal is to make a profit of at least 20 percent (or 30 cents) on each card.

Aim for the following, as if it were a round pie with separate segments. If you want to sell your card at a different price, just substitute your number in place of the $1.50 and do the math.

  • 15 to 35 percent of the 1.50 is for materials costs mentioned above (22-52 cents).
  • 10 to 20 percent of the 1.50 is for labor of making the card. (15-30 cents).
  • 10 to 20 percent of the 1.50 is set aside for overhead costs (15-30 cents).
  • 20 percent or more of the 1.50 is your profit (30 cents).
  • 20 percent of the 1.50 is for a sales representative (30 cents).

If you can only ask one question, ask this one: “If I sold as many cards as I wanted, will I make enough money to be happy?”

Alternatively, you can break this down into the following:
- After expenses are deducted, how much profit do I make per card?
- How much money am I making per hour?
- If sales doubled next month and I need to pay someone to help me, can I afford it?


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This Article is an excerpt from the book: Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores: How to find and work with Greeting Card Sales Reps

If you already make your own greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them sell nationwide. Included are guidelines on: how to price your cards for a profit, how to get professional feedback, where to find a sales representative and and what industry standards you should follow. All the information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc.


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