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.
Every rep is different, but I have found these things to be common with almost every rep I've worked with.
1-The rep does not pay for the artist’s card sample deck.
2-Reps expect all cards in the sample deck to have a code, either preprinted or hand written on the card, that is unique for each design. So, for example, if you have a card line of 50 different kinds of flower images, the artist needs to assign a code to each one, so when the rep writes up an order, they know #45 means the red rose card.
3-The artist is primarily responsible for the cost of all promotional materials, such as brochures, catalogs, and store signs.
4-The most important thing you can do in your relationship with reps is to pay them on time.
5-Normally, the artist pays the sales rep once a month for all the prior months’ orders, independent of whether or not the stores has first paid the artist. This is referred to as “paying reps by ship date.” Some artists pay reps after being paid by stores, but I believe reps sell more, and are happier with artists who pay by ship date.
6-Reps sell cards in dozens and half dozens. A typical beginning order for an artist might be 12 dozen cards of 12 different card designs, or 144 cards.
7-Independent artists usually pay the rep a 20% commission on the wholesale price the cards. Therefore, if you receive an order for $200 wholesale (the price you sell it to the store for), the rep’s commission is $40. Some reps might accept 15%, but that is usually for larger companies that have high sales.
8-Reps expect the artist to discontinue slow selling cards and replace them with new designs. A good plan is to add new designs 3-4 times a year: January, May and August, and seasonal items approximately 6 months ahead of the holiday.
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.
Rep groups are a team of sales reps who all work together to cover a large territory. Usually there is one "principal", or owner of the group, and this person has "sub-reps," or people that work under them and get a smaller commission. I have worked with rep groups and they tended to be around 6-10 people.
On the surface, this might sound like a great opportunity to hire a team of reps at all once, but there are pros and cons of rep groups.
-The group has already divided the territory, so you do not have to worry about overlapping areas.
-You only have to write one commission check for all the reps.
-They often have permanent showrooms.
-Then tend to exhibit at tradeshows.
-They generally have a uniform system and set of policies.
-They tend to have high profile accounts, and possibly work with store chains.
-You can do all your communication through the rep principle instead of each individual rep.
-If they drop your line, you lose many reps all at once.
-The subreps have a high turnover rate. Some are trying new careers and don’t realize all the responsibilities involved in being a card rep. They may also be inexperienced in sales.
-My experience is about half of the reps in a group are great sellers and the rest I may never hear from. This can be disappointing if you have gone to the trouble of sending sample decks to all of them.
-Groups tend to carry many large lines and independent artists can fall in between the cracks.
-You cannot drop a poor performing subrep and replace them with someone else. Working with groups is usually an all-or-nothing package.
-Because rep groups tend to have high staff turnover, this can be frustrating for stores. Usually one of the first warning signs that a group is not working out is if a store calls you and wants to know who their rep is. Ideally, the store should always know this, or at least they should know how to contact the prinicipal (owner) of the group to find out.
Working With Solo Reps
I found my top selling reps tended to be solo reps and not rep groups. I'm not sure why they sold more, but I attribute it to the freedom to make independent decisions on what lines they carry and what stores they service. Members of a rep group do not have this authority.
Solo reps tend to have years of experience and long-term relationships with store buyers. This can also be true for the owner of a rep group, but less true for their subreps.