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.
Another way to get feedback on your cards is to test market them in a store. Don’t dismiss the possibility of giving cards away for a limited amount of time in exchange for temporary shelf space. All you really want to do is to see if customers buy your cards and how much they are willing to pay.
If a store is hesitant to experiment with your cards because they don’t want to give up retail space to an untested product, agree to remove your cards after a month. There is no harm in asking. All they can do is say “no, thanks.”
If you feel shy about walking into a store and asking, “Hey, can I put my cards in your store as an experiment?” you do have some other options:
You might talk to your friends or relatives to see if they know anyone who runs a retail store. Tell them you are willing to give away cards in exchange for shelf space to test market your cards.
I found my first store this way. My friend’s mom ran a health food store and she offered to put my cards in a basket on the counter. She took an interest in my success and reported to me about her customers’ comments.
What makes this a great deal for the store is they get free cards, 100 percent profit, and they don’t have to keep track of invoices or set up an account with you.
I suggest offering at least fifty free cards. If that seems expensive to you, remember that when you grow a business, you will also need to give out free samples to sales reps, so giving away cards is reasonable thing to do.
Remember: Stores like artists. In my experience of approaching card buyers, I found them to be generous and helpful. They like giving feedback and usually prefer carrying local artist’s products, rather than mass-marketed items available in store chains.