Monday, March 2, 2009
Sisters We Three Consignment Shop
I have a shop on Etsy.com, the selling site for all things handmade (plus fab vintage and supplies). I love being a part of the handmade community, interacting with like-minded people who have the same job I do. Another perk of being on Etsy is being contacted for opportunities I might not hear about otherwise. No, not the chance to accept a bogus cashier's check from some overseas scammer's "shipping agent", I'm talking about legitimate invitations to apply for craft shows, and also possible consignment and wholesale gigs.
Late last year I got a nice email (called a "convo" in Etsy parlance) through my Etsy shop. Cathy was letting local people know that she and her two sisters were opening a consignment gallery in Newburyport, Massachusetts and would love it if I would apply to jury in. I wrote her back and we had a nice exchange through which I determined she knew what she was doing.
Newburyport is a seaside town north of Boston. It's a tourist destination with quaint streets, old brick buildings, stately homes, a harbor, and it's great for a day trip in the summertime as it is less than an hour from Lowell. Dell and I have been there several times, but it had been a few years and I thought I had heard where it was struggling retail-wise, maybe slipping in quality. Cathy said she'd been living there 20 years and she was bullish, so I decided to trust her.
I made an appointment to bring my goods in and on one sunny February Saturday, Dell drove us up there. We found the shop easily and as a bonus, it is conveniently located across from the municipal lot. Though the sun was out, it was chilly, snow and ice still pushed parked cars away from the curb, but man! That town was HOPPING! I mean wow. Every other shop seemed to be a super cute boutique or gallery, some looking pretty high end. We also saw independent coffee shops, restaurants, a yarn shop, a book store!
And the people walking down the street were hip-looking couples in their thirties with new additions to the family, older couples, ladies out in groups, handsome gay couples dressed so nice I felt a little frumpy, you maybe get the picture, Newburyport is thriving! Need I repeat that this was in February?? It made me very excited. But I still didn't know what to expect for the shop and I was nervous.
The sisters were set up in a newly painted gallery space. They were seated around a large wooden table, there were empty glass shelves pushed up against one side of the space. Though they were still working with another artist when we came in, they immediately said hello and did we need the bathroom or a bottle of water? Which put us at ease. They were so friendly and professional and their combined experiences; one had been a merchandiser for CVS, one had been a banker for 20 years, one a music teacher, seemed perfect for this task. Also, one sister makes mosaics and another makes jewelry, from that I knew they would understand artisans.
I started putting my goods on the table, I brought pincushions, necklaces, brooches and hair pins. They cooed and exclaimed and made me feel special. But mostly because they were being genuine and friendly. Jan looked up my Etsy shop right there on her laptop and saw my mom's cards and requested I submit those to the shop too. That sealed the deal, praise my mom, get a friend for life.
The deal is this: you rent space from them for a monthly fee based on the size of the space, you sign a year contract, they take 15% of each sale and that's it! You don't have to work there, you don't have to arrange your shelves, they are going to take care of all that. All you have to do is replenish your goods when the supplies run low.
I especially liked that they aren't going to shackle my goods to one shelf, but put that merchandising expertise to use in arranging the items throughout the store for maximum sales and exposure. Maybe they will have a theme and pull items from several artists that fit the theme. I love that! You never know if the spot you have is a good spot for selling and with their careful curation, I think everyone's items will be showcased in the best way.
I know consignment deals can go horribly awry. If you look it up in the Etsy Forums you'll see what I mean; shops taking your goods then going out of business, not paying on time, things getting damaged or stolen with no recourse. I've read it all.
So far my two experiences with consignment have not been brilliant, nothing lost but not much gained. This is more like a craft co-op that masquerades (in a good way) as a gallery. I am also in the process of starting another consignment relationship with a gallery that will follow the more standard route of 60/40 split and no monthly fees. I'll let you know how that one goes.
Meanwhile, Sisters We Three is opening in April and still seeking artists so if this sounds like something you are interested in, you can contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
at 1:53 PM