A difficult dilema, I've recently had to ask myself, "Am I making enough money for the amount of time and energy I spend doing consignment or is wholesale more rewarding?"
Here's what I found out about Consignment shops:
I have found that depending on the consignment shop, they'll keep different percentages of the proceeds; 30%, 40% and even 50%. You need to decide are they working to earn the amount of commission they are getting? Ask them questions, what are they going to do for you for their commission, because that's what consignment is, "a commission". Do they let you keep your cards there to promote yourself? Are they taking your items to any craft shows, farmers markets or other out of store venues, or does the item stay in their shop just for their walk in customers? Do they have a website and will your items appear on their website to draw in customers?
Some will have you sign contracts and some won't. If you're signing a contract with them, read it and if you don't like what it says, see if you can change the wording. Make sure you discuss with them, what happens if an item is broken or stolen so you know? Most of the time if you're selling items by consignment, you are the one taking the risk if it is broken or stolen. If the item is damaged, you may need to fix it or it may be damaged so bad that you no longer can sell the item. Sometimes your item is stolen and you're out the money, not the store owner. Some shops will reduce the amount of your item over time (basically forcing you to put it on sale) to get the inventory to move more quickly through their shop. If you are not okay with your item being reduced, make sure you come to an agreement.
With consignment, you usually have to wait to get a check either by mail or by dropping by the shop monthly. Dropping by the shop is a great way to keep in contact with the store owner or manager to see what their needs are and show them any new product you're working on. Depending on how far away the shop is, it can be difficult to get there and it takes time out of your day that you could be working on creating more products. I did find going to the shop to be a way to build a relationship with my store owners, but I also found it to be a lot more work than I expected. I was asked to change out my items more frequently than every two months. This took a lot more time than I expected because I would have to go through all of my items, put new price tags on exchanged items and clean the sticky part off the backs of the items I removed from the shop. I then had to update my invoices to reflect the new merchandise that was left in the shop.
Make sure you and the store owner have an uderstanding about the pricing of your item. Are they selling the item for the amount you are listing or are they raising the price so they get more money. One very important thing I learned is, I listed an item for a certain amount and was being paid for what I asked for. Later, because I was dropping off more inventory, I found they had increased the price of the item by so much that I now was only netting 30% of the profit and they were now netting 70% of the item. They were not splitting the increase with me, they were keeping the additional proceeds for themselves. At first I was extremely upset because I priced my items so low in hopes they would sell quickly and I would get more money. The store owner explained that they have to pay their workers, pay credit card fees, power, etc and they need to make a certain amount of money per item to make it worth their while. After they explained it to me, I understood their point, but this was something I hadn't expected, so be aware and ask questions to the store owners.
Consignment and wholesale are really very similar in the fact that it gets your product out there for others to see, and the shop will usually promote you as a local artist. I've found that people love to purchase from local artists. The best part about selling locally, you have a live person in the store trying to sell your item for you on a daily basis which gives you more time to create your art.
I think for now, I'll be focusing on wholesale and see how that works for me. I won't have to wait for a check, I'll probably net the same amount of money and if items get broken or go missing from the shop, I no longer have to take the loss. I may find that store owners aren't as willing to buy wholesale because of the economy, but in the end my time is really valuable and in the end I think I will appreciate selling wholesale more than consignment.
What do you think? Have you had experiences with either or both?