Wholesaling Jewelry to
Retail Outlets

Discover how you can increase your sales by wholesaling jewelry to retail outlets.

Many different types of stores and shops sell handcrafted items and some of these are better markets for you than others. You must be careful to select the best retail outlets for wholesaling jewelry—finding the right ones for you is vital to your success.

What type of retail outlet you approach depends of course on how much you can produce. If your production is limited, stick to the smaller stores—boutiques, gift shops, and the like. Department stores and chain stores are demanding in terms of price, quantity and delivery.

Locating Shops and Galleries

  • Your local Chamber of Commerce, listed in the blue pages of the telephone book, most also have an internet web site, can provide you with the locations of galleries and shops you may wish to seek out and contact.
  • Scan the Yellow Pages of your phone directory. If you wish to contact stores outside your area, your local library carries phone books from most major cities in your province and from across the country.
  • Lists of potential shops can be obtained from your State or Provincial Crafts and Retail Councils and Associations.
  • Many guilds produce a portfolio or a file of portfolios of all their interested members who wish to sell their work. These portfolios are then available to and often consulted by shopkeepers, curators, and other potential customers. If you are presently a member of a guild with no portfolio files, suggest they start one, this could be a valuable selling tool for many craftspeople wishing to exhibit or market their work.

Types of Retail Outlets

The Gallery

Wholesaling jewelry to a Gallery. Galleries generally specialize in fine art and one-of-a-kind pieces of work which have an unusual or innovative design and technique and appeal more to the collector who is interested in buying one-of-a-kind exceptionally fine objects.

The competition to be accepted by a gallery is very keen. Of the many artists and craftspeople who try to have their work sold in a gallery, only a handful succeed.

Although selling your work through a gallery can bring lots of prestige with it a recognition and acceptance of you as a jewelry designer or an artist and your work, it won't in most cases—because of such high priced pieces—bring you much money on a regular basis unless you have an established reputation in your design styles. But the reviews from a gallery exhibition can become an important asset in the jewelry designer/artist's portfolio when trying to sell to retail stores, obtaining special commissions or assignments, or qualifying for a teaching position.

Special exhibitions and sales are often held in galleries to promote the work of the artists and designers they represent. Therefore, when it comes to selling work with a high price tag, gallery selling often is the most effective way to find the customer who has both the appreciation for fine work and the money to spend on it. Also, commissions from architects and interior designers, as well as custom orders from private collectors, are just some of the special benefits connected with gallery exhibitions.

Since galleries are usually interested in work where the value and profit margins are relatively high, consignment selling is their primary method of operation—paying you if and when your work is sold. A gallery's commission can range from 50 to 60 percent of the selling price.

The Craft Shop

Wholesaling jewelry to a Gift Shop. This type of shop specializes in sale of high quality handmade work. Most craft shops are small owner-managed operations, usually started by individuals with a special interest in handcrafts and the people who make them. Often these owners are craftspeople themselves or have previous experience in the craft field. Some shops are run by craftspeople as an extension to their workshop .

Some craft shops always buy outright, while others work on a consignment basis; but many work partly on outright purchases and partly on consignment. They generally take the expensive and one-of-a-kind items on consignment and buy the less expensive production items outright. Often they ask to have new items on consignment but once an item proves to be a good seller they may purchase outright.

The Gift-Craft Shop

Wholesaling jewelry to a Gift-Craft Shop. A gift-craft shop does not usually advertise itself as such, but it is essentially a gift shop that specializes in exclusive, high quality, mass-produced giftware as well as quality handcrafted products. Many of the high quality giftwares found in these shops main selling point is not so much that they are handmade as the fact that their brands or trade names are highly respected and sought after for quality or uniqueness (for example, certain types of English and European porcelain, such as Royal Dalton). For the large scale production jewelry business the gift-craft shop will be an important outlet. It can frequently sell a higher volume of merchandise than the craft shop. Many high quality gift chains fit into the gift-craft category, which can offer you a regional or even national market.

The Gift Shop

Wholesaling jewelry to a Gift Shop. Most gift shops are characterized chiefly by the great variety of manufactured mass-produced products they sell. Occasionally, they will have a separate section displaying handmade products. If the manufactured ones are of high quality and tastefully chosen, the combination can work well; however, if handcrafted items are competing with very similar manufactured ones, the results may be quite poor for the craftspeople.


Wholesaling jewelry to Boutiques. The term "boutique" can be applied to any number of shops, usually independently run. For example, one may sell chiefly clothing--often of an off-beat or unique nature; in addition, it may sell a variety of accessories, including belts, purses or bags, designer tops, sweaters or even whole outfits, jewellery, hats, etc. Because the boutique tries to offer items which are different, the pieces are often handcrafted.

Specialty Shops

Wholesaling jewelry to Specialty Shops. Similar to the boutique, the specialty shop is often small and independently run, and usually carry a line of items and accessories that relate to a special nature. Many of them offer unique and quality handcrafted items that accent their lines.

Here are a few example of specialty shops that you could design and sell our handmade jewelry to:

  • florists and garden shops (jewelry with flower beads or a garden theme)
  • salons or spas (style of jewelry depends on the clientele)
  • pet stores (pet jewelry or people jewelry with pet charms)
  • home decor shops (jewelry for the home such as beaded candle holders, curtain tie backs, napkin rings, drawer pulls, sun catchers, lamps, garden stakes, window chimes, etc.)
  • new age stores (chakra or healing jewelry)
  • bridal shops (wedding and prom jewelry)
  • tourist shop (a line of jewelry that represents your local area)

  • religious stores (spiritual jewelry or jewelry for 1st communion, baptismal, christening, rosaries, prayer beads etc.)
  • marine shops (jewelry with a nautical theme)
  • or even a biker shop (biker chic jewelry).

Browse through different specialty shops and let your imagination grow in how you can incorporate different themes into your jewelry designs.

Museum Shops

Wholesaling jewelry to a Museum Shop. There are many museums all over this country, and, of course with each one, usually a museum gift shop. Museum shops are potential customers for handmade craft items, but because there are so many diverse kinds of museums—from colonial forts to computer museums—you need to pinpoint those that are appropriate for your style of jewelry.

Due to their educational and non profit status, museums must be very selective in what they offer for sale to their customers. What they sell must be closely related to the museum's collection.

A museum which has a collection of dinosaur bones, or ancient Egyptian artifacts will not be interested buying handmade funky beaded bracelets. You may have a good chance of selling your work if you can relate your craft to that of the museum's collection, such as reproduction of handmade beads, to a pioneer museum. A costal or maritime museum might be interested in jewelry with a nautical theme, or perhaps a museum which has a collection of Victorian antiques may sell jewelry pieces with a 19th-century look.

To help increase the buyers' interest and to satisfy the "related" requirement, prepare descriptive literature that tells how your particular craft or product relates to the museum's collection. One way could be a simple tag that explains that your item features a design based on something from the collection (a royal bracelet adapting the design from the sword and shield of a medieval prince, handpainted beads illustrating Greek mythology, jewelry patterned after a design from an Egyptian Pharaoh's crown or brooch, etc.)

The Department Store

Wholesaling jewelry to Department Stores. Fine handcrafts are now part of the inventory in many department stores, some have a specialized crafts departments, but handcrafted items can be found in a variety of other departments, including gift, jewelry, and housewares. Some department stores specialize in discount items while others sell tasteful and expensive ones. The more expensive stores are the most appropriate for handcrafted items because they have discriminating customers who are willing to pay the necessary prices for handmade products.

Department stores have buyers for each department who constantly meet with people who want to sell items to the store. Contact the Merchandise Manager's office for the name of the specific buyer you should use — jewelry, home furnishing, apparel, kitchenware, etc — then contact that buyer. Know the store's buying calendar, especially if your product is of a seasonal nature. Most of these stores buy their merchandise months in advance of the upcoming season, for example Christmas goods are usually bought in the spring. The larger the store, the longer the lead time.

One important question you must ask yourself before you get into this market is: "Can you produce in volume and keep the orders filled?". If a buyer from a big department store decides to order, he or she will probably order not three or five or even ten, but usually by the dozens. If you get a large department store order, it may pre-empt an entire season's production, which could have possible effects on your other customers.

One or two reliable volume accounts can help your cash flow, but do not commit more than 20% of your total sales with a single account, you may be relying too much on that one customer. If you fail to secure a large repeat order your overall sales and profit situation could be seriously harmed.

Getting Your Jewelry in Shops

Once you have located a few good shops that you think your jewelry would sell very well in, the next step is to set up an appointment with the shop owner (or manager) and prepare your sales presentation. See this next article on How to Get Your Jewelry in Gift Shops.

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