Monday, May 12, 2008

Consignment Series Marches On!

The next "Big Question" to ask for a consigment relationship with a boutique/retailer is "Do you have references, such as other designers or artists that I can contact?".

I do ensure that I pose it as other artists to speak with, as I have been given a reference list that included a landlord, a utility company, and friends/colleagues of the owner. For me, it is great to know that they pay their rent or electric bill on time, absolutely! However, I tend to want to know how other designers/artists rate the boutique and how the owner interacts with that designer.

Asking for references is a question that you can always ask before you even meet with them. If they wish to not provide references, that can be red flag. With that said, they can state that their designer/artist list is private, or that they do not allow any sharing of such information to "third parties", which would be you! That technically, could be true, and I myself would respect that. Even with my jewelry design business, K. A. Mace Jewelry, I keep my client list private, as my clients may not wish to be contacted and inadvertently (or deliberately!) put onto other mailing lists. However, I do ask customers and my boutiques/retailers if they will allow me to offer their information as a reference, and I have yet to be told "No!"! So, that kind of transparency is important in today's business world.

One pretty easy way around that is to visit the boutique, take note of the designers/artists represented and later contact them. Of course, you run the risk of the boutique owner/manager finding out that you did that "behind the scenes" research! However, it is up to that designer/artist to disclose their input and opinion to you. Some may tell you that they want to discuss your request with the owner/manager first. Some may talk your ear off without hesitation!

Also, most boutiques have an online presence, and you can always check their website to find out what other artists are carried in that boutique and contact the artists to ask them about their experiences. Ensure that you are upfront about your intentions, let the artist know that you may have your designs carried in Boutique A, you noticed that they also work with Boutique A's online storefront, and you were simply wondering if they had a moment or two to discuss their experience.

Remember that you are going to be asking questions that need to remain professional, and that have less to do with opinion and more to do with facts. I know designers that have been caught "gossiping" about boutiques, and that in one case an owner actually decided to stop doing business with both of those designers! This is not so much about, "What do you think of the owner?" and more about "Do they pay their invoices on time?"! Remember, how you conduct yourself in this industry does and will get around. It is a big world, but you will find a lot of people know one another and also network via trade shows and online forums. You are building a brand, and your level of professionalism factors into that brand statement, not just your designs!

Most of my questions are along the lines of:

Are invoices paid on time?
Are you happy with your sales at this location (brick and mortar or online)? (remember, sales are proprietary, so don't expect any specifics!)
How long have you worked with this boutique?
I see that you are online, are you also represented in the boutique? If not, can you share with me why?
I see that you are in the boutique, but not online, can you share with me why?
Has the boutique adhered to the contract that you signed?
Would you recommend this boutique to a friend or colleague?

If you do hear negative information, put it into proper context. If a couple of references tell you that they are not paid on time, you will most likely not be paid on time. Easy math! If one tells you that they were not paid on time, the rest state that they were, you have to weight that out. And, remember, if the boutique does offer references, the likelihood is that they will be positive, that owner/manager is savvy enough to make sure that references will put a positive light on the boutique!

Please feel free to contact me via email at with any questions.

Next post: PRICING! (Let's get to the big $$$ question, right?!)

1 comment:

BabyLyons said...

Thanks for the info! Great post!