Tuesday, May 06, 2008

another rule of wholesale

Right now things are so hopping at the studio, one of my two kilns are always firing. I'm so glad my power bill is on auto-pay so I don't have to see how much energy I'm using. Can I just say that any ceramicist who says they are "green" is full of shit? Okay, got that off my chest. Back to the subject at hand. Things are hopping not only because I have a lot of wholesale orders, but I overbooked my orders and so we are behind. Not too bad, but still lagging.

For years with wholesale, I would pretty much wing it: I would take whatever orders came and try to space them out so I didn't get too bunched up. But when I hit Philadelphia the last time I decided to get a system. I sat down and tried to figure out how much pottery I could pump out in a week. I figured I could do $2000 a week, and I booked the time accordingly. I printed out a little calendar, and every time I took an order I would put the total on that week. When the total reached $2000-- more or less-- I would move on to the next week. Great system, if you know your limits, which I clearly do not. As it turns out, I overestimated just a teeny, tiny bit. I'm seeing the result right now. Late orders.

I try as hard as I can to intimidate my wholesale buyers so they won't bother me with pesky questions like, "where is my order?" and I have caller ID to screen out those calls. But still, it's kind of a drag to be late. Mostly because I have a strong desire to be organized and efficient, and when orders are running late I feel twinges of failure and guilt.

If you want to tackle the beast that is wholesale, you must be organized and realistic about how much you can create in a given amount of time. Us artistic types always think we can do more than is humanly possible; that's just a given. Know that this is true for you also, and when you consider what you can make in a week, cut it in half. Just do it! Because when you think about all the extra stuff that comes up, not to mention the days when you simply can't make anything, cutting your expectations in half is a kindness to yourself, and to those pesky wholesale buyers.


  1. First of all, I love your work. Beautiful! I made a big mistake 2 years ago and went to market in Atlanta. I went from having 4 stores to having almost 70! I had no employees at all. I am now down to 12 stores. Needless to say I lost good stores due to my inability to produce the amount of merchandise ordered. I am now slowly adding stores. I would tell anyone interested in going into wholesaling, what you stated, cut EVERYTHING in half. Better to have extra time than to be swamped and unable to get orders out. I learned the HARD way!

  2. I know it's tough to be green, but I think that this couple can truthfully own that title:


    (Click on the Sustainability link)

    Just had to give credit where credit was due!

    Good luck filling your orders!

  3. holy moly, what would i do without your posts Whitney? Here I am today, racking my brains about wholesale and voila! Some pearls of wisdom!
    See you soon...

  4. just one more reason for me to avoid the whole thing.

  5. You mean we can't do more than humanly possible? *pop* That was my bubble bursting.

    Very entertaining read... I couldn't stop giggling after the comment on ceramicists not being green :)

  6. green...ha! even if your energy is "green" the toxic crap burning out is doing it's own thing to the environment...not to mention we're using up all our raw materials...hello albany slip?? i just try my best to do my part outside of the studio. loving all this info about wholesaling. i'm into my 2nd year of taking wholesale orders and thankfully you've opened my eyes before i could get in over my head.

  7. Anonymous7:13 PM

    It's so true about over estimating how much you can do. I supply dozens of stores and I have a toddler. Now there is a lot of late nights and late orders.
    Karissa Chase.

  8. I think wholesale is a whole different animal vs. making work for website or art shows. I'm not so organized and ALWAYS underestimate how much time something is going to take me.

    Hmmm, on being a green studio potter - yeah you're right. We're buying supplies that are sometimes strip mined, using energy to fire work. I guess the only way I justify the whole venture is by trying to lessen my impact in other ways.

  9. hi whitney,

    thanks for this! very helpful...i am worried that my production is too slow to begin with, but i'm gonna try it anyway, i guess, and see what happens. i am getting scared, though, already. is this a bad sign, you think? ;)

  10. Hey Tabbitha,
    I don't think having fear means you are doomed in wholesale, it's just a reasonable feeling to have when you are trying something new. On the other hand, if you are going in knowing that you have a major weakness (slow production) you need to be realistic about what that means. This is what I see all the time at wholesale shows: Potters new to wholesale whose prices are crazy low; they get slammed with people coming into their booth and placing orders and they feel like a rock star and totally happy that they've had a successful show. But the reality of filling those orders has not even begun to sink in, and while they know they are going to be working hard, they don't know that they are not going to see the light of day for months. Don't let this happen to you. If your production is slow, make sure your prices reflect that. Know when to say when. If people love your work they will wait for it, they just need to know that when they place the order they will not get it for 4 months, not getting that panicked phone call three weeks after they expect delivery saying it's going to be another month.

    good luck!

  11. Hi Whitney! I found your blog through the write-up over at SFGirlByBay, and I am completely in love with your work. If I could afford it/had space, I'd buy everything!

  12. love love love your work! i'm not far too studying at uc berkeley. really wanted to attend the seconds sale, but no money and no time. finals finals finals. but i'm sure i'll be rolling in some money soon and can spend it all here! :)

    i hope to visit your studio at some point (hopefully when you're not too busy) and see you in action.