Thursday , 19 July 2018
Selling at consignment shops can be pretty scary for first timers. I'd like to help you decide if consigning is for you, and how you can avoid mistakes and make the most of your experience.

Consignment Dos, Don’ts, and Must Knows for Creative Business Owners

Small Air Plant and Sea Urchin

Small Air Plant and Sea Urchin by: PetitBeast


Selling at consignment shops can be pretty scary for first timers. Horror stories of how inventory disappeared or how monthly fees went down the drain and nothing sold circulate through many social circles.

I have good experiences consigning, and I’d like to help you decide if consigning is for you, and how you can avoid mistakes and make the most of your experience.

When looking for a consignment shop the first thing you should do is a background check. How long has this shop been around? How long the shop has been running will tell you a lot about it’s success. Shops that have been open for several years are usually still open for a very good reason.

Try to meet the people who are behind the shop. I enjoy meeting these people and finding out how they feel about the economy and what their future plans for the shop are.

If possible get in contact with some of the consignors and ask what their experiences have been with the particular shop of interest.

Next you need to determine if the shop is right for you. What kind of products are in this shop, do yours fit the theme?

How about the location? Does it get plenty of traffic? Ideally there would be plenty of shoppers in the area, with tourists coming in. In my case, I sell in Downtown Franklin TN where lots of people from all over the states come for the festivities and music. It’s a great place for artists to sell!

What are the costs? Do those costs fit into your budget? (Remember sometimes it is necessary to experiment and find out how well you are able to sell before making a decision.)

Roughly 30% plus $15 a month is pretty typical for consignment shops. You should remember that these shops are putting a lot of money into marketing and displays, have a high overhead cost, and need to make a profit as well.

Doing all of your own selling can be the best way in many circumstances, but remember how much it cost to advertise! I have found that I spend no more in consignment fees than I do on my own advertising, and I do virtually no promoting or advertising on anything I put into consignment shops.

For me, I have found that a balance between consignment and my Etsy shop is perfect, but it can be very different for different individuals.

Some DOs DONT’S.

DON’T just put your goods into any shop. Brand new shops that are looking for inventory are often where the worst things happen. In fact, most horror stories come from people who tried selling in shops that had been open only a few months and had no credibility.

It’s only safe if you know and TRUST the shop owner. Many shops like this can get their start by investing in the products and paying for them beforehand, or maybe they know enough people who trust them and are willing to give it a shot.

DON’T go for shops that will accept anything. The best ones are juried! If you have to come up with a new product line because your current one is already taken, go for it! Shop owners know that their sellers will be more successful if they are not competing with each other. This means they care about their sellers and the success of both them and their business.

DO look for shops that sell your genre. This means if you sell handmade crocheted bookmarks, a shop that consigns mostly vintage is probably not best. Find shops that best suit your type of product. (In fact, the shop I sell at sells ONLY handmade).

DO look for shops that have beautiful and creative setups. I hate it when shops designate their sellers with certain spaces or “booths”. One sellers product stays at the front of the store all the time, and another’s stay at the back of the store.

Good shops will put things where they think they will best be noticed, rather than categorizing them by seller. This also allows the seller to put virtually as many products as they want into the shop, and also have more than one product line without having to sell them side by side.

I hope this article has given you enough information to be helpful to you! 

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  1. Great article. I have my work in a consignment gallery in Corning, NY. My tendency is not to work with consignment for all your stated reasons, but this gallery was listed in the Crafts Report, which I trust as a magazine. I talked to the owner and found out that I would be one of only two jewelers in this gallery, which made me feel unique. Also, the gallery, in addition to being around for 20 years, is in a town that has a well-known craft museum so there is built-in traffic already in place.

    I have now had my work in the gallery for about four months and have been selling regularly. I am happy with their pay schedule and am hoping that they will keep me past the holiday season.

    This has been a good compliment to my Etsy Shop and I feel good about the partnership.

    • I agree with everything you said above, except for one point. I don’t agree with your comment about not putting items into a new shop. It sounds like you are implying that new shops aren’t trustworthy, and most horror stories come from newer shops. This gives us newcomers a bad wrap before we can even get started with a proven track record. My shop has been in business for less than 5 months. The trust and success we have been able to achieve in such a short time frame has come with honesty, integrity and hard work. We have almost 150 consignors with an average intake of 100 items per day. There are 3 other consignment shops and 2 thrift stores in our small community of less than 4,000. We must be doing something right, so please don’t make generalized statements which discourage doing business with new shops.

      • Hi Nancy! I’m an artisan at The Artful Sojourn looking for established venues ar which to sell. What is he name of your shop and are you interested in new consignment vendors?

      • Nancy, I am with you. I would love to learn about how you started your shop. I am thinking of opening one up in Tennessee.

      • I’m working on my business plan for a consignment gallery right now in my city’s emerging art district. There isn’t anything like it so far in that area. Sometimes you have to take a chance – it could be the beginning of a long term, mutually beneficial, business arrangement. If it works, YOURE in on the ground floor, as well.

  2. Jacqueline, my experience sounds similar to yours! The shop where I sell has been around for over 15 years now, and gets a constant flow of traffic. I’m selling really well there and hoping it continues after the holidays as well!
    Plus it was a big compliment that a shop that is so picky about what they sell liked my product so much!

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I know many sellers have questions about consignment. My experiences have been very good. The shops in our area (Raleigh, NC) take a higher percentage of the sales (40%), but no monthly fee. I’ve heard of shops with much higher fee requirements, and I’ve stayed far away!

    Working with a local shop is important, too, so you can check in periodically to check your inventory and make sure your work is being displayed well.

  4. Some great tips here, especially the last one. Many “incubator” type stores and galleries are opening up in Australia and you are, unfortunately, stuck with whichever booth/cubicle you get. It says to me that the people who run these places don’t really care about the sellers or realise how important product placement is, but I guess not everyone would think of that.

  5. Great article! I own a resale & consignment store and have many “Artist Consignors” that make child- and mom-focused artisan pieces. Thank you for writing a postive article on how crafters can be successful with consignment. Many of our Artists have been with us for years and continue to enjoy our mutually beneficial partnership.

    I do have several employees but, as the owner, I am the one who initially sets up new Artists. We meet and they show me samples of what they make. We discuss pricing; what they have put into the piece in both time and money, and what I think the local market will support as a price point. From this discussion, I can determine if the partnership is viable for both sides. When they are successful, we are successful!

    Thank you also for acknowledging how much work, time, effort, and money goes into what we do as a store for our Artists. It’s true that we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars in developing a large customer base, advertising, education on product placement and merchandising strategies inside and outside of our walls, etc. Our Artists get to tap into all that for free and we are happy to apply our expertise to displaying, merchandising, and suggestive selling their product.

  6. Thanks for the tips for artisans. They apply, equally, to those who are culling their possessions, from couches to camisoles, especially the point about “choosing shops that sell your genre”… SO true. Something “disrespected” at one shop could be a HIT at another,. so do your homework. More on choosing a consignment shop that’s best for you:

  7. I normally don’t put my work into shops on consignment, but I have been involved with two artisan co-op gallery shops, where we sold other artisans work on consignment. The first ‘Inspirational Works’ worked well, as it added to the small town in the bush, providing handmade gifts and cards, locally. But even with the low rental, we struggled at times, and never really made a profit, just a venue for all local artisans.
    The recent ‘Heart of Arts Gallery’ had been a partnership business for 3 years, when the owner/craftswoman, decided she needed some ‘real’ money and opted to go back and study nursing. She invited a small number of people to join as a Co-op, and we spent the last two months of 2010, getting familiar with all the artworks.
    Sales had been down, for a few months, the dollar has risen and the tourists are staying away. Many locals drive to the Coastal town to shop, leaving only a few who ‘Shop Local’, so due to poor sales in Dec. Kerry decided to close on xmas eve, the co-op members will try to find a new venue in a few months, so reading this has been helpful.
    Particularly about being wise in what we allow in to the shop.
    It’s a tricky balance between having enough affordable pieces that sell, and space to ‘see’ and appreciate the more expensive items that sit for longer.
    Some artisans, don’t realise the importance of changing their items displayed in the shop, for fresh pieces, leaving the same artwork, far too long, hoping they will sell.
    BTW Johanna, I love your finely crocheted flower bookmarks, I have forgotten about using my fine hooks.

  8. Thanks Megg, I picked up my larger crochet hooks to make some hats recently, and they felt so huge in my hand! I got so used to those tiny hooks.

  9. I can’t believe I found your do’s and don’t article. Johanna is talking about Heart and Hands and we are so excited to have her work. In fact we just did a tweeet, facebook and blog on her new things. As she mentioned she just brought in cute hats and decorative neck scarves with her beautiful flowers on them. They were placed right up front when we redid after Christmas. We are so like your “Do’s” you could have been writing about us. We have been in business since 1994 in a prime location on Main street. We jury our items to prevent duplicates and maintain quality. We only accept items handmade in Tennessee and we do not have booths. You don’t even have to display your own merchandise we do it by theme: baby, kitchen etc. and change it frequently. If you are interested in joining our friendly group contact us thru our website or check out our blog Our website is

  10. Hi Carol! Yes, my experience with you all inspired me to write this. Heart and Hands is such a great shop!

  11. I had thought about consignment but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve read so many horror stories about that. This information is very helpful I’m marking to refer back to later. I would love to have some of our designs in the right location.

  12. This sounds great. Seems to be right up
    the alley I’ve been trying to go down for
    months. My product is some what high end
    and local shop owners are hard to interest
    in it. I’ve sold only one to a shop last
    fall. Please, if anyone would like to see
    photo of something gorgous, I could email
    you with attachments. I call them “Sparkling Glory” wind chimes. Very unique look and sound. Thanks ya all, JD

  13. Cool, Thanks for the advice! I was thinking about possibly consigning at a local shop but I might change my mind now.

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