Last March, I sat down to my computer and started rendering the pavilion at Carondelet Park. It was a favorite place of mine, having ridden my bike past it several times when we lived in Holly Hills. At the time, selling my artwork was the furthest thing from my mind. But by May, I had gone on to create illustrations of 11 more favorite places, and I was dreaming of printing a calendar.
I spent the next few months in production, refining the artwork, correcting the colors, checking and rechecking the dates, visiting to the printer, learning the art of binding.
Then it came time to sell. My husband, Kevin, was excited about this. He had taken a web course once. He had bought things online. He was anxious to create my ecommerce site.
I was anxious, too. But, when I got the finished calendar in my hands, I realized this was more than just an online item. The paper was gorgeous, the print job was amazing, and the packaging made a wonderful crinkling sound when you picked it up.
I believe I was starting to understand the magic of retail, all the sensory stuff that draws us to a product. This was reinforced when I began cold-calling book stores, frame shops and gift boutiques in the area. Each one of these places had its own feel, its own smell, its own background noises. Each one made me feel like I’d wandered into someone’s home.
In almost every instance, there was a wonderful connection between owner and shop. If the owner was serene, her shop was serene. If the owner was funky, his shop was funky. During the selling phase of my business, I experienced places that were contemplative, curious, proud, arty, bookish, playful and political. I was lucky. Three out of every four shops I visited agreed to carry A YEAR IN THE CITY.
Here are a few of the things I learned along the way:
- It costs money to have your product in stores. I had read about this online and had accepted it. For me to score a win, I had to make sure the store won also, so I set margins that would benefit us both.
- Shop owners understand their customers. I picked up on this early and respected it. If a shop owner knew that my product wouldn’t sell with their customers, I didn’t push it. Instead, I encouraged them to tell me about their business. If I felt comfortable with them, I’d ask if they knew of other shops that might be interested in A YEAR IN THE CITY. They usually did.
- Retailers have a unique angle on product development. They can tell you things that online reviews can’t. They see what moves off the shelf, and what gets looked at. They know what’s likely to be a big seller. In my case, they had ideas of places I might feature in future calendars!
- Most retailers appreciate sales support. I designed a point-of-sale while the calendar was being printed, and several shop owners asked me to include it with their first order. I also offered signings on the weekends. I wasn’t earning any more money for these things, but I was helping to move inventory, and that was good for both of us.
- Mi producto es su producto. Shop owners who agreed to carry my calendar treated it as their own from the very start. They talked about how they were going to market it to their customers, giving me a little glimpse into their work. Their knowledge will help me refine my processes and my product in future years.
Needless to say, six months after starting my calendar, I have made connections with those who are selling it. Out of respect for them, I have made an effort to keep a “clear zone” around their shops, so that competitors in the same areas of retail are not selling my calendars next door. It’s the least I can do for those who are bringing A YEAR IN THE CITY to the city I love so much.
See a list of all A YEAR IN THE CITY retailers at https://ayearinthecity.com/news-in-the-city/
To inquire about carrying A YEAR IN THE CITY in your retail store, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch for my blog on Corporate Holiday Gifts coming October 17!