The Buyers Market of American Craft offers artists the opportunity to create long-term business relationships with qualified wholesale craft buyers.
Artist Tony Holman in his booth at the Buyers Market.
The American and Canadian craft industry reached a
milestone when the Buyers Market of American Craft celebrated its 25th
anniversary this year. As the nation's largest wholesale craft show, the Buyers
Market offers artists the opportunity to create long-term business
relationships with qualified wholesale craft buyers. The Buyers Market is the
flagship event of The Rosen Group, a Baltimore, Md.-based arts marketing, publishing
and advocacy firm.
Held semiannually in Philadelphia, Pa.,
the Buyers Market features nearly 1500 exhibiting artists in every medium,
including ceramics, glass, wood, metal, jewelry, wearable fiber, kaleidoscopes
and more. Nearly 9000 buyers attend the show annually, representing more than
4000 fine art and craft galleries, gift shops and specialty retailers from
across the U.S. and Canada. The
Buyers Market is regularly named one of the nation's Top 200 Tradeshows by Tradeshow
magazine, as it was earlier this year.
"Sunrise" by Susan Elena Esquivel.
Entering the Wholesale Market
Unlike many retail craft fairs or art shows, entering the
wholesale craft marketplace is not as simple as buying a booth and showing up.
Artists wishing to wholesale their work face several challenges that artists
who only sell retail do not face. Artists new to wholesale often have to
contend with under-
pricing their work, taking more orders than they can
produce, and not sufficiently understanding the difference between wholesale buyers
and general consumers.
To help artists enter the wholesale marketplace smoothly
and successfully, The Rosen Group offers artists numerous mentoring
opportunities and workshops. The Rosen Group's staff members are available to
answer any questions from both current exhibitors and artists unfamiliar with
the Buyers Market. Staff members regularly take time to review artists' work
and provide them with business and marketing guidance.
Wendy Rosen, Buyers Market founder and president, notes
that an artist's success at a wholesale show greatly depends on how well they
promote themselves (see the Top Ten Tips to Improve Sales at a Wholesale Show
sidebar for additional advice). "Artists generally get more sales at a
wholesale show when they conduct outreach before, during and after the
show," says Rosen. "That means sending e-mail and postcard reminders
to their buyers, having a small reception in their booth at the show, and
making follow-up phone calls to all prospects."
Artists who have never wholesaled their work can apply
for the Merit Award program, which helps emerging artists successfully enter
the marketplace. Merit Award winners receive booth space at a reduced cost and
are assigned a mentor to guide them through their entrance into the wholesale
American craft community. To be considered for the award, the artist must be
new to the wholesale marketplace and have innovative designs, creative works
and market viability. The Rosen Group selects winners for the summer show.
Nearly 9000 buyers attend the show annually, representing
more than 4000 fine art and craft galleries, gift shops and specialty
An artist does not have to win a Merit Award to receive a
mentor, however. Through its artist mentoring program, The Rosen Group
frequently matches up new artists with seasoned exhibitors to answer questions
and welcome the new artist to the Buyers Market. Another method for new artists
to exhibit their work at the Buyers Market is through their state or local
guild. The Buyers Market offers guilds both free and discounted booth space
where they can exhibit a handful of artists at once.
Additionally, The Rosen Group hosts the Visiting Artist
program at each show. The Visiting Artist program allows artists to learn more
about the wholesale marketplace without having to commit to the expense of
exhibiting. These programs are produced in partnership with the Arts Business
Institute (ABI), a professional nonprofit education organization that
facilitates business development workshops for artists. The ABI coordinates
business workshops for artists throughout the U.S.
by partnering with regional arts and economic development organizations.
Artists can also take advantage of numerous marketing and
public relations opportunities through The Rosen Group. For example, the NICHE
Awards is an annual arts competition showcasing the wholesale craft community's
brightest and most promising artists.
"Crackle Port Hole Set" by Stiles in Clay.
The Business of Art
Founded by Wendy Rosen in 1981, The Rosen Group was
created to function as a trade association for American crafts. "At the
time, there was no infrastructure for artists, such as trade shows,
publications and associations, like other industries had developed," she
The Rosen Group's central mission is to provide American
and Canadian artists with opportunities and guidance to grow their business and
compete in the global marketplace. The company accomplishes this mission
through the Buyers Market and two arts publications. NICHE
magazine (1988) is a quarterly trade publication for craft retailers, while AmericanStyle
magazine (1994) is an arts lifestyle publication for enthusiasts, collectors
Rosen says she sees her company more as an economic
development organization than an arts organization. Exhibiting artists realize
more than $42 million per year in total sales. That translates into average
sales of $40,000 per company each year, and approximately $96 million in retail
"What we're really doing is helping individual
artists and craft retailers succeed in business, which stimulates local, state,
regional and even national economies," says Rosen.
information, contact The Rosen Group at (410) 889-2933, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.AmericanCraft.com. The ABI's website
is located at www.artsbusinessinstitute.org.
SIDEBAR: Top Ten Tips to Improve Sales at a Wholesale Show
- Display All Prices and Sales Terms
Buyers at a wholesale show don't have time to
search your booth for prices. Make it easy for your buyers to know what to
expect when buying from you-label your prices clearly! Some artists think that
not displaying prices encourages buyers to speak to them, but most buyers will
simply continue walking if they don't see your price points right
- Light It Up
want to get to know your products before buying them. Your lighting should
strike a perfect balance-not too bright and not too dim. Good lighting is
almost unnoticed and illuminates your work beautifully.
- Spruce Up Your Display
an engaging booth that will attract buyers' attention. Use color to pull all of
the visual components (your work, signage, flooring, etc.) of your booth
together. Your booth is not a work of art-what you are selling in your booth
is-so choose colors that look great and reinforce your brand but do not
- Listen to Your Buyers
to what buyers are telling you. Try to find a way to match your products to
- Stand Up and Close
Standing up and making eye contact will put
visitors to your booth at ease and make sales easier to close. Hiding behind
your display or sitting down can intimidate a buyer or make them uncomfortable.
Be your greatest asset and embody elements of superb salesmanship.
- Look Busy
attracts attention. Dust off your booth or make minor adjustments to your
display. Buyers will be interested in your products when they see you showing
an interest in your display.
- Believe in Your Work
enthusiasm for your work will help buyers visualize how they can sell it to
their customers. Enthusiasm is contagious and buyers will leave feeling good
about your products, whether they make a purchase or not.
- Promote Your Work Before the
Prior to the show, send e-mail and postcard
reminders to your buyers with your booth number on them. Offer an incentive:
market a special discount to anyone who brings the e-mail or postcard to your
booth, or raffle off one of your pieces for everyone who drops off a business
card. Marketing your show presence to your established and prospective buyers
is essential and will result in higher sales.
- Ask About Promotional
Ask the show promoter if you can
participate in any promotional opportunities. Many shows offer cooperative
mailing programs and special advertising opportunities in the show's buyers' guide.
Get your name and your work in front of thousands of buyers before they even
set foot on the show floor.
- Follow Up on Leads
information from everyone who enters your booth. Even if a buyer doesn't make a
purchase at the show, follow up with them afterwards. Cultivation is an
essential sales tool-always follow up and make an effort to convert interest in
your work into a sale.