Make Your Line Retail Ready

by Carolyn Edlund

High-end designer Merry Lynch shares strategies for designing work that will sell in today’s marketplace.


2011 Calendar by Merry Lynch


Merry Lynch is a businesswoman whose company sells stationery into high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Exposures and Saks Fifth Avenue. She works with artists who are licensing their designs, developing appealing product lines which will be chosen by national buyers for the retail market. Merry agreed to speak on some topics which are crucial to artists looking to license their work, and give a perspective from the side of the manufacturer.

With an extensive background in the retail and wholesale marketplace, owning stores internationally, working as a national sales manager for a large fine stationery manufacturer, and as an international distributor, Merry has a solid understanding of how to make a business work and how artists can research and understand their market. She not only seeks out artists for her own product line, but advises artists on how they can prepare their portfolio to be a part of the $20 billion licensing industry.  She also speaks at workshops and seminars on this subject.

AS:  How did you cultivate the upscale retailers you sell to?

ML: The retailers that I target are all based around my ideal client profile. When building your business plan, it is important to realize that you cannot be everything to everybody, so describing who you will market your products or art to is an important piece to the puzzle.


Calendar by Merry Lynch


AS:  How do you see the market for personalized stationery, calendars and cards in this economy and with the decline of handwritten communication?

ML: Certainly in the past few years we have seen a tremendous decline in the personalized stationery market, due not only to social media, but also to everyone who owns a computer believing they are a graphic designer, so that really dilutes the market. The saving grace is knowing that these small companies come and go every day. You just have to be able to ride out the market.

AS:  Describe your business model and how artists can plan their own.

ML: My business model is designing products for the high end retail market and then research, research, research color trends and designing into that. What happens is the buyer thinks your product is beautiful, but they don’t know why. It works famously. I know the sizing of products, I know the color trends, I know my customer. So when the store buyer looks at the product, it is retail ready – and you make them look like a hero. It’s perfect.

AS:  What do artists need to know about creating a line that works visually and has appeal in the marketplace?

ML: When designing products or art to be sold in the retail marketplace, it is best to follow the fashion and color trends that are projected each year by Pantone. This will give any designer or painter an idea of what will be seen in the stores as far as ready-to-wear, bedding, tabletop, wall paint, etc. This is the “bible” if you will for buyers and product developers.

AS:  Given that not all artists are proficient at business skills, what do you suggest for someone wanting to get into licensing or launching their own product line?

ML: Be flexible, take criticism and do your research. You won’t beat the system by coming up with your own color palette, so pay attention to what is happening in the market.  Read fashion magazines, be aware of color and sizing of objects, and then create something fabulous. Each item – whether fabric, furniture, toys, or books – all started from an artists drawing. So why not you? is all you have to ask. Go shopping, find a product line you think you might be able to create some art for, look on the packaging, get on the company’s website, look for someone to contact about submitting artwork or just align yourself with an art licensor.

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  1. Great interview with Merry. She has a keen sense of business and design. Definitely someone to take notes from!


    • I agree. When you speak with someone at Merry’s level of experience, it’s obvious she knows what she is doing and can eliminate a lot of wasted time concentrating of what’s going to fly and what’s not. Research and knowing your audience are constant themes with many experts in marketing, because they work. I encourage all creative entrepreneurs to do their homework to make their business grow and their products retail ready.

  2. I found you via LinkedIn and I’m SO glad I did. Great interview. I just signed up for your email newsletter! Can’t wait to dig in and read more!

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