Interview with Buyers Market Founder Wendy Rosen

By Carolyn Edlund

 

Wendy Rosen is the President and CEO of the Rosen Group, and Founder of the Buyers Market of American Craft, Niche Magazine, American Style Magazine, and the Arts Business Institute. She has been a major player in the fine craft industry for many years, and is active politically as well in the interests of handmade American craft work and producers. Wendy graciously agreed to an exclusive interview on the eve of the summer Buyers Market, which has been relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. Stay tuned for new ideas, plans and events from this industry giant!

AS: Your company has made several big changes this year. What are you doing and what do you hope to achieve?

WR: The economic downturn really helped build the consumer demand for American Made. Back in January, after the ABC News series on “Made in America”, I decided to focus my efforts this year to concentrate on leveraging this demand into new sectors while helping museum stores and national park buyers meet the Made in America goals set for them.

The work has gone far beyond helping them find new sources.  It’s been an educational process, as well as assisting in the refining the buying procedures so that products are properly vetted as authentic American made gifts.  I’ve always known government to work slow, but this year things are moving fast . . . and all in the right direction for American artists and small giftware producers.

The American History Museum is working out the kinks of it’s recently re-opened Price of Freedom gift shop, but they’ve already decided to expand the large gift store downstairs to feature a special area of . . . American Craft!  We’re hopeful that as the buyers from all the museums start working together, they’ll learn how to expand their American made merchandise selections.  The National Parks are another story.  After our “protest” at the Grand Canyon we wrote up recommendations for the problems that face park visitors looking for authentic American made gifts and crafts.  Some of those suggestions were well received, but we have a long way to go to make the same impact at every park, and with every buyer. Our next protest will be at the Statue of Liberty in August.

Buyers Market Show Floor

 

AS:  What are some major mistakes or misperceptions new exhibitors have about getting into wholesale?

WR:  I guess the biggest mistake that we see new exhibitors make is to prepare for a wholesale show in exactly the same way they prepare for a retail show. From product selection to lighting and display, artists make big mistakes that they refuse to correct, even when they discover the problem before the show begins.  If you look like an amateur at a wholesale show . . . you’re dead!

Artists also make the mistake of thinking that one show is a good test of whether you’re a success or a failure, but it’s not true.  It takes a few shows to learn the ropes, get your pricing right and get comfortable with buyers, and production delivery schedules.  Patience is the key, and proper preparation, of course.  We provide step by step instructions, but most artists don’t read the info, or don’t attend the Arts Business Institute before they apply. It’s the one of the most expensive business mistakes an artist can make.

The Buyers Market is specifically designed to meet the needs of artists as they develop products for a targeted marketplace.  We protect artists from manufacturers who attend our show with the idea of stealing design ideas or intellectual property.  We nurture and mentor exhibitors for months before and after their first Buyers Market experience.  It’s an investment that we feel strongly about – every failure is our failure too.

AS:  You work closely with Etsy street teams to bring new exhibitors into your shows. Tell us about this relationship.

WR:  There’s an incredible new craft generation, with a new aesthetic and younger collectors, and it’s time that we started blending our communities. Retailers need work that has that a fresh look and appeals to a younger audience, and the artists need to learn growth strategies from the more seasoned studio artists. Like our well-established guild booth program, our Etsy street team exhibits give these emerging artists an affordable way to grow and adapt for a wider audience.  This coming year, we’ll be expanding guild and group booths and providing more of the affordable mini-booth spaces for artists who need to test the waters with new ideas.

 

Buyers Market Show Floor 2

 

AS:  It’s been challenging for the last several years for artists and craftspeople. What are your top recommendations for increasing business in this climate?

WR:  Half of us are stuck in a paper/postage world and half of us are stuck in an email/fax world. What happened to phone calls? Blending all the tools is the best approach – unless you’ve actually ASKED your customers for their preference!

Too many artists are so involved with production that they neglect to add the Made in USA sticker and a great hang tag.  It’s not about the price you put on your work, it’s all about the “perceived value” and the little things are sometimes as important as the object itself.

Go shopping just to learn about the business of retail, look at things from a shopper’s perspective, visit stores and galleries. Does the staff greet customers and hand sell work or do they stand behind a cash register waiting . . . what type of environment does your work need?  Ask your galleries what tips they would offer to new stores who are purchasing your work for the first time . . . share your findings.  And often ship small Point of Purchase pieces with your work . . . a tented name card, a photo of you and the dog, something that can be placed next to your work to personalize the connection between person and product.

 

Comments

  1. Made in America—-Excellent job of Having someone give an “honest” and direct response to what artists and crafters need to do to be successful. Wendy shot straight from the hip

  2. Yes, Wendy is really at the forefront of the industry. I had a great conversation with her, including some really exciting plans her company has to rock the wholesale crafts world. Stay tuned . . .

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