What Retailers Want in Handmade Goods

By Carolyn Edlund

What do retailers want? How can you best present your work? A sales rep/retail buyer knows both sides of the sale. Here’s what impresses him.


Eco Chic


A bright spot in this economy is hearing that a new independent retailer has opened its doors, and is buying from artists.  David and Debra Fuss debuted Eco Chic on the Plymouth, Massachusetts waterfront recently, featuring products that are recycled, upcycled, fair trade, organic and natural – and above all, chic!

is a long-time sales rep himself, selling to retailers with home and gift lines. I asked him how it feels to be a buyer for a change, with reps calling on him. He laughed, and then groaned, admitting that he sees a version of himself in those reps who come through the door.

Debra and David look for attractive merchandise that fits their “eco and chic” profile, such as sandals made from recycled plastics, Alex and Ani jewelry made from recycled materials, scrabble tiles transformed into pendants, and note paper from recycled elephant dung (yes, really!) They agreed to give their viewpoint to creatives looking to sell wholesale to the trade.


Alex and Ani Jewelry


AS: Where are you finding products, and what are you looking for in handmade items?

DF: My wife Debra and I scour the internet, local crafts shows and gift shows. Most of our finds come from surfing the net. We have items from all over the world, but many are found right in our backyard. Debra found some of our best products while surfing the internet at 1:00 a.m. Having a user-friendly website makes a big difference.

When looking for new products to add to our store, they must first meet our profile, and have a unique quality that will be attractive to consumers. This limits us to the number of items we can carry, but that same profile makes our store very intriguing. We are always on the lookout for new items that set us apart from the competition, but also are desired by our customers. And, we love buying and selling local wares.




AS: What impresses you most when making the choice whether to purchase from an artist?

DF: Uniqueness, with a retail price to equal perceived value. Some artists price themselves out of the consumer market. When setting your price, comparison shop retailers to see if your product falls in line with other marketable goods.

AS: What should artists and craftspeople know about presenting their work to a retailer?

DF: Be honest. Explaining that everything is a bestseller loses credibility. Provide background on yourself. When the customer feels a personal connection to the artist and their product, they are more apt to buy.

AS:  What are you doing at Eco Chic that offers your customers an inviting shopping experience?

DF: At Eco Chic, we focus on all the senses to make the shopping experience most enjoyable, such as well-lit colorful displays, clean fresh scents, soothing up-tempo music and a positive, friendly atmosphere.

AS: What positive signs do you see for other entrepreneurs who want to become new retailers? Any suggestions for those considering this type of move?

DF: Like any investment, you buy low with the hope that your investment grows. Now is a good time to look for deals on storefront leases, due to reduced rents and omission of CAM (common area maintenance) charges.

Create a niche that is attractive to modern consumers. You must be able to change with demand if you want to survive. This doesn’t mean steering away from your niche, but rather adapting within your selected parameters.

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  1. David & Debra
    thank You for the advice. It is a very eye opening experience to be on the ‘other side’ of business,, I learned this when I had a gallery storefront in Brooklyn. I not only have tremendous respect for artists (i am one*!) but for retail shop owners who dedicate themselves to showcasing the work and making rent + profit. LOVE Eco-everything..best wishes to You both.

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