Wire Jewelry Idea May 30: Consignment Conundrum

By on May 30, 2012
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Wire Jewelry Idea May 30:
My Consignment Conundrum

by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

Last week was a little exciting for me: I had my first consignment arrangement. Now I have a little display for my jewelry at the yoga studio I go to – I am thrilled! Folks at my yoga studio can now pick up a little “treat” for themselves or a gift for a friend after stretching and relaxing through yoga poses. (Click here to read Dale’s post about selling at boutiques, or consignment)

It’s a good thing that the studio is a bit of a drive, because I want to make my display look as good as possible – I can’t tweak things unless I’m taking a class, I promised myself. But I had a bit of a dilemma that I had to solve before I could finish choosing what pieces to display.

You see, I love to make high-end jewelry, which for me means both good materials (opal cabochons, anyone?) and extreme time investments (translating fiber techniques such as tatting and knitting to wire). However, I don’t currently have the time or the budget that would allow me to create nothing but high-end jewelry. Still, my technique is pretty good, so even if I use plated or imitation materials, I still make pretty good jewelry that will look like new for several years.

The yoga studio that I attend is currently “free”: it’s donation-only, although starting this summer they will move to a fee structure. So I knew that while my yoga-loving clients had a bit of a disposable income to come to yoga, they weren’t expecting to pay a lot of money for class – and possibly, for extras after class.

Also, the yoga studio is a very open and welcoming place, which is a wonderful atmosphere for a yoga studio, but that also means that my jewelry could very well walk out the door unnoticed.

I was trying to decide how to position my jewelry. Should I only display my low-end jewelry, chance it on a few high-end pieces to establish my intended market, or display the whole range?

What I decided – and I will change this as I see the results – is to separate my jewelry into an “Everyday” collection and a “Special Occasion” collection. Then, for consignment, I mostly placed pieces from my Everyday collection at the yoga studio, with a couple Special Occasion pieces. I also have business cards at the studio that encourage people to find me online and use a special coupon on the business cards for a discount on my higher-end line of jewelry.

What would you do? And what places have you considered consigning in that aren’t the typical boutique? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. avatar


    May 30, 2012 at 6:19 am

    I recently placed some items on consignment in a gift shop that is in a high traffic tourist area. I make and sell beach glass jewelry and the shop is located near the entrance to a local state park that is visited each summer my millions of beach goers. This will be a learning experience for both myself and the shop owner. She has always purchased outright, but we decided and agreed we were going to try the consignment route (70/30) to see how it works for both of us. Using very much the same philosophy as you sorthing the everyday and special occasion pieces, that is just what I did and now feel good about that decision. The season is just starting so I am anxious to see how it works out. Please wish us well.

  2. avatar

    Paula Naffziger

    May 30, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I was approached to set up my booth outside in front of a tourist shop, but the owner wants a 40/60 split. I think this is unreasonable since I do all the work–make the jewelry, set up,sell the jewelry, take credit cards and close down each day. Could others share their circumstances and explain the percentages they pay for simply a good tourist location?

    • avatar


      May 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      I personally would say no to that arrangement. Perhaps offer a token fee for setting up in front of the store, but to the best of my knowledge a sidewalk is a public space so unless he wants money to cover you under the store’s business license….

    • avatar

      Catherine Franz

      May 31, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Do you know what your overhead percentage is?
      How about your average materials percentage?
      Think about your sales cost percentage.

      When you figure all these percentages out, and the materials percentage is a low/high estimate, you can then answer this question.

      Don’t forget to pay yourself for the work you did in the overhead percentage. You have to know your minimum.

      When you know this information and feel comfortable with it then when someone tries to negotiate with you, you can immediately say yes or no or say the split you can do. If the person offering the percentage split thinks you don’t know all this, they will try and take advantage of you. Good business people smell this just by the words you use, your hesitations, and body language (they are reading you, trust me).

      When thinking of a high visibility area such as his place, you also need to do some research. Are you allowed by the local rules to even set up there? Don’t take their word for it, you don’t want a ticket. All they will do is shrug and say they didn’t know (even if they did). Other research, sit in a car with visual review, count the number of people who pass by and go into the store (2 rates here). What are their ages? Guess at their income levels. Know what the possibilities are if you can. If not, then this is going to be a learning experience, a big one maybe.

      The believe his request split after you calculate your percentages is too high but then again he’s counting on quantity sales not quality sales.

      If you have problems figuring out your percentages, make an appointment with a good CPA. Pay them the $50 or $75 a hour for their time but you have to come to the meeting with good dollar information. This is well worth this expense. It’s an investment you’ll use over and over. Don’t try to guess at this. What you learn in that hour will amaze you (I know I do this with my clientele, I’m a retired CPA). Many people don’t want to know their percentages because deep down they know they aren’t charging enough. This is an important decision and makes the difference between deciding to be a hobby business or a real business. It’s time to get real and darn if that isn’t scary, even for me.

      Hope this helps.

  3. avatar

    Patricia Peters

    May 30, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I was recently approached by a friend opening a new gallery. It is very laid back -(an artists market every day). She was a store manager in a home accesories store for many years, and does all the displays, (Ican offer hints) and a 60-40 split. This was one of my goals when I moved here, and it gets a lot of traffic. My income has increased every month, and my name is getting out – I still refer to Etsy and Artfire sites, and a lot of word-of- mouth. My hobby is almost self supporting..

    • avatar

      Catherine Franz

      May 31, 2012 at 5:52 am

      Once you make a sale, it’s no longer a hobby. You cross the line into a business.

      • avatar

        Nancy Morris

        June 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

        You can make a sale and still be a hobby according to the IRS. You need to report the income on your 1040 line 21 as hobby income. You may deduct your expenses on schedule A up to the amount of your sale. You may not claim a loss.
        Your income is only a business if your intention is to make a profit. In that case you you complete a Schedule C for your business.
        All sales whether hobby or business is taxable income.

  4. avatar

    Sandi Kerkstra

    May 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Previously I set up a display in a hair salon. The owner was very open to the idea. I was required to provide a display case with a lock and they were going to show and recommend items to their customers. It was a giant flop. The display case ended up in a corner, where no one noticed it and none of the employees mentioned it to the customers. After 10 weeks I removed it. I learned that there has to be a perk for the employees to get involved.

    • avatar

      Catherine Franz

      May 31, 2012 at 5:51 am

      You’ve had a great, and painful, learning experience. I wouldn’t give up though. Find the answers to the 2 issues…location, location, location is a major key in selling. Always know where your display will be set it and you have to negotiate that it will ALWAYS be there. Think of some incentives for the staff to encourage your sale. This is a toughie; however, I’ve learned thru trial and error that they don’t like selling and only a few take an interest in upselling. This depends on the management as well as the people in the shop so that’s something that needs to be evaluated. Maybe figure out a percentage discount chart they can earn towards a jewelry purchase of yours. This worked in one shop but didn’t work in 3 others for me.

      Think about what you are setting in there and how often you change it up. Think about what and who is your target market for the type of jewelry you make and sell. These are basic business questions you MUST answer otherwise you are swimming the backstroke upstream and wasting valuable time and money. Artists, and you are one, have a difficult time coming up with percentages because they feel its always worth more than what the buyers feel its worth. I wrote an answer for the previous post, read that. Get real with being in business. Don’t play at it or guess at it. Hmm, I’m not assuming this either, you may aleady be doing this.

      If one salon doesn’t work, take the learning experience to another. I had to do 4 salon’s before I learned what I needed to know and the sales started coming in. A buddy of mine in another state, it took her 8 salons. Remember the motto, “if you first don’t succeed, try and try again. The KFC guy took his recipe all over the country and slept in his car for a long time. His success didn’t come over night and either was Rome built in a day. Know your expectations, they may be too high.

      Best wishes for the next salon!

  5. avatar

    Jan Copithorne

    May 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I tried a consignment shop 60/40 split, I had to provide my own display and after many months of not selling a thing, the owner said my prices were too high for her store. She was looking for items under $20.00 and then she not only wanted the 40% she wanted $25.00 a month rent for the display area, whether I sold anything or not. I pulled everything out.

  6. avatar


    May 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Hi Rose!
    I had an opportunity to sell my items at Pony Expresso (in my local town which is also very touristy due to us being so close to Yosemite National Park). I was very unhappy about it. They wanted a 60/40 split and couldn’t even straighten things when the jewelry was touched or the display got messed up. I was very upset. Talk about a bad match. My jewelry which is pretty high-end too didn’t sell at all there for the couple months I had it displayed. But who knows who really got to see it. It was all piled up when I returned. What makes these store owners think they should get 40% for just displaying? I don’t quite understand…. Not a good experience. Wish you lots of sales at the Yoga Studio! By the way – the whole block burned down where the little coffee shop was just a couple weeks ago, so Thank God I pulled my jewelry out when I did.

    • avatar


      May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Goodness! I’m so happy for you that you took your jewelry out of there, for several reasons!

      Thanks for the good wishes :)

  7. avatar

    Lynda Clardy

    May 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    You sure told it right,,,I put my Jewelry in a shop and never got it back or my money,,,so do be careful my fellow Jewelry Artist.

  8. avatar

    michael peck

    May 30, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Dolores and I sell our jewelry at a local art coop with a 70/30 split and do well. People shop there for OOAK pieces. We do regular shows there also.

  9. avatar


    May 31, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I have cases in several beauty salons that are all bringing in a good income each week. I started by making pieces that could all be sold for the same price for each case; a price I discussed with the owner to see what her clients could be expected pay – it is different at each shop. I filled a small case with 24 to 30 pieces, then I set the pricing such that all are easily divisible by 3. I get 2/3 of the total price per piece and the salesperson gets 1/3, a healthy commission that makes all of the employees try to sell the pieces, although only the designated “supervisor” at the time has a key to the case.
    I photographed each case and in the computer placed numbers on the photograph next to each piece. I attached a written inventory sheet and gave a copy to the salon owner and kept one for myself. Now they call me weekly and say “We sold pieces number 4, 11, 18, 19 and 22.” I make similar pieces to replace the sold ones and restock the case. I take a new photo and adjust the inventory sheet for them. Keeps me busy and solvent!

    • avatar


      May 31, 2012 at 8:48 am

      What a great setup you’ve got, Bernice! Thanks for sharing!

  10. avatar

    Vannie C.

    June 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I’ve also asked shop owners what would happen if something gets stolen or there is a fire and they all said they would shoulder no responsibility at all for loss of any kind. Does anyone have suggestions? If you have your own insurance I’m sure there is a deductible.

  11. avatar


    June 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I make Moderate to high end jewelry and I did consignment many years ago. Then a 14kt gold ring with tanzanite and paribe apatite was stolen from an unlocked display case and the store owner refused to take responsibility and refused to report the loss to her insurance company that did it for me. No more consignment. I only sell outright or by special order with 50% down on the final price of the piece. If they have not bought your stock outright most of them won’t cover you with their insurance and yours does not generally cover you if the jewelry is out of your hands. Just a word to be very careful who you are dealing with.

    • avatar

      Vannie C.

      June 6, 2012 at 9:38 am

      I also do mediation ~ and I would have taken that one to small claims court; that is, if you had proof that she was in possesion of the ring. I’m thinking, we, the jewelry making community should cooperatively design a consignment agreement/contract for clarity and outlining resposibilities of each party, like a partnership agreement(but not too awfully uptight and binding). Any legitimate business owner would welcome this type of clarity that avoids conflict later and possible court claims.

  12. avatar


    June 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    This discussion is valuable to me. I’ve only consigned once and it wasn’t satisfactory, but I’m getting ready to make a new effort with new knowledge. I was at a show and a woman asked me if I consign, so I said I did. She has a local salon and asked me to bring over some pieces. I took over about 20 pieces for her to look at and she wanted them all! Initially, she sold about one a month. Not great, but I was new to the whole consigning thing. Then it dwindled to nothing. I ended up taking everything out and do not consign there anymore, even though they have asked me to. They hang my jewelry from a bamboo pole over the counter, plus I found that the chemicals from the salon turned the sterling yellow very fast and, of course, they didn’t clean it.

    I’ve been to a few shops in my area as well as in other cities/states that I think could sell my designs. I’m planning to compose a letter and send some sample photos. I have a friend who did that and she got calls from those shops to set up an appointment. She now consigns at two shops that she approached that way. Any thoughts from anyone?

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