I have been transitioning my business into the wholesale arena (away from retail shows) over the past two years. There is a huge difference between the two. I miss some of the simple interactions and casual conversations with retail customers. Wholesale shows are all about business and pace. A wholesale buyer comes into your booth (or just walks by) and you have about 5 seconds to give your elevator speech. It is a new challenge for me and one I am learning to embrace. I like like that you can travel lightly - you only have to bring a representation of your product line. A similarity between wholesale and retail shows is the trial and error trying to find the best shows to attend for your product line. This year I have attended a lot of wholesale shows; the New England Products Trade Show, Portland ME, Buyers Market of American Crafts,Philadelphia, PA, Boston Gift Show, Boston, MA, and Northeast Market Center, Hudson, MA. I will be attending New England Apparel Club, Marlborough, MA and New England Made, Sturbridge, MA. Next challenge - should I hire a Sales Rep?
- Boston Gift Show March 2012
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I have never been a fan of clothing/accessories with large logos/labels. I have no interest in being a walking advertisement. I do not understand why someone would want to wear clothing that graphically screams out the designers name. Although it bothers me less, I am also not a fan of the more subtle logos/labels that are also visible from the outside - like Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Coach.
So here lies my dilemma - to label or not to label, that is the question. When I started my company, Jack and Mary Designs I always sewed my labels on the inside of the garments. I was told by many people I should move them to the outside for name recognition and they also happen to be really cute. So, I started having them sewn on the outside. The other day I was at a wholesale show taking an order from a store owner.She asked me to model one of my hats. She gasped when she saw my label on the outside and stated that she would not place an order with me if I was one of those designers who place their labels on the outside - labels belong on the inside.
My labels are small - about 1/2 x 1.0 inch and colorful. I am not sure what to do so I decided to ask for feedback. Any opinions?
I participated in the Handmade section of the Boston gift Show.
This is a wholesale show that sells to the trade only - individuals who have stores, shops etc. When you apply to the show you sign up for a section to be with other "like" vendors. The three major sections are Handmade, New England and Manufactured.
I signed up for the Handmade area thinking everything was Handmade in America. In the Handmade section the products have to be handmade, but can be made anywhere. In the New England Section the products have to be from New England but not necessairily hand made. And the manufactured section speaks for itself...lots of $3 trinkets.
So back to me and the Handmade section. When you truly produce something hand made in America it takes time ($), in my case thoughtfulness and creativity. What I found in the Handmade section was companies selling Fair Trade products, made in India through US Reps. They were selling beautiful felted handbags for $10, lovely glass flower necklaces for $8 and Pashminas for $5 etc. My product line ranges from $6-24 and that is considered expensive when compared to Fair Trade. I still had a good show but wish I had done my Homework to better understand the different sections.
I have contacted the Boston Gift Show to encourage them to have a Handmade in New England section or Handmade in America. Or Better yet, Maine Made, America's Best.
I spent the weekend in Boston at the Boston Gift Wholesale Show. Boston was in full bloom - which is about a month early. Due to the un seasonally warm winter, spring is in the air and the flowers have arrived!
I have been trying to come up with a creative use for all of my sweater scraps. I tested out a few ideas and the Flower Pins won out. The Pins are made up of layers of petals made from sweaters, attached with a vintage button and and finished with an alligator clip.
They can be worn on just about anything - hats, scarves, headbands, purses, clothing, jackets, belts...to name just a few. They were received well at the show and were one of my best sellers. The $6 wholesale price point seems to work. The Flower Pins look great in a basket next to the check out area - An easy add-on and last minute purchase.
My business takes old thrift store sweaters, brings new live to them by creating new products. I guess you could call it recycling. I just do not feel like recycling is the right word for my products. The word recycling reminds me of a bin of plastic and glass bottles or a stack of old newspapers waiting to go to the redemption center. The new catch word for recycling is repurposed - as in; I take old sweaters and repurpose them into hats, mittens and headbands. Repurposed does sit well with me either.
So, I decided to throw it out there to Facebook to see what my friends thought. I received some great responses - reinvented, reincarnated and re-loved. I think all of the responses are great and look forward to working them into my media until the right one sticks. So thanks Margaux, Liz and Mary for helping me think outside the box.
My new tag line might read - Jack and Mary Accessories, artfully created from re-loved wool sweaters!
All good things must come to an end...sometimes. I have decided to stop making handbags and concentrate on my other women's accessories-scarves, mittens, fingerless mittens and flower pins. All of my handbags are on sale and are at least 50% off. Own a piece of history and buy a Jack and Mary Handbag today! www.jackandmaryhandbags.com