I have recently been working on finding new stockists to sell my cards and prints - a number of the responses I've had have asked to work on a Sale or Return basis and it got me thinking about the ups and downs of sending products without receiving upfront payment.
Sale or Return (SOR) does what it says on the tin, the idea being that you send a selection of work to a retailer or gallery who will sell the item on your behalf and pay you a percentage or agreed price if and when the product is sold...
Now, the optimist in me sees the benefits.
-It is better to have the work out there in the 'real world' than sitting in my studio.
-If things sell amazingly well the stockist may decide to make a wholesale order.
-There is the possibility of finding a great new customer base.
However, the more I think about it and the more experience I have the less keen I am to work on this basis.
By taking goods on an SOR basis, the stockists have no risk attached. There is a great deal of trust needed to hand over your work and rely on another person to dedicate their time to selling it - and notifying you once those sales have been made.
I can see that small and fledgling businesses do not have the budget for huge stock outlay but there must be a compromise. Small initial orders perhaps?
Some potential stockists have requested postal costs are paid by the supplier too, in essence charging the supplier (me) to send on a big box of no-risk-attached-freebies... Something in this doesn't sit well with me.
Talking of costs, there then comes the questions of liability for damaged goods and how to chase payment for stock should a company enter into financial difficulty. The Sale or Return agreement is huge and a complete minefield for the small business person.
There are echoes of the creative dilemmas of providing illustrations for the exposure or interning for the experience in Sale or Return. It's a fine balancing act.
Though it may seem as though I'm on a complete Sale or Return downer I'm not totally averse to working this way. And I'm not saying that Sale or Return cannot work. Some of my stockists and I do work on this basis. The ones who have committed to promoting my work and have already placed large or regular orders, or those who I genuinely have faith in and see working successfully and honestly with my peers... they are the exceptions.
Even in these cases I have decided to monitor my SOR stock much more closely, not because I don't believe these stockists aren't doing everything they can to make this situation work for both of us, but because ultimately the risk lies with me.
The Prince's Trust website has some good tips on Sale or Return here.
What have your experiences been? Have you made Sale or Return work for you?