Frank andthe handspun woolRenting shelf space.

 (the advantages and the pitfalls)

By The Patchwork Cat at 'Made in Moray'.

It seems at the moment very fashionable, to have your handmade goodsThe Patchwork Cat

 sold and displayed in a shop that may well have been created especially for selling the work of others. 'shelf space' seems to have largely taken over from the more traditional craft shops that tend to charge a commission usually between 25% and 50% for looking after and selling your goods.


If you have any experience of renting shelf space that you would like to share, (either good or bad), please email me at: silvermoon@BTconnect.com and I will add it to this page


The idea sounds fine, but before you launch into this way of selling you need to know quite a lot about the particular business that you will be working with, what their ethics are, and if they have been in business for some time. You will also need to know Hand warmers from The Patchwork Cat in Moray

if they pay the people who rent shelf-space from them regularly and on time. the best way to do this is to ask around, craftworkers are a surprisingly close knit group, they tend to respect each other's work and pass on information about anything perceived as negative... We have found that this is the best way to find outlets, simply asking the advice of other craftworkers!

We have also drawn up a list of points (below) that you might like to think about before venturing into this field. To blunder in without enough knowledge is likely to cause problems of one sort or another before too very long....


 It is probable that the most important information once you have located an outlet in an area you are interested in, is to find out what sort of reputation the people running the shop have. It seems to us that renting out shelf space requires more of a relationship with the shop owner than perhaps putting a few items in on commission. So try to see what other people are saying about them before you do anything. Patchwork Throw from The Patchwork Cat in Moray


My second suggestion would probably be that you go and have a browse around the shop, without mentioning that your a craft worker, or that your 'casing the joint' so to speak. It is really important that you do this fairly anonymously at this point.

Things to particularly look for? does the place have a nice welcoming atmosphere? Is there a nice balance of goods in the shop or outlet? For example, not full of cards and very little in the way of actual crafts... are there too many items of the same thing, for example, lots of people putting in handbags or jewellery but little else that is interesting... not a good sign because it may put you in too much competition...that the shop gives the impression of a high class outlet selling genuine Art & Crafts...not a sale of work stall! (yes that is fine in its way but perhaps not right for you!) If they are not really discriminating in the goods that they take in. This makes for a less than interesting experience for the buying public.


Cashmere Cusions from The Patchwork Cat in MorayWhat is the standard of the work? Is it up to your own standards? Can you visualise your own goods alongside those in the shop looking good?


And here is another REALLY important point. Are the people who are in charge of the day-to-day running of the shop, and who set out the displays and deal with the customers, people who are craft-workers or artists themselves? and have learnt their marketing skills by experience? or are they just part of a larger business or charity that has ventured into this area?

This situation can be a real disaster, because the people who are running the shop get a salary or wage anyway... They have no really deep commitment to how the shop is presented or developed. There may be a whole bunch of people making decisions but no cohesion in the group....and however well-meaning they are, for the main part to them it is just another job!


Generally speaking people who own and run Art and Craft Shops are passionate about their own skills, their own creations and the skills and creations of fellow workers. This is simply missing in a shop that is run by for example office workers... And in fact it is often possible to sense this as soon as you enter the shop.

Usually these places will do well for the first year or so, and then will gradually fall into obscurity... And if you're not careful you could be part of that fall!

Always monitor how your goods are doing, and if you have your work for sale in more shops, then always compare the progress of all of them... This will very quickly show you the places you need to pull out of.

If you need advice about somewhere that you are considering as an outlet for your goods in our area...Ask the Patchwork Cat! you will receive a private reply from us.


Bags from The Patchwork Cat. MorayWhen you satisfied yourself on all these points, then you need to contact the owner and ask if you can have an appointment with them to discuss renting shelf space, and if they are a good outlet you may have to wait until there is space available to do so. If they appear to be interested, it is always good to have an iPad or tablet with you with a representative sample of your goods on it for them to scroll through, this gives them a 'feel' of the work that you do, and they will either be very enthusiastic or you will be able to tell that they are not really interested.

Don't take this personally! different places have different aims and criteria, and if you don't fit into their scheme of things they may prefer not to take your goods... Again I say don't take it personally it is only business after all!

Whatever you do DO NOT simply turn up with no appointment and with a car load of your goods and expect them to stop what they're doing and look at them there and then. Apart from being very rude. This is very annoying to anyone running a busy shop... believe me I know this from first hand experience of running and owning shops! Make an appointment and arrive on time.


Other than this, take samples of everything you would like to sell in their shop to your initial appointment, and don't be surprisedDreamcatchers from The Patchwork Cat in Moray if they look at them very thoroughly! This is a good thing. It means that they are responsible people and they want to keep the standard up in their shop too!


Now is the time to ask all the relevant questions such as...

What is your price range for space? in many shops these days it is actually 'virtual space', which means they can put your goods where they think they will look their best in amongst other goods rather than a specific shelf as such. Personally I think this is a good idea.


Do you charge commission as well as shelf space? (believe me, some cheeky owners do!!! I have even heard of some places charging VAT, even if you are not registered for vat... not sure if this is entirely legal!) if they do, you have to think very carefully about if this is going to be worth it to you or not taking into account all your own costs and how busy the shop is likely to be. Remember that this is Every Month!


Do you send a list every month to update me of my goods sold?  This is pretty essential or you won't know what you have left, or what you need to top up with. however, some wise shop owners that I know near Forres in Morayshire allow you to keep a box of a certain size with your name and number at the back of their premises, and keep topping it up, so that they can keep topping up your goods as they sell... an excellent idea!. This can make all the difference between a good deal and a bad deal on renting shelf space. Remember, wise shop owners rely heavily on the people who make stuff to sell in their shop, and will look after them and keep them happy... The ones who are not wise are not worth dealing with and will probably go bust anyway!


Felted Soap from The Patchwork Cat in MorayHow do you propose to pay me monthly and on what date? again essential to know as it is most likely these days that the money will be paid directly into your bank account. We find it is good to have some sort of contract with the owner, which lets us know what they expect of us and what we should expect of them. And we have found personally that treating the shop owners with respect goes a long way towards a good working relationship... after all, they don't HAVE to sell our