The Disadvantages of Faire

disadvantages of faire

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been exploring the potential pros and cons of Faire (formerly Indigo Fair) here on the Lucky Break blog. Today I’m sharing some of the disadvantages as part of an ongoing blog series about emerging wholesale marketplaces. While there’s certainly a lot to love about working with this wholesale platform for artisans, there are notable disadvantages of Faire, too. I shared a few of those disadvantages in a previous blog, and I’m back with additional thoughts to help you determine if Faire is the right opportunity for your brand.

 

The Disadvantages of Faire

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I’m pleased to share that Max Rhodes, Faire’s CEO, graciously provided answers to a tidy list of queries I sent his way. In the final two blogs of this series, I’ll share his responses, my final thoughts, and the results of the Lucky Break community survey.

 

FAIRE FAVORS BUYERS ABOVE BRANDS

There’s a general feeling among many makers and product designers that retailers are getting the better deal when it comes to Faire. They enjoy generous ordering incentives, including free shipping, free returns on first orders from any brand, and $200 cash to spend when signing up through a brand’s Faire link.

 

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However, artisans often believe that they’re getting the shorter end of the stick. We’re enjoying an increase in exposure, but we’re also paying a princely sum (up to 28% of the order) for the privilege of being seen. Thankfully, we’re not saddled with the burden of product returns, though passing the baton to Faire on that front creates separate issues that are worth exploring.

 

SLUGGISH CUSTOMER SERVICE

I frequently hear criticism about slow responses from the Faire team, especially as it pertains to reviewing applications for new makers. Despite those rumbles of frustration, artisan satisfaction with Faire’s customer support team appears to increase exponentially once we gain acceptance onto the platform.

 

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What makers, designers and retail buyers love about Faire

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As part of my ongoing blog series about emerging wholesale marketplaces, I’m highlighting the benefits of Faire (formerly Indigo Fair). And there’s certainly a lot to love about working with this wholesale platform for artisans, from the perspectives of both a maker and a retailer. Faire has ambitiously harnessed technology to create advantages for all stakeholders in the world of wholesale, and I’m excited to dive in and share them with you.

 

WHAT ARTISANS LOVE ABOUT FAIRE

 

Product designers who set up shop on Faire praise the passive nature of the platform and the increased visibility among buyers. The application process is simple, the Faire team takes care of the onboarding logistics, and makers often enjoy an order within the first week. Because Faire charges no upfront fees, the marketplace involves little risk on behalf of the artisan. That’s a welcome relief to brand owners who’ve traditionally gambled thousands of dollars brands to exhibit at a single trade show.

 

Creative entrepreneurs often spend a sizable amount of time reaching out to stores off interest, never sure whether a specific buyer will appreciate their work or have the budget necessary to bring on new lines. Faire buyers shop at their convenience, which eliminates the guesswork for brands. If a boutique owner is on the Faire site, then they’re on the prowl for new products. Even when they aren’t present, brand owners are investing their energy into the 783 other facets of running a company that demand their daily attention.

 

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Faire has gathered eyeballs and buying power at record speed. As of early February 2019, the platform had vetted 19,271 retailers according to a post within their official Facebook community. That potential for exposure often translates to a respectable volume of orders, which helps to offset the higher-than-average commission structure. Brands currently pay as much as 28% of an opening order in fees on Faire.

 

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How to Sell on Faire

How to sell on faire

If you want to know how to sell on Faire, then you’ve come to the right place! This blog is part of an ongoing, deeply researched series about selling on Faire (formerly Indigo Fair). The first post, What is Faire?, detailed how Faire works, how much Faire charges, and what kinds of products Faire sells.

 

HOW TO SELL ON FAIRE

 

 

How to sell on Faire

 

In this installment of the series, I’m unpacking some of the nuances of the platform. Because Indigo Fair/ Faire is a rapidly evolving marketplace, it’s important to recognize that this data is accurate as of the time of publication. The Faire executive team is pioneering in spirit and ambitious in scope, so their efforts are an ever-changing experiment. It’s akin to building the runway as you fly the plane, but that’s to be expected when you’re- quite literally- trying to “reinvent wholesale.”

 

Getting started with Faire is deliciously straightforward. Whenever I speak to artisans within the Lucky Break community, the onboarding process is something that earns rave reviews. Co-founder Max Rhodes has often boasted about how easy it is to use Faire.

 

“Makers can apply to join Indigo Fair, and once accepted, they just send us their product catalogue to get their profile up and running. Most makers receive an order within a week, and they get paid as soon as they ship the goods.”

 

HOW ARE ORDERS RECEIVED THROUGH FAIRE?

 

Buyers shop through the Faire interface from a seamlessly curated selection of products that are chosen for them based on an algorithm that considers numerous factors. While only the Faire executives and the software development team fully understand the mechanics of the algorithm, we do have some clues about how the system works. The aesthetics of the shop and the frequency with which any particular brand is ordered factor into which products are displayed for any specific buyer.

 

Faire dispatches an email notification to the brand once a buyer places an order. Brand owners then log into the system to discover several options at their fingertips, including:

  • Accepting the order and selecting a ship date.
  • Editing the item availability to backorder an item.
  • Canceling the order.

 

Payment for orders is settled upon shipment. Because buyers often enjoy trade credit (commonly known as “net terms”) via Faire, brand owners can pay an additional 3% fee for immediate payment. If they choose to agree to net 30 terms to settle the invoice, then they can forego the additional 3% fee. In all instances, Faire guarantees payment even if the buyer defaults on their obligation.

 

HOW DOES SHIPPING WORK ON FAIRE?

Shopkeepers often enjoy free shipping on Faire, and I can confirm that there’s almost nothing that they cherish more than zero shipping fees. But who pays for that?

  • When you notify Faire that an order has shipped, you attach the tracking number for the parcel and notate the shipping cost. This has been the process since Faire’s launch.
  • Faire reimburses for the shipping fees alongside the settlement for the merchandise, according to the schedule you’ve selected. (Immediate payment for an additional 3% or settling the invoice in 30 days for no additional fee)
  • Faire passes the shipping charges on to the buyer unless the shopkeeper is taking advantage of a free shipping special. In that case, Faire absorbs the cost of shipping.
  • In February 2019, Faire rolled out an optional, automated process for printing shipping labels within the program.  This eliminates the need to manually input shipping costs and tracking numbers.  Swing by the Faire FAQ to read more about Faire’s new shipping program.

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What is Faire?- Formerly Indigo Fair

Indigo Fair

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If you haven’t yet heard of the Faire (formerly Indigo Fair) wholesale marketplace, then chances are that you soon will. Over the past few months, it seems that every other ad in my Instagram feed was a sponsored post for this new wholesale platform for makers. The messages have permeated Facebook too, encouraging both shop owners and product designers alike to dive in. But something happened in December of 2018 that essentially threw a lit match onto a waiting puddle of gasoline: Faire secured $100 million in venture capital funding.

 

That princely sum brings the total investment to $116 million. This gives Faire’s mission to reinvent the methodologies of wholesale a lot of oxygen for the burn. If the volume of emails I’ve received asking about Faire is any indication, then there’s tremendous interest within the artisan community. I’ve been exhaustively studying this wholesale marketplace for weeks, and I’m eager to spill all the tea to help you make an informed decision about the pros and cons of working with Faire.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF FAIRE (FORMERLY INDIGO FAIR)

Daniele Perito, Marcelo Cortes, and Max Rhodes originally met through their work as executives at Square. In January of 2017, they struck out on their own to launch Indigo Fair. The name was simplified to “Faire” after the established brand Fair Indigo filed suit for trademark infringement. Surprisingly, Indigo Fair never submitted a trademark application for their name. It was unlikely to win federal approval in light of Fair Indigo’s long-registered mark.

 

Describing the company as “Amazon for local retailers,” Max and his teammates realized that the antiquated wholesale model was overdue for an upgrade. There’s little debate that the means by which retailers connect with new brands has scarcely evolved in the last few decades, and it’s exciting to see someone take the reins of such an ambitious project.

 

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Faire quickly became the darling of venture capitalists, securing funding from prestigious partners like Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Sequoia Capital. This latest round of financing valued the company at $535 million… not bad for a business on the cusp of its second birthday! Headquartered in San Francisco, the tech world seems confident that Faire is on to something big. In December of 2018, Max Rhodes confirmed that “5,000 stores are actively buying on the Faire platform and 2,000 makers are fulfilling orders.”

 

HOW DOES FAIRE’S WHOLESALE MARKETPLACE WORK?

Interested artisans can apply to sell on Faire via a simple online application. The Faire team reviews each applicant before beginning an onboarding process for those who win approval. That’s one of the things makers appreciate most about working with the platform. Faire handles the lion’s share of onboarding tasks, using the product images, descriptions, and pricing information provided by brand owners.

 

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#LBCWantsToKnow >> August 2018: Wholesale

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#LBCWantsToKnow Wholesale

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of August, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about wholesale. If you’re serious about getting a foot in the door with shops for the all-important holiday season, then August is the month to make that happen!

 

What’s the one thing about wholesale that you wish you’d known when you started?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

whitneymanney: Net terms

 

bathedinglaze: The true cost of obtaining a retail customer versus wholesale customer.

 

mamasudsllc: How much I needed to raise my prices to make 💰

 

rockcreeksoaps: How important it is to build a relationship with my wholesale accounts and maintaining good contact and follow up with them. Also never be afraid to contact an account, they get busy, and won’t remember to order until it’s too late, and then they might shop around instead of stocking with you again!

 

standardwax: How hard it is to be nimble or make changes when you have 300 buyers counting on your consistency!

 

sassypantsdesign: Uhhh, Lucky Break! 👍💓🙏🏻🙌

 

MY THOUGHTS: These are some juuuuicy answers that had me nodding my head! I’ll weigh in quickly on each one.

 

  • Net terms can be immensely tricky for newer makers, and I’ve learned that 90% of problems can be prevented on the front end by communicating professionalism, having strong systems in place, and not shying away from things like checking references before extending credit and sending payment reminders when the due date passes. Many of us are uncomfortable with money discussions, but I’ve found that buyers follow the tone we set and we need to start of on strong footing… much easier than trying to prepare things on the back end. Also, not every brand owner is in a position to offer trade credit, though buyers love those who can!

 

  • The cost of obtaining a retail customer is generally higher than that of obtaining a wholesale customer, and the lifetime value (total dollars spent) by a wholesale customer is much, much higher. This is an often overlooked facet when clients ask me why on earth they’d sell their wares at “half the normal cost.” The fact is, selling at wholesale produces efficiencies in creation and shipment that drive costs lower, which means that it cost less to make and ship a wholesale product versus the same product sold at retail. So while you are selling at “half” ($24 retail, versus $12 wholesale), your profits aren’t exactly halved. Add in the higher customer acquisition cost and lower lifetime value of a retail customer, and wholesale looks more and more attractive.

 

  • It’s true that selling in wholesale means that you need to know your costs intimately. While you might be able to eek by in direct-to-consumer channels without knowing where every penny goes, wholesale won’t provide you that luxury. Lucky Break clients frequently engage me to help further their brand development and raise the bar on their visual presentation, increasing the quality of their value communication in the process.  The end result? You can charge more for your products and put wholesale within reach.

 

  • Wholesale buyers often tell me that we pursue them like lovers until we get that first order, then we vanish like ghosts. Regular followup is *essential*, which is why I recommend both group communication (vis a vis a quarterly wholesale email campaign) and individual communication (emailing the account individually to check on stock and see how you can help). Getting that first order is hard, but the second and third orders should be much, much easier. Don’t ghost your buyers and allow those accounts to shrivel. You’ve worked hard to get the seed into the ground, and regular watering will yield big results!

 

  • There’s an important pivot that happens when transitioning from hobby-business to business-business. The primary focus shifts from the making to the marketing and production, which can catch many product designers off guard. It’s awesome to have a robust lineup of stores carrying your work, but that also means that speed boat turns evolve into cruise ship turns, making change slower and more laborious. I think that’s why it’s so incredibly important to ensure that you’ve designed scale-able products, priced them correctly, and packaged them smartly from the get-go, though some evolution is expected and a natural part of business life.

 

 

What methods do you use to collect wholesale orders?
What do you love or loathe about them?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

soymuchbrighter@shopstockabl + my own standalone website 👍🏻

 

shopjanery: Since we’re a pet bed company, we use highly trained dogs to retrieve and deliver orders. Just kidding. 😁 I built a private portal within my Shopify site, using Locksmith to take online orders. However, I also accept orders by email, phone, order form, you name it. If they meet my minimums, I’ll take their order in whatever way is easiest for them!

 

saltwater_design: Order form, but most end up just emailing. I guess it’s one less step for them!

 

charliemadisonoriginals: I accept them by email. I’ve been struggling with figuring out a different option but haven’t found the perfect solution yet😉. I love @shopjanery’s Locksmith idea – I’ve been considering that too!

 

gavinluxe: Via email

 

sassypantsdesign: I’ve used order forms (various kinds, from simple to interactive) but most seem to prefer email, which is fine with me. My dream is to implement a separate wholesale ordering section on my website. It’s in the plans, after I get a mountain of other things done.

 

bougiequaintrelle: Website, email, or phone.

 

halfpintnaturals: I’m looking up Locksmith stat. I have a form that one shop uses out of the lot of them. Most email and call.

 

normalsoap: We currently get orders by email but would love a website as a part of Shopify for our customers to order directly from!

 

soapymomma: We take wholesale orders by phone, email, and through our website. After Etsy wholesale closed we added an app to the website that allows us to tag a customer as wholesale so that wholesale pricing is offered after our stockists have set up a wholesale account with us.

 

olivemyskin: Any way I can get them! What works best for all has been sending a blank order form with orders, then they fill it out for their next order, scan or take a phot and email to me. Working on a wholesale portal on the website. I don’t like phone orders though. Too much room for error.

 

MY THOUGHTS: I firmly believe that those brands that succeed in wholesale are the brands that make working with them painless and intuitive. That means understanding a buyer’s needs, establishing clear policies, supporting the stockist after the sale, and making the submission of those orders as easy as possible! Here’s a list of my preferred solutions (from most-desired to least)…

 

MOST PREFERABLE: A separate, wholesale-exclusive website with unique logins that you can assign and track. This allows you to tailor the entire experience to the wholesale buyer: displaying wholesale pricing, enabling ordering by the case, scaling shipping fees for larger orders, preventing checkout when cart totals fall below order minimums, previewing new collections before they hit the public eye, and providing a platform for the download of wholesale-specific marketing tools like shelf talkers.

 

An app that enables you to assign regular website users into a group of wholesale buyers. This enables online ordering, though it has its share of limitations. Essentially, you’re retro-fitting a retail site to work for wholesale buyers, as opposed to designing a wholesale experience from the ground up. Wholesale buyers log in to your website to see wholesale pricing.

 

Email. This is a convenient option for buyers that they can use 24 hours a day and it requires minimal investment on the front end from the brand owner. I appreciate that orders are written, which minimizes confusion.  Ideally, you offer a branded order form to buyers who can complete it and return it, further reducing the chance of errors.

 

LEAST PREFERABLE: Phone. Some buyers (especially those who are new to your line) just want to talk it out. If that’s the case, establishing regular office hours will help. If that’s not possible, aim to get back to buyers within 24 hours. In any scenario, it’s wise to summarily that order via email and receive confirmation that it’s correct before you begin production.

 

Each of these methods enables you to harvest orders from wholesale buyers who are already aware of your brand.  But what about those buyers who don’t yet know you exist? That’s where platforms like Faire (formerly Indigo Fair, Stockabl, and Wholesale Matchmaker come in! And I recommend that any brand that’s serious about wholesale invest significant energy into Instagram, as more and more buyers are using that platform to discover new brands.

 

 

Have you ever suffered through a wholesale nightmare?
What did you learn from the experience?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

bainamourbath: Had a client that would not pay for weeks and weeks until she was ready to place another order. Would come into my brick and mortar and treat my managers rudely. Needless to say, I sent her a divorce letter that she was not happy about. Although she bought a decent amount of product, sometimes it’s not worth the headache to deal with certain clients. I had to focus on who I wanted representing my brand and she was not it.

 

MY THOUGHTS: Amen and amen! There are some customers who aren’t worth having, and recognizing that is a powerful evolution. But if fifteen years as a full-time business owner have taught me anything, it’s that. I’ve gently dismissed wholesale buyers from my product-based brand (and consulting clients too, for that matter). It’s always a last resort for me, but some opportunities aren’t worth the stress they generate and time they consume. It’s important to have an arsenal of good customer negotiation skills and strategies at the ready and equally important to know when cutting your losses is the best available option.

 

This also hearkens back to something we’ve already touched on in this post: effectively managing trade credit accounts. I’ve learned that customers will get away with exactly what you allow them to get away with, some communicating that you’re a serious professional, establishing expectations, and drawing healthy parameters is key. It’s infinitely more challenging to fix these issues after they arrive than it is to prevent them from happening in the first place! With that in mind, remember that we train people how to treat us. 

 

What strategies do you use to promote your wholesale stockists
+ make them feel like partners?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

normalsoap: We try to show them new products when we have them. We try to treat them with free product they can use … and thus fall in love with. Just a few nice things we try to make them feel special. Don’t forget a holiday card thanking them and telling them you look forward to the new year!

 

MY THOUGHTS:Those are some stellar ideas, and there’s no shortage of things that we can do after the sale to help our buyers feel like partners, increasing the chance of reorders and long, fruitful relationships.  Some quick ideas…

 

  • Wholesale-exclusive newsletters delivered at least once per quarter

 

  • Hand-written “thank you” notes tucked into each order

 

  • If you create consumable products (body care, candles, soap, makeup, specialty foods, etc.): Including samples of other products in outbound orders

 

  • Offering marketing tools such a POP displays and shelf talkers to increase sell-through

 

  • Direct contact at least once every 8 weeks to check in on sales and see how you can help

 

  • Remembering your accounts at the holidays with a small gift

 

  • Promoting your wholesale partners via a store directory on your website and through social media “shout out’s”

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In September, we’re chatting about all things website.