Review of Faire- The Wholesale Marketplace Platform
It’s the platform every maker and buyer is talking about, and I’m here to share my final review of Faire. Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring the Faire wholesale marketplace (formerly Indigo Fair) to help my community determine if they should apply to sell on the platform. The blog series has grown in size and scope as I dug deeper and deeper into the review of Indigo Fair/ Faire and analyzed the pros and cons of this emerging wholesale marketplace.
Review of Faire
I’m back with the seventh (!) and final installment of this series to share community reactions and my final thoughts regarding selling on Faire.
HOW DO PEOPLE FEEL ABOUT FAIRE?
Over four weeks, I invited both artisans and buyers who had experience with Faire to take part in a survey to collect feedback from this community and measure the results makers see on the platform. I received 91 responses: 83% of those were from artisans, 9% were from retailers, and 8% of respondents both bought and sold on Faire. You’ll note that I’ve summarized the findings of this survey in an infographic at the end of this post.
The majority of respondents have been selling on Faire for less than three months (39%). Another 34% have been on the wholesale marketplace for between 3-6 months, and just 3% have been on Faire for eighteen months or more. I asked those who completed the survey two key questions…
- On a scale of 1-100, how pleased are you with your experience with Faire? The average answer was 72.
- On a scale of 1-100, how would you rate Faire’s responsiveness and customer service? The average score was 79.
I was keenly interested in hearing directly from brand owners about the volume of orders on Faire. The vast majority (47%) receive between 1-4 orders per month. Another 29% of respondents receive between 5-9 orders per month, which means that 76% of all artisans on Faire receive nine orders or less per month. Interestingly, 1% of respondents receive 50+ orders per month!
Exactly half of all respondents (50%) received their first order on Faire within one week of going live on the platform. That’s quite impressive, and it’s easy to see why makers get hooked on Faire/ Indigo Fair so quickly. In total, 88% of Faire sellers closed an order within their first month, and just 2% are still waiting on their first order. That healthy dose of instant gratification makes me wonder if Faire tinkers with their algorithms to quickly deliver orders to new brands for the benefit of “seeding” the relationship.
As I mentioned in a previous blog about Indigo Fair, the Faire commission structure has evolved with the platform. Makers who are onboarding at present pay a 25% commission on first orders from any buyer, 15% commission on reorders from the same buyer, and an optional 3% fee for immediate payment (as opposed to waiting 30 days for invoice settlement). When I polled the Lucky Break community, 64% of respondents affirmed that they were under the current Faire fee structure, while 36% are grandfathered in under older (and more favorable) fee structures.
CRITICISM OF FAIRE
But not everyone is jumping on the Faire bandwagon, and even some who have hopped on have done so reluctantly. The majority of artisans that I spoke with had some reservations about Faire. Chief among those concerns is a mistrust of the constant tweaks and evolutions, a distaste for the expensive fee structure, and an uneasiness about how Faire handles returns. Several makers recalled how Faire initially sold their products without notifying them or requesting permission, and there was plenty of moaning about a lack of transparency or a dearth of information about how Faire works.
On the flipside, some makers heaped praise on Faire. They were grateful to have access to an additional revenue stream, pleased by Max Rhodes’ (CEO of Faire) willingness to listen to the Faire community, and encouraged by the results they’re seeing.
I can affirm that I’ve rarely seen my inbox as full as it’s been while working on this study of Faire. It seems that our community is as divided in their opinion of Faire as they are about modern politics, Thin Mints versus Samoas, and Jay-Z versus Kanye. (Jay-Z, duh)
SHOULD YOU SELL ON FAIRE?
Having combed through Google for information about Faire, read everything publicly available from Max Rhodes’ writing about the Faire/ Indigo platform, spoken with more than 100 retailers and artisans, and having interviewed the moderators of Faire’s unofficial Facebook community and Max himself, I wish I could neatly categorize my feelings about the platform. I’ve struggled with this for weeks, and I’m no closer to having a definitive answer about whether Faire is our savior or our nemesis than I was when I initiated my study of this wholesale marketplace.
In the end, I think Faire is both a mix of savior and nemesis. I’m excited by the results that some of my clients are seeing in the form of a steady stream of wholesale orders. And yet worried about the loss of control over their brands, the very real possibility of brand dilution, and the inherent vulnerability when we make someone’s else’s platform a primary focus of our business.
I’m thrilled that wholesale is coming into the twenty-first century and I love that retailers are being encouraged to discover new artisans. Yet I fear that many of the brands that I work with can’t sustain Faire’s high commission rates, and I wonder if those clients are cutting off their noses to spite their face.
I’m grateful that Faire makes it so easy to get started with them, but concerned because they also make it so very easy to return products. I imagine that in another couple of years, shopkeepers will expect brands to take returns, regardless of whether or not they found the products on Faire.
I’m thrilled that Faire is listening to the maker community, and simultaneously fearful that with $116 million worth of venture capital at their backs, there’s immense pressure to hit their growth targets, regardless of what’s best for local, independent designers and our community.
Proceed with caution, friends.
For better or worse, we’re here now. Faire is a reality, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. If the emergence of Tundra and other “me too” wholesale marketplaces is any indication, digitizing wholesale is the wave of the future.
I feel a bit like the grumpy old man in a disheveled bathrobe with tousled hair, waving a newspaper in the air as I yell “get off my lawn, kids!” when I talk about Faire. And while I cringe at that image, I can’t shake it. I can’t get running-through-the-sprinklers-in-my-bathing-suit excited about Faire, because I’m confident that there are long-term implications for artisans that most of us won’t welcome. But in my review of Faire, I also can’t deny that it works- at least in the moment- and this moment is all many of us are capable of focusing on.
1. Don’t put all your eggs in the Faire basket (or anyone’s basket, for that matter).
2. Use every means at your disposal to cultivate strong, direct relationships with retailers.
3. If you’re engineering a luxury brand, then reach out to Faire about their beta buy-back program to regain control of your returns.
4. Keep a sharp eye on your numbers to ensure that you can afford 25%-28% commissions on your products.
5. Enable direct wholesale ordering on your website, and offer special incentives (lower minimums, faster shipping, complimentary shipping over a certain threshold) to incentivize direct orders.
It’s not possible for me to offer a definitive “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to Faire, because each of our brands is in a different phase of growth, we have varying distribution objectives and unique profit margins. Do your research. Run your numbers. Avoid “group think” and decide what’s best for your individual brand.
No matter what you decide about Indigo Faire, I’ll be cheering you on!
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FAIRE WHOLESALE MARKETPLACE
I’ve been researching and writing about Faire (formerly Indigo Fair) for the past few months. I invite you to explore the rest of this series to learn more about Faire and determine if it’s the right opportunity for your brand!
What’s your take on Faire? Are they whip-smart evolutionists of the wholesale industry, opportunists who are reinventing wholesale with little regard for artisans, or something in between? I’d love to hear your experience and opinion! I hope you’ll drop a comment and add to the conversation.