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.
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.
Universally, buyers enjoy free shipping on their first order, and shopkeepers enrolled in the “Insider” program enjoy free shipping on every order. What’s the Insider program all about? I’m glad you asked.
THE INSIDER PROGRAM
Faire’s Insider is a recently released program that appears to be in beta testing, currently enrolled by invitation only.
For $29.99 a month, buyers enjoy free shipping on all orders, early access to new products (which increases the chances of locking in zip code protection- more on that in a bit), and free returns on every order. This program is likely to be widely embraced by retailers who frequently use Faire to stock their shelves. Buyers can cancel at any time, and the free shipping offer applies to every artisan on the platform.
HOW DO RETURNS WORK ON FAIRE?
If there’s anything that makes buyers happier than free shipping, it’s free returns. While returns are a rare unicorn in the world of wholesale, Faire is determined to change the paradigm. They’ll accept returns on unsold merchandise within sixty days of receipt. That allows boutique buyers to bring on new product collections with minimal risk, which has long been a thorn in the side of retailers. Offering this option is likely why Faire has accumulated so much wind in its sails in a surprisingly short period of time.
According to Faire’s return policy:
“When a retailer orders just a bit too much, we promote those items for 48 hours to other retailers through our Maker Market. This promotion is offered because the retailer doesn’t have the ability to curate the order like they do when they order directly from your page. (Note from Lela: This essentially means that they buy the returned product from any one brand as a lot of pre-selected merchandise.)
We will also redistribute returned items to other Faire retailers in our no-minimums section called the Sample Shoppe. Our retailers use this category to try new products before placing a full order with the maker. Items offered in the Sample Shoppe are first inspected by hand to ensure everything is in mint condition. We’ll only redistribute perfect representations of your brand.”
While retailers love Faire’s generous return policy, it’s been a sticking point for artisans. I applaud Faire for absorbing the returns, facilitating their shipment back to Faire and their redistribution to other shopkeepers. But not everything is rosy in Return Land. I admit to having grave concerns about the long-term impact of this return policy for those who wholesale their products both on and off Faire. I’ll elaborate more in a later post in this series.
THE CHALLENGES OF FAIRE’S RETURN POLICY
Brand owners frequently grumble about not knowing when their products are returned, and they worry about losing control over which shops ultimately receive returned merchandise. They never see the orders for this returned product, so there’s no opportunity to reject a shop who orders it. That sometimes creates anxiety for savvy makers who worry about brand erosion or misalignment. Faire also accepts returns of personal care products, which makes me a bit twitchy. Body care products are uniquely vulnerable to contamination, and they’re perishable, too.
I imagine that Faire’s intentions are admirable, and I have no doubt that they’re sincerely seeking to resolve a longstanding issue for retailers. But the mechanics are tricky, and I anticipate that Faire will continue to evolve and iron out the wrinkles in this regard.
Julia Gold of Whispering Willow was an early adopter, selling via Faire since 2017. She also serves as a moderator for an unofficial Facebook group for makers who sell via the platform. When we spoke recently, she mentioned that Faire is beta-testing a new buyback program for makers who are uncomfortable with the current policy. This new program would transition the responsibility for returns back to artisans if they elect to participate. Brands will accept their own returns and maintain full control over them, though they’ll be responsible for refunding buyers for returned merchandise.
THE ELEVATE PROGRAM
Another way to sell on Faire is through Elevate, one of the most popular programs within the platform, which Max Rhodes credits for much of their recent growth.
At its core, Elevate is a referral program, enabling artisans to evangelize Faire to their current accounts with some attractive mutual benefits.
Brands enjoy 0% commission when their current stockists order via the Faire interface. This allows them to concentrate their wholesale ordering in one central spot. However, this is a double-edged sword that I’ll unpack in the next blog in this series.
Buyers love the Elevate program because it essentially translates to free money for them. Buyers who use your link to join the program and place their first order earn a $200 credit. Worth noting: the credit was recently increased from $100 as of mid-February 2019.
Though the offer may seem “too good to be true,” the math actually works in Faire’s favor. Even when offering a $200 credit to new shops via Elevate, Faire recoups that money once any single shop orders $800 worth of product. Brands pay a 25% commission rate anytime a new shop places an order for their product. If Faire can get a foothold into a brick and mortar store, they’re likely to order thousands in merchandise annually through the marketplace. That makes the $200 credit a safe bet for Faire and an intoxicating incentive for retailers.
THE FAIRE PROTECTION PROGRAM
It’s deeply problematic if the shop down the street carries much of the same merchandise you offer. Diversity is key to avoid market cannibalization, ensuring success for both makers and shopkeepers. The newly launched Faire Protection program is the platform’s answer to exclusivity concerns from its retailers.
“The first retailer to order from the brand will have a 90-day exclusivity for the zip code their shop is located. For example, if I’m ordering from the zip 94611, and another retailer wants to order from your brand from the same zip code, they’d get the zip code protection message. This helps ensure that your products aren’t sold too closely together. If the retailer doesn’t reorder from you within 90 days, then they forfeit zip code protection and another retailer can order.”
While I admire that Faire is tackling the pitfalls of wholesale from the perspective of a buyer, the mechanics of product exclusivity can get a bit tricky when automated. I’ll dive deeper into some of the drawbacks of Faire (including this exclusivity program) in a future post.
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH FAIRE?
This blog is the second in a series about Indigo Fair/ Faire. Precious little has been written about the platform. The exception? Faire writing about themselves or articles announcing how much VC money they’ve secured. I’ve been gathering feedback from current users about their experience with Faire. I’d be most grateful if you lent your voice to the effort, too. Take my quick, 5-minute survey and then keep an eye on this blog to hear feedback from our community.
As this blog series continues, I’ll explore:
- What is Faire?
- Why many brand owners find Faire to be so compelling.
- Some of the primary concerns, disadvantages, and missteps of working with Faire.
- How makers in the Lucky Break community feel about their experiences with Faire.
- The hard data about how much and how often they’re selling.
What questions do you have about selling wholesale on Faire? Drop them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to answer them either in the comments or in another installment of this blog series!