Review of Faire – The Wholesale Marketplace Platform

Lela Barker

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…

  1. On a scale of 1-100, how pleased are you with your experience with Faire? The average answer was 72.
  2. On a scale of 1-100, how would you rate Faire’s responsiveness and customer service? The average score was 79.
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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.

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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.

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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) 

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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.

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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!

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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 is Faire wholesale?
• How to sell on Faire
• The Pros of Faire
• The Cons of Faire
• My interview with Max Rhodes, CEO of Faire

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.

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About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

15 responses on “Review of Faire – The Wholesale Marketplace Platform

  1. Jeanne Metzger

    I am contemplating purchasing from the artisans on Faire and am especially interested in how Faire is doing relating to retailers. Can you provide me some information based on your research and responses from retailers in your survey?

  2. Sharon Parker

    Sales reps beware..if you are representing companies that have opted to include Faire in their effort to increase sales, all your valuable account information, contact information becomes “faire” game! I have accounts telling me they are being aggressively pursued with offers of extended terms, free freight and product, etc.
    Faire is trying to become the “Amazon” of the wholesale world and it WILL effect you and your future! There is more to this situation than independent artisans trying to become known. The entire rep industry needs to pay attention!

  3. Colin

    Hi Lela,

    This is a well-researching piece – really appreciate the effort that went into it! I wanted to quickly point out that Tundra isn’t necessarily a copy-cat of Faire, but rather a marketplace with a different core business model. Whereas Faire charges commissions on each order, Tundra does not charge anything, regardless of whether it’s your first order or 100th. This means that the wholesale prices are lower on Tundra, which puts more money into the pockets of both stockists and brands. Tundra does not offer returns, however the vast majority of brands will have lower minimum order values on Tundra compared to Faire or wholesale marketplaces, which mitigates the risk of trying a new brand. If you are a savvy stockist and just want to buy direct from brands without the markups or commissions, give Tundra a shot.

    (Full disclosure – I work at Tundra)

    1. Suzy

      While this is true Tundra does charge advertising fees. They make it very difficult to get your store up and running without loading promotion credits. So you are paying for Tundra.

  4. Susanna Luck

    Hi Lela,

    Thank you very much for this piece. I’m just now considering joining Faire as a seller and this definitely gives me pause. Nearly 30% in commission fees isn’t manageable for my handmade goods and I’m glad to hear about some of the other negatives too, before committing.

  5. Simone

    With a 9% retailer response rate to your survey, I don’t see the relevance of your poll for me as a seller. Do buyers like using Faire as a website? What is in it for them?

    1. Lela Barker Post author

      Hi Simone,

      I’m happy to clarify. 17% of the survey respondents are storeowners. 9% of those are strictly shopkeepers while another 8% both create their own products (they’re makers/ artisans) and also keep a storefront for which they stock other products. I’m not sure if you find the survey more relevant given that approximately 1 in 5 respondents are buyers, but it might be helpful to keep in mind that my audience is primarily made of makers and artisans and I generally write for them.

      I did speak with buyers and attempt to bring their opinion of Faire to the table. You can read more about that in an earlier installment of my blog series about Faire. >> https://www.luckybreakconsulting.com/what-makers-designers-and-retail-buyers-love-about-faire/

  6. Marci Huston

    I have been using Faire as long as I have been in business which is less than 2 years. The reason I use them is because I can have access to a zillion different lines without having to set up a zillion different accounts and payment terms etc. What annoys me is they and their suppliers do not understand what a brokers function is. A broker is the middleman. So when there are problems we get to complain to the broker, and we do not want the suppliers to have direct access to us. What annoys me is all the individual emails and messages I get from the suppliers. I am using well over 500. If I want to talk to a supplier I will reach out to them. I do not want them contacting me and in fact I do not want them to have my contact information. Faire doesn’t understand how they get it, duh, it’s in their system. I also don’t want 500 different push email’s from Faire. I am only buying from the certain suppliers because they are on Faire. I don’t go direct to anyone anymore.
    When you allow direct access you are allowing the possibility of the vendor going around Faire to get another order, which is unethical. So these businesses that say they want to choose where their product goes is BS, they want the direct link, so then they do not have to pay the commission on the order. Faire generated that business relationship, they should get to keep it. Faire’s customer service sucks but I think that is because they are all inexperienced. I talk to them alot about different things that need to change especially with their accounting and order paperwork and tracking module. The actual order entry module is awesome. Better than most vendor websites. I have even offered to go there and show them on a computer what it is like from a customer s point of view. If there was another option with better back office functions I would jump. But for now I am hooked on the net 60 and all the vendors.

  7. Martha

    I ordered from Faire for our hospital gift shop about 18 months ago- items that arrived were thrown into a gigantic box with no filler, so when we unpacked the items they looked like they had been thrown. The items had price tags on them from someone else’s store, some were dirty, (foot prints), and lastly I tried to explain why I was dissatisfied, got no where and asked to be removed from their email list and it took until this past December to be removed. Not impressed, better to go through a sales rep who will have your back. If you want artisan items, contact the artist yourself.

  8. Rhonda Trent

    I would love to buy directly from vendors rather than a marketplace for wholesale buying, but try as I may, I can’t find them unless you know their company name, it is next to impossible to find artisans/small businesses that offer wholesale buying or they do not show up in google searches.

  9. Carolyn Perry

    Thank you for this information! As a seller, it has given me so much to think about before jumping right in to something like a Faire.

  10. Rhonda Green

    Black owned businesses is also racism. I am of mixed color and I do not purchase according to race. if you are going to call attention to this, you should also show white owned, Asian owned, Mexican owned, Jewish owned., etc. Why are you showing favoritism towards a persons race ?

    1. Lela Barker Post author

      Hi Rhonda,

      I’m not sure why this comment is popping up on a blog post that has nothing to do with race, but I’m happy to address your core concern.

      Lucky Break continually features and highlights the work of artisan brand owners across the spectrum of race, nationality, and creed. We always have, and we plan to continue that effort. This Instagram post from May 28, 2020 is one recent example of Lucky Break connecting readers to brands owned by women of color, indigenous women, and Asian women, too. >> https://www.instagram.com/p/CAv1_dDnKxJ/

      I’m honored to work alongside some of the most talented, most thoughtful product-based brand owners around… and there’s a delightful amount of diversity among the Lucky Break client community. We have made a more concerted effort of late to feature BIPOC brands, and I don’t apologize for that. I believe it’s important to amplify voices that have traditionally been marginalized, and I use the platforms I’ve cultivated through my own hard work to do that. You’ll see the faces of all sorts of women on my blog, in my newsletter, and on my social media. If that’s offensive, then I understand if you choose not to consume the free media my team and I work hard to produce. There are plenty of business consultants who stay safely in their comfort zone, and they might be more your cup of tea. If so, I wish you well in your search for a business mentor that meets your needs.

  11. Etienne

    Tried Faire as a retailer buying through their site. First order: totally messed up. Second order: never received. Tried contacting the vendor, tried contacting Faire. 2 months and still nothing. Cannot cancel the order because the “order is being fulfilled” somehow for the last 2 months.

    Stay away from them. Good idea, bad execution.

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