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.
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.
HOW FAIRE STACKS UP TO TRADE SHOWS
Ask most brand owners about their level of excitement when it comes to investing $5,000-20,000 in a trade show, and you’ll likely elicit groans. Participating in these shows requires months of preparation and long days under fluorescent lights trying to catch the attention of exhausted buyers. Though shows have been a mainstay of the wholesale world for decades, social media has recently served to level the playing field by connecting buyers to brand owners twenty-four hours a day. Faire takes that one step further by offering buyers a one-stop-shop where they can browse new brands while enjoying a variety of compelling benefits.
For brands, the onboarding process is faster than getting a sales rep group up and running, and there’s no need to send samples, the cost of which can mount quickly when working with rep groups. Faire also earns gold stars for flexibility, too. A brand can pause orders at any time, enabling them to suspend their participation whenever leads times grow beyond reasonable time frames or a brand wants to take a vacation.
THE BENEFITS OF SELLING ON FAIRE CONTINUE AFTER AN ORDER IS RECEIVED
Once an order is received, brand owners enjoy streamlined communication with stockists, because Faire automatically notifies buyers that a shipment is incoming. When I speak to brands, they’ve raved about the clear reporting of payouts offered by Faire, and they enjoy seeing their conversion rates compared to others in their category, too.
Faire also enables smaller companies to offer benefits that were previously only accessible through larger brands, namely trade credit and free shipping. Brand owners are guaranteed payment, regardless of whether the buyer defaults on their payment obligations. That piece of mind is priceless to product designers who grow weary of chasing payments from boutique buyers who are slow to respond.
BRAND PROFILES ON THE FAIRE WHOLESALE MARKETPLACE
Each brand enjoys a profile page within the Faire website, and I thought you might enjoy a peek inside. Many thanks to Kara Brook of Waxing Kara, a longstanding member of the Lucky Break community, for generously offering her profile as an example.
1) The top information area of a brand profile indicates whether exclusivity is available via Faire Protection for the zip code where the buyer is registered. The display also includes the brand’s location and typical lead times.
2) A small icon indicates the total number of followers a brand has accumulated on Instagram.
3) Brands are invited to curate up to three collections of products, which offer buyers convenient, one-click ordering. These opening order bundles automatically meet a brand’s opening order minimum.
4) Product names, case pack sizes, wholesale pricing, and recommended retail price are visible for each product. (note: Wholesale pricing has been obscured in this screenshot to protect proprietary information.)
1) A brand’s collection may span several pages on the Faire website, depending on the size of the collection. Buyers simply hit the “next” button to scroll through a brand’s pages.
2) Other brands within the same category are displayed, essentially highlighting competitive products. While I understand the value of this feature for buyers, I have concerns about this feature from the vantage point of the brand owner. I’dd detail some of the disadvantages of Faire in my next blog, but this certainly makes the list.
1) Each brand owner has the opportunity to select a featured quote alongside 2) the owner’s headshot.
3) There’s a spot for more detailed information on a brand’s inspiration, history, and differentiation.
4) A “contact” button connects the maker and the buyer through Faire’s messaging system. It’s important to remember that Faire is an ever-evolving platform, and I’ve heard reports that early adopters to the system do have access to the email addresses of their buyers. The communication mechanisms for recently accepted brands is limited to this proprietary messaging system, which keeps all exchanges transacting through the Faire interface.
1) The “fact sheet” section offers at-a-glance, elegantly organized details about the brand, including the year of their launch, location of the nearest retailer, and any philanthropic collaborations.
2) This section includes a second mention of the total size of the brand’s Instagram audience, followed by the latest images from the brand’s feed. The lesson here? Instagram, reigns supreme as the primary social media platform of interest to modern buyers!
WHAT RETAILERS LOVE ABOUT FAIRE
From the vantage point of a buyer, there’s precious little not to love about Faire. Retailers enjoy products which are automatically selected for them based on “machine learning” via a proprietary algorithm designed by Faire. They can shop from the comfort of their couch, sparing themselves the exhaustion and expense typically associated with trade shows.
Retailers enjoy free shipping on their first order from any brand, and they can join Faire’s “Inside Program” to receive free shipping on all orders for less than $30 per month. Buyers have the option to return any unsold product within sixty days, which is virtually unheard of in the world of wholesale! This frees up their cash flow, enabling them to bring on new collections with minimal risk.
Shop owners also enjoy generous trade credit. Angie of bobo design studio used Faire to stock her pop-up shop in San Jose, CA. Soon after being accepted onto the platform, she noticed that she had the option to order on net 60 terms, and she was happy to take Faire up on the offer. Angie didn’t need to apply for credit and was pre-approved for up to $1600 in purchases. Fueled by more than $100,000,000 in venture capital, Faire seems to be bullish in their outlook and willing to accept a sizable amount of financial risk.
If a brand chooses to participate in the Faire Protection program, then buyers enjoy zip code exclusivity for the product lines they carry. Thanks to integrations with both Shopify and Square, the merchandise they order through the Faire interface is automatically integrated into their inventory, saving them heaps of time and streamlining operations.
The icing on the cake? New buyers receive a $200 credit when they join Faire through the Elevate Program. Brand owners are invited to refer their existing stockists to the marketplace, and shops automatically receive the credit upon joining. Brands are motivated to invite their favorite retailers to sign up in exchange for 0% lifetime commission on orders from that buyer. Elevate is essentially an affiliate program on a massive scale, and it was responsible for fueling much of Faire’s growth in 2018.
A BUYER’S EXPERIENCE WITH FAIRE
For the last six months, my daughter has enjoyed working at an artisan market in our hometown. Kathy launched The Ballog‘s original location in 2015 within the community of Serenbe, just south of Atlanta. In late 2018, she opened a second location in Alpharetta’s new City Center development alongside her daughters Kelsey and Lindsay. Both shops offer a tightly curated collection of artisan brands with an emphasis on companies which incorporate social good into their mission. I asked Kelsey to weigh in with her experience using Faire from a buyer’s perspective.
What’s your favorite part of working with Faire?
KELSEY: Faire makes it so easy to find new makers and products to keep inventory fresh in the shop! It is also very convenient to go to one place and be able to order from multiple vendors, and we enjoy the one-stop shop concept. They also offer a Net 60 payment terms. That’s a nice option for small businesses.
What features or programs would you like to see Faire introduce?
KELSEY: We actually have two locations. We’d love a feature enabling us to place multiple orders at one time from the same vendor, specifying different shipping addresses.
Has Faire influenced the way you curate merchandise for the store?
KELSEY: Faire has made it much easier to find new merchandise, which makes the process of curating products more accessible. We no longer have to blindly search for specific needs on the internet or wait for the next big (and often overwhelming) trade show! I can search for new lines or products that I know will fit our mission and aesthetic from the comfort of my own office. They also offer 60-day returns, which is a nice option if we want to try a new line. If it doesn’t move, then we aren’t committed to carrying it!
The Ballog offers a tightly curated collection of apparel, jewelry, stationery, housewares, and body care.
As a buyer, do you have any concerns using the Faire platform?
KELSEY: We love knowing our makers, so my only concern is losing that personal touch of emailing directly with the maker. Although Faire does have the “contact maker” feature, so it’s not 100% lost!
DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH FAIRE?
This blog is the third in a series about Indigo Fair/ Faire. As this blog series continues, I’ll explore:
- What is Faire?
- How to sell on Faire.
- My primary concerns and the disadvantages of working with Faire.
- How makers in the Lucky Break community feel about their experiences with Faire, plus 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.