This post was part of a 2-part series. So for more on Faire, click over to our other article here.
I’ll be honest. When I first heard about Faire in early 2018, I was very skeptical.
My concerns were partly rational and partly emotional. Marketplaces are double-edged swords for makers -- they can be helpful, but the relationships that makers work so hard to build are assets of the marketplace, not of the makers. Which is a big problem when those marketplaces pivot or close. Plus, the founder of Faire is very… tech-y and Silicon Valley-y. And I was worried about whether he would really make the hard choices to put makers first.
Since then, we’ve learned a lot about Faire -- especially how it really works for most makers, and how makers can use Faire without getting burned. I still have many of the same bigger picture concerns as before. But the reality is that Faire is becoming a more significant option and tool for many makers, and we want to make sure we’re supporting our makers in using that tool effectively and wisely.
Our first stop in putting together this article was to ask makers we respect for their honest review of Faire, as well as their recommendations and tips for other makers. Today we’re sharing those reviews and tips, details on how Faire works for handmade lines, pros and cons, what makers should consider when deciding whether to use Faire, and how Faire and Wholesale In a Box can work together.
What is Faire and how does it work?
Faire is an online wholesale marketplace connecting product companies and stores. It was established in 2017 under the name Indigo Fair -- since changed to Faire because of a trademark issue -- and has been growing steadily since. It’s based in San Francisco, founded by a Square and Square Cash alum, and has raised a lot of venture capital since inception.
In terms of structure, it is similar to Etsy Wholesale. Makers apply to have a store on Faire, where their products are then uploaded, and stores are able to search and shop all of those products.
How does it work for makers?
You must first apply and be approved to become a maker on the platform.
Once you’ve been approved you’ll need to create your shop page, but Faire does offer to set that up for you if you give them access to your product information and images.
It doesn’t cost anything for the maker to join, but Faire takes a percentage from orders placed on the site. First time store orders have a steep 25% commission, while all reorders have a 15% commission. In addition, there is a 3% credit card fee on all orders.
Generally, makers need to message stores through Faire and don’t have access to store information directly.
Faire guides makers to conform to some guidelines, including a very low wholesale minimum and a specific wholesale markup.
One way a maker can avoid paying commission on orders is to direct stores to their shop page with a personal link. This is called the Elevate Program and is used for current stockists that have not placed an order with the maker through Faire. It’s an incentive program to get more stores ordering through the platform.
How is Faire different from Wholesale In a Box?
While both Wholesale In a Box and Faire are tools makers can use to grow their wholesale business, there are a few things that make the two tools very different.
Most concretely, Wholesale In a Box is a tool that helps makers take wholesale outreach into their own hands. Faire is a wholesale marketplace. That means that Wholesale In a Box is a more active approach -- that doesn’t work unless you work the system -- while Faire is more passive, and may land you orders without any effort on your part. It also means that with Wholesale In a Box, all of the relationships with stores are between you and the store, whereas with Faire, those relationships are owned and mediated by the platform.
Wholesale In a Box is more like your business website -- it’s a tool that may take a little more work on your part but ultimately it is all in your hands, with just a monthly fee, no commission, and the relationships being yours for the long term of the business. You can think of Wholesale In a Box as your store scout and wholesale coach. We dig deep into each maker’s goals and preferences and then we go to work each month, hand-picking a set of perfect-fit stores to contact. We load those store leads into a super-simple but super-powerful app you use to organize your outreach and relationships with those stores -- all of those outreach tasks are set up for you to make the absolute most of your time. Plus, makers have access to us for unlimited wholesale coaching by phone and email, which is why many makers say that Wholesale In a Box made them “go pro” with their business, improving everything from their operations to their line sheet to their marketing.
Finally -- and this is me being biased, but still -- I will say that I believe there is a different motivation and guiding ethos between Faire and Wholesale In a Box. Faire is a large company funded by venture capital, whereas Wholesale In a Box is a small family company. In fact, Wholesale In a Box wasn’t something we came up with as a business idea -- it grew out of hundreds of interviews and studio visits with makers, working to help them grow. We’ve never taken a cent of venture capital, so every decision we make is guided by one question: will this help makers do the work they love in a sustainable way?
What do makers say about Faire?
We reached out to several makers who have strong wholesale businesses and a lot of experience with Faire. They were both generous and honest in sharing their thoughts on Faire, in terms of its impact on their business and what they would recommend to other makers.
Dani from Dani Barbe
Many of the stores were ordering in December, some a week before Christmas, so it was definitely a different wholesale experience than I'm accustomed to. Usually I'm wrapping up wholesale orders with established stores in the fall. I liked that it didn't require much effort on my part, and was another tool to get wholesale orders.
Theresa from Boss Dotty Paper
I think there are a lot of pros to working with Faire, but I'd say the biggest one is the exposure to lots of different buyers — and types of buyers — than you might come across otherwise. I've received lots of orders from shops I never would have considered pitching to on my own.
Bill from West Park Creative
I don't mind Faire’s commission fees (25% on new orders and 15% on reorders) because I'm not spending money on advertising.
M in Tennessee
I've gotten a lot of new retailers through Faire, which is amazing, but they take 25% of my sales, which is high when my prices have already been cut in half. So far, I've been seeing Faire as a positive tool, but part of me also feels helpless because I don't have a robust enough retailer base to not use it. Faire requires no outreach or effort after you upload your catalog. Orders come in. you have little contact with the retailer or buyer, and your responsibility is solely to fulfill the order. There is no harm in signing up for Faire and see if it works for you -- are retailers finding you? Do you get consistent orders? For many, it will be worth it. For others, it won't be worth the percentage they are losing to Faire, especially if they have a decent amount of retailers who are ordering from them consistently. For many others, like me, it will be more of a balance -- does Faire supplement my wholesale income enough for me to continue using them?
Robyn from Pearl and Ivy Studio
It’s relatively easy for a new maker to set up. I find it to be easier than Etsy and I’m in front of a lot more prospective retailers than I could be by just reaching out to shops on my own. Also, Faire seems to be promoting the marketplace a lot at the moment, so I’ve noticed more traffic on my page. Faire’s commission percentage is kind of high, 25% on new orders and 15% on reorders. Also, I’m concerned about building a business on a platform that isn’t my own.
Stacey from Mineral and Matter
Most orders are small or only meet my minimum (I do have a lot that are larger though or reorder regularly.) The 25% first time order commission is high, but I feel it's offset by the ease of acquiring the new customer and the marketing that Faire is doing as well as offering services I can't offer (returns, terms.) The categories seem to be filling up quickly, but I'm sure new ways will be implemented that allow active sellers to get more visibility.
Pros and Cons of Faire for Handmade lines
Pros of using Faire:
Easy to use and easy to set up
Great opportunity for makers to get their brand in front of shops, especially those that they might not have considered for their line
Makers can gain stockists that they may have not reached out to on their own
They’re a large, venture capital funded company, with a lot of resources to develop the platform
Cons of using Faire:
Commission rates are quite high and are charged on every wholesale order, for every store, for the lifetime of that store relationship
The store accounts you don’t “go with you” if Faire changes or closes
Not building personal connections with stores
Things to consider when deciding whether to use Faire
If you’re deciding whether to try Faire to grow wholesale, especially as a handmade line, here are a few things to consider:
Dig into your numbers and make sure that Faire commissions will work for your business and products
Faire can be a great way for makers to get exposure, but Theresa from Boss Dotty Paper Co reminds makers to make sure it works for the specifics of your business: “You definitely have to consider whether it works for you financially, and potentially adjust your pricing.” With the high commission rates, it is important to really dig into your pricing before you get started on the platform.
Consider Faire in the context of your overall business and wholesale strategy -- not as a “one stop shop” for wholesale
It’s wise to view Faire as one wholesale tool among many, rather than as the entirety of your wholesale strategy. Stacey from Mineral and Matter suggests, “Don't put all your eggs in one wholesale basket, keep your own wholesale platform as well (flashbacks to Etsy Wholesale closing).”
Be strategic about how you use Faire
Stacey also suggests setting up “guidelines for how/who you refer to your Faire platform and who you refer to your regular wholesale platform” rather than using Faire for all of your wholesale relationships.
How, Why, and Whether To Use Faire and Wholesale In A Box Together
We also asked makers why use Wholesale In a Box and Faire and if they had any tips for using them together productively.
Here is what a few of them had to say:
Theresa from Boss Dotty Paper Co
To me, Faire and Wholesale in a Box are two very different companies, even though both aim to help you grow your wholesale program. Faire is a bit faster paced and has been higher volume for me, but Wholesale in a Box excels at helping you cultivate personal relationships with buyers. It's definitely possible to use both! I actually refer buyers to Faire in my Wholesale in a Box emails (via a custom link so I'm not charged commission).
Dani from Dani Barbe
Faire is nice because once you upload your pieces onto the site, you can mostly sit back and wait for orders. I think it's a nice additional tool in your wholesale tool belt, but I'd never recommend solely relying on Faire. It's similar to makers, such as myself, who were on Etsy Wholesale. When that platform closed, many makers felt lost. I look at Faire as providing nice filler orders that come in, but I don't depend on it.
When I use Wholesale in a Box, I direct buyers to my line sheets / catalog and my wholesale portion of my website. I prefer this because I'm not dealing with a 15% - 28% commission on orders. I can offer a more robust wholesale catalog, interact with the buyers, solve any issues that may arise, and really develop those relationships and reorders. It is more legwork and I'd be unlikely to do this without Wholesale In a Box's system and help. The research component of finding these gorgeous stores, making sure I actually know about their store and the owners (we've all gotten those spammy emails where it's obvious the person doesn't know a thing about our business!), and staying organized takes time and effort. In my opinion it is worth it, especially with the Wholesale In a Box system.
Stacey from Mineral and Matter
I think I get different customers from different efforts. Some have responded to my outreach on Faire, but mostly it has brought me stores that I hadn't reached out to yet. WIAB continues to be successful for me and I send all of those leads to my own wholesale website. Leads that don't respond after a couple attempts I may send to Faire and have had some success getting a couple orders that way.
M in Tennessee
Wholesale In a Box is about a community. It encourages you to network, explain who you are, and build relationships. I think it's possible for them to work together and supplement each other well. To me, connection is important, and Wholesale In a Box allows me to have connection to the stores I'd like to see my work in.
I have so much respect for the balanced, wise, grounded approach that these makers have when it comes to growing their businesses. And I hope that you find the right mix of tools to help you grow in just the way you want to, so you can do the work that you love now, and in the future.
Faire is a new tool, and it can be powerful. But ultimately, the relationships that create the foundation of your business are the main asset you have -- and it’s wise to cultivate those relationships in ways that are balanced and sustainable. That may mean using several wholesale platforms and tools simultaneously, and strategically.
Let us know if you have other questions about Faire or Wholesale In a Box! We’re happy to dig into your particular business goals and product line to help you explore the right strategy for you.