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Wholesaling 101 -   The reality of selling to stores.  Are you ready? | Alchemy Merch
November 06, 2020

Wholesaling 101 - The reality of selling to stores. Are you ready?

When you start a brand, the dream of getting into stores is often at the top of the list of goals and jumping into wholesale too early can cause more problems than it’s worth. Below are some tips and questions to ask yourself to determine if you are ready. There’s a big difference between a random wholesale account and making a push with your brand into retail.

Are you selling enough online consistently where you can afford taking a reduced price on inventory?
Wholesale pricing most often is 50% off of your retail price. If you are selling a pin for $10 online, a store may only want to pay $5.  You can move more product, quickly, which in turn can help fuel larger runs that reduce your cost and increase your margins.  But, can you afford to do it and still make enough money doing so?  Building direct sales through your online store or at events is key to establish first because if your store is supporting healthy margins through direct sales to customers, it's much easier to take a smaller amount in trade for a higher volume.

Are you capable of re-printing a design easily when you need to?
As you’ve probably learned, regardless of how much you try to attempt guessing the perfect inventory levels for product, it doesn't always work out perfectly. You should be at a point financially with the brand to be able to easily send a reprint order over to be made without it breaking the bank.  You need to be able to handle ordering quickly if a design gets low or sold out to fulfill the orders.

Do you have a solid group of proven designs to offer wholesale that have shown that they continue to sell well over time?
The best approach to wholesale when you start is to have a selected group of best sellers to offer. These should be the designs that tend to outsell all of the others. Whatever designs you choose, you are committing to keeping those in stock for a while.  In the clothing industry, it often goes by season, but if apparel accessories are what you sell, a store won't be happy to not be able to restock an item that is selling well for them.  When I was selling shirts, I'd have around 30 designs I committed to keeping in stock for the season, but allowed any store to buy from my current inventory of new products or items not listed in my catalog.

Are you in a position to be able to handle net 30?
Net 30 means they have 30 days to make payment from when they receive the order. Any new accounts, I require they give a credit card, but once a customer gets into the re-order status, they will be wanting net 30. If that creates a huge strain on your business cash flow, you may not be ready, because trust me, they will ask for it. I’d say that 90% of my stores are on net 30. Plus side of net 30 is that they usually send a check and you don’t lose 3+% on the transaction. If you do wholesale on a random one here, one there basis, you can probably get away with credit cards for payment. You shouldn’t be charging their card until their order ships. This isn’t your way to get funding to produce the order. They will not be happy if you charge their card and the order ships 3 weeks later. Not a good move.

Do you have the time to handle each account? 
Stores can take a good amount of time to maintain. As the number of stores goes up, so does your time devoted to them.  If you sell to small boutiques, get ready for fun times getting paid. When I used to sell to a bunch of boutiques, some paid quickly and others were like getting blood from a stone for $250. I would heavily suggest having a credit card on file for them. And, don’t expect that card to always run successfully. I’ve had declined cards more than I can keep count of because of cards running out of state often and you need to make the call and get it sorted out.  In my experience, small shops are not the greatest about on time payments and need to be reminded.

The dirty C word - Consignment
If you really want an account and are small, there’s a chance they will offer you consignment. Usually you can negotiate a higher draw since they aren’t putting any money out and you may be able to get 60% of retail instead of 50%. In my experience, consignment rarely works in a way that is worth it. You are not only putting stock that could be used better into a store that may sit unsold, but you are relying on their bookkeeping skills. You need to babysit a consignment account monthly. The very few times I have done consignment when I was a new brand, the only way it worked was by establishing terms and a trial period. For example, you can give the store 30-60 days to have the product on consignment and after that set time, you meet and evaluate if the store will purchase the products instead of consignment. If after 30 days, the store can’t decide, you need to pull your product if it isn’t selling through. If it was selling through, they’d want to buy it to make better margins. My feeling on shops that offer consignment or request it is that their stores will have a more scattered look as they will allow just about anything in to fill the space. This also means they most likely are not making a ton of money if they have to get free product and equates to headaches when it comes time to getting paid. 99% of the time, I would avoid consignment and 100% of the time I would avoid it if it’s not a local shop you can drive to to keep on top of.

What's the upside?
Wholesaling can be a great way to grow your business, but you need to be ready to do it in a way that doesn’t hinder your growth by spreading you too thin. I went from 3 to 100+ stores in 9 months and the growth was amazing, but also pushed me pretty far and pushed my credit card bills initially because I was pre-funding the production runs, knowing I'd get paid in 30-45 days. Growth and expansion cost money and the more coming in, the more that goes out in larger numbers with production, so you should evaluate where you are at financially and if you can handle the timeline of purchasing goods to produce and possible net 30 payment.  For a few years, our total sales were split about 50/50 between online direct sales and wholesale.  Having our products in stores also led to bumps directly to people in those areas.  They'd pick up a shirt and check us out on our site.  There is also the general marketing side of having more exposure for the brand.  More people will see your name and it can help that organic growth as a brand for recognition.  

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Washi Tape 101: A Sticky Situation | Alchemy Merch
October 23, 2020

Washi Tape 101: A Sticky Situation

Looking for a cute packaging solution or a fun accent for scrapbooking and paper crafts? Washi at your service! 

Washi tape is a light-weight masking tape originally popularized in Japan. It gained popularity with book crafters, but truly has a million uses, from gift wrapping to sewing (mark straight lines without leaving residue!) to even helping one of our employees cut perfectly straight bangs. 

Our washi tape comes in 10m long rolls, and in several widths- 10mm, 15mm, 20mm, 30mm, and 32mm (download the design templates here!) You can even get a customized label applied to the roll for extra presentation pizazz! 

With many products, different designs have to be priced separately even if they're ordered at the same time. Not so with washi! As long as they're all the same width, you can split an order into multiple designs, making it a very cost-effective product. 


Washi tape with silver foil! Foiling can be used alongside CMYK printing. 

We also offer foiled washi! Foiling is a method of applying a thin metallic layer to create a design. The set-up requirements and timeframe are a little different for foiled tape, since the process is a bit different.  

 

Washi Design Tips & Guidelines:

You can find templates for the different sizes of tape here!

CMYK (not foil)

1. Artwork ideally needs to be in vector (AI, for example) format or Photoshop/PSD. A super high quality png/tiff/jpg/pdf is okay too! 

2. If using a raster file format (PSD, jpg, tiff etc), please design the artwork at 400dpi when it is at the finished size. (If it's vector, no need to worry about resolution since it's infinitely scalable!) 

3. The repeat length for CMYK washi is 350mm. Make sure to pay attention to the ends of your artwork, since that's where the print will start over again.

4. The art needs a 1.5mm bleed on top and on bottom.  For example, if you want 20mm washi tape, design it at 23mm. Our templates have bleed lines marked out, so that's the easiest way to go (just be sure to put your art on a separate layer than the lines!) 

5. To be sure that the important parts of your design don't get cut off, we recommend keeping them all at least 1.5mm away from the cut line/3mm away from the outer bleed line. These lines are also marked in our template. No bleed of any sort is needed at the narrow edges of the tape, since the design will repeat. 

 

Foil Washi Tape

1. The resolution, file types and bleed size are the same as for CMYK washi, but the repeat length is 250mm instead of 350mm. 

2. Parts of the design that will be foiled need to be at least .15mm thick and need .3mm of breathing room between lines/foiled areas. When designing, try adding a 0.3mm stroke to the outside of your artwork that matches the background tone to give the foil enough space to print cleanly.

3. Please clearly mark which part of the design gets foil and what color foil you'd like (we have lots of options! Regular gold and silver have the fastest turn-around times.) 

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Stickers 101: Sticker? I hardly knew 'er! | Alchemy Merch
October 23, 2020

Stickers 101: Sticker? I hardly knew 'er!

Who doesn't love stickers!? Whether you're using them to spice up your packaging, as a free add-in to delight your customers, or selling them as products in their own right, stickers are an inexpensive way to snazz up your business!

Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Stickers

Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Stickers

At Alchemy we offer stickers in several styles - glossy and matte vinyl, clear, and hologram! Glossy vinyl is the most common, and the best for outdoor use. You can even make bumper stickers! 

Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Stickers

It's hard to beat hologram for sheer pizazz, though!

Alchemy Merch - Custom Holorgraphic Stickers


Alchemy Merch - Custom Holographic Stickers

We can also do kiss-cut sticker sheets- great for scrapbooking and other stationery needs!

Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Sticker Sheets


Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Sticker Sheets

Setting up art for stickers is super easy- we can use just about any high-resolution raster or vector file. So come on, let's get stickin'! Only have a jpeg or png file?  Send it on over.

All stickers come with UV protection and you can choose an EZ peel backing which is where the back paper has been scored to peel away easier.  

Alchemy Merch - Custom Vinyl Stickers

If you need stickers on a roll, we can do that too!  Roll stickers have a higher minimum of 1000, but get in touch with us for pricing.  If you need them for packaging, roll stickers can be the easiest option for use.

Alchemy Merch - Custom Sticker Rolls

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Pricing Your Merchandise 101: Basics for Retail and Wholesale | Alchemy Merch
October 15, 2020

Pricing Your Merchandise 101: Basics for Retail and Wholesale

After nearly 20 years running businesses, the one thing I have seen over and over again is people pricing their products too low.  When I was a young adult and thinking about starting a business, my dad told me that in order to make any money, you couldn't sell for less than 3x-4x your production cost at retail.  If you sold too low, you'd be setting yourself up for troubled times.

Why?  I have a very simplified example to help illustrate it.

Let's say your product cost you $5 to make.  If you sell that item for $10, all you really accomplished was to pay for the one you made and pay for one to replace the one you sold.  This creates a scenario where you are constantly chasing making any money.  Add in investing in some new items before all or at least half of the last product run is done and you can't pull any profits out of the business.

If you are making products for fun, if you make 100 and sell 100, you have some money in your pocket, but it's not a good model for really making money to support your endeavor.  

When it comes to wholesaling your merchandise, stores typically will pay what's often referred to as "keystone".  They want to pay you 1/2 of it's retail price.  In the above scenario, if you sold your product for $10 and a store wanted to buy them from you, they'd ask $5 (or less depending on volume).  You simply have no room to do anything.

Using this same $5 item to produce, if it was priced at $15, you'd make $10 on direct sales and could sell for $7.50 wholesale.  In wholesale scenarios, you will always make less than a direct sale, but it can be used to help you get your order quantities up that reduce your cost across the board and increase profits from your direct sales.

In a better situation, you'd be priced at $20 retail, allowing $10 wholesale, but I am using the 3x minimum to illustrate a point on the lowest you should be selling for.

Selling the $5 product at $15 breaks down into $5 to make it, $5 to replace it and $5 left over as money not already assigned to something.  This of course can go into new product development, or into your pocket as profit.  If selling for $20, that leaves $10 per sale in your pocket.  

At Alchemy Merch, we produce products below wholesale and on a whole different pricing model than a retail company will use.  This is why you can buy 200 gold 2 color hard enamel for $440 and sell them for $10-12 each to bring in $2000-$2400 on that initial investment and they provide really great margins.

There of course are plenty of pricing models you can use and some people will price at a premium and some will approach it from a discounters perspective, but if you are trying to make money from creating merchandise, you can't price too low or else you will keep running in circles forever. 

If you have interest in reading more about profit models, there are two books I'd highly suggest.

The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky - In this book, they use a mentor/mentee style to discuss and show 20+ examples of how companies price differently and it's a very interesting read to see all of the different ways people come about creating pricing tiers and their approaches.  

Profit First by by Mike Michalowicz - They take the "small plates" approach by having you break out your costs and income into various accounts that in turn show you better what you really have to work with and how to make better decisions and pull out profits.  This is a great one for people that are transitioning into full time with their business or getting close to it.

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Patches 101: Sew You Want to Make Patches... | Alchemy Merch
October 08, 2020

Patches 101: Sew You Want to Make Patches...

It's hard to beat a classic! From a scout's sash to a biker's jean jacket, patches are a great way to put your art, design or brand out into the world! We offer traditional embroidered patches as well as chenille (think, the fuzzy letter on a letterman jacket), woven, and even photo-printed options. All of our patches have an iron-activated adhesive backing, making it simple to apply the patch to fabric. 

 

Embroidered patches with twill background fabric and merrowed edges. 

 

Embroidered Patches:

Traditional embroidered patches can have a twill or felt background with your design rendered in embroidered thread, or the background can be covered in embroidery as well (a good option for designs where there's no clear "background" color.") They are dimensional, highly tactile, and absolutely classic. If the patch is a simple shape like a circle or rectangle, they can do a merrowed edge- a nice effect where the edge stitching wraps all the way around the patch- traditionally, almost all patches were made in simple shapes like these. These days, for more complex shapes, they can use the "hot cut" method, though we can still put stitching around the edge to mimic a merrowed-edge look. For best results, embroidered patches should have bold areas of solid colors (no gradients, shadows, or textures.) 



A close-up of the detail on a 100% embroidered patch.


A hot-cut embroidered patch with felt background. Felt isn't used often, but for the right design it can give a great unique look.

 

Woven Patches: 

Woven patches are created with a different manufacturing method, where the design is woven right into the fabric instead of embroidered on top. This results in a flat surface, which can hold smaller details than embroidery. Woven patches can still have an embroidered merrowed edge, if they are a simple shape. Woven patches also need areas of solid color without gradients or shadows, but those areas can be finer and smaller than with embroidery. 


A woven patch with merrowed edge

 


A woven patch with hot-cut edge and metallic gold thread. Detail like this would be tough to achieve cleanly in an embroidered patch.

 

Photo Transfer Patches:

With embroidered and woven patches, we have to have distinct blocks of color - no gradients, shadows, etc. But with a photo transfer patch, they can literally print just about any image directly onto the fabric!  A great option if your art simply won't work with the more traditional methods. 


A factory photo of a photo transfer patch (in this case, a painting rather than photo.) Just about anything can be printed onto a patch with this method!

 

Chenille Patches:

Chenille patches are similar to embroidered patches, but with one significant difference- they're fuzzy! With chenille, it can be easy for detail to get lost in the fluff, so we recommend very bold shapes for the best results. 


Fuzzy chenille sheep! The next best thing to the petting farm. 

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Keychains 101: 3 Ways to Key! | Alchemy Merch
October 07, 2020

Keychains 101: 3 Ways to Key!

Whether you use them to decorate a purse or backpack or actually use them to wrangle those darn car keys, keychains are a fun and affordable product to make! We offer enamel key chains as well as several styles of acrylic (including a new favorite- holographic!) 

 

Enamel Keychains

Enamel keychains are designed in the same manner as pins, but with an attachment loop for keyring hardware instead of a backing post. Hardware is included and comes in several styles, in both silver and gold. To check out the full pricing breakdown as well as hardware options, mosey on over to our enamel keychain FAQs here!

 

Acrylic Charm Keychains

These have been a real hit! Acrylic charms consist of either one later of acrylic board with an epoxy-covered image on top, or two layers of board with the image sandwiched in between. The image can be opaque or translucent, and the acrylic can have one of several holographic sparkle effects. We can even do glitter epoxy on the single-board ones! The hardware comes in several varieties, including the ever-popular heart and star shaped rings. Learn more about acrylic charms here! 

 

Iridescent Acrylic Keychains

Our newest offering, these keychains are laser-cut plastic with a layer of iridescent film that is absolutely gorgeous! They come in pink-toned or blue-toned. An optional epoxy top-coat can help keep the hologram from getting scratched with daily use (and we can even add glitter to it, if one layer of sparkle isn't enough!) You can find the iridescent charms here! 

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Acrylic Pins 101: A Clearly Awesome Pin Option | Alchemy Merch
October 07, 2020

Acrylic Pins 101: A Clearly Awesome Pin Option

From the people who brought you enamel pins and acrylic keychains comes our latest concoction: acrylic pins! (It was obvious, right?) 

Acrylic pins are a great option for art that may not be enamel-pin-friendly (gradients, small details, etc) or just for anyone looking for something new and unique to add to their offerings!

Like the charms, acrylic pins consist of either one layer of acrylic board with an epoxy-covered image on top, or two layers of board with the image sandwiched in between. 

 

 


An example of translucent printing.

The image can be opaque or translucent, and the acrylic can have one of several holographic sparkle effects, or a top layer of glitter epoxy! The background itself can be clear or white. 


Glitter epoxy!

The back of the pins features a safety-pin style clasp, which is more secure on this style of pin than the posts we use for enamel. 

 

Acrylic pins are great for art that might include small details, gradients, shadows, textures, or other elements that don't work well in enamel pins. We can use vector or raster files! For the best results, we recommend working at a nice large file size with a high resolution- aim for 300dpi and twice the size of the pin.  Most file types are ok including png(best if you need clear areas), jpeg, psd, vector ai or pdf, etc.  All art will be converted to cmyk for printing.

Check them out in the store.

If you'd like to keep an area as clear plastic, just leave it clear in your artwork.  If you'd like to use a translucent color, please make sure it is on it's own layer, or if sending a vector file, please let us know which color you'd like to be translucent

 

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Acrylic Charms 101: An Introduction to Acrylic Charm Keychains | Alchemy Merch
October 07, 2020

Acrylic Charms 101: An Introduction to Acrylic Charm Keychains

Looking for a lightweight keychain option, or perhaps something that works well with non-enamel-friendly art? We gotcha!



These acrylic charm keychains have been a real hit! Acrylic charms consist of either one layer of acrylic board with an epoxy-covered image on top (or on bottom, if you prefer the acrylic layer over the front and epoxy on back), or two layers of board with the image sandwiched in between. The image itself can be one-sided or two sided. 

The most common method is double board and two sided printing.


Board = A piece of plastic.


An example of translucent printing. This is actually an acrylic pin, which is another cool thing we can do with this manufacturing process!

The image can be opaque or translucent, and the acrylic can have one of several holographic sparkle effects. We can even do glitter epoxy on the single-board ones!


A double-sided print, single-board pin with glitter epoxy on the front and shard-holo acrylic on the back! The rainbow-gradient image accentuates the iridescent sparkle. 

The hardware comes in several varieties, including the ever-popular heart and star shaped rings. 


A double-sided, double-board charm with holo acrylic and a star keyring!

 

Most people opt for a clear background, but you can do white as well!

Acrylic charms are great for art that might include small details, gradients, shadows, textures, or other elements that don't work well in enamel pins. We can use vector or raster files! For the best results, we recommend working at a nice large file size with a high resolution- aim for 300dpi and twice the size of the finished keychain.  Most file types are ok including png(best if you need clear areas), jpeg, psd, vector ai or pdf, etc.  All art will be converted to cmyk for printing.

Want to take a closer look? Grab one of our acrylic charm sample packs! 

If you'd like to keep an area as clear plastic, just leave it clear in your artwork.  If you'd like to use a translucent color, please make sure it is on it's own layer, or if sending a vector file, please let us know which color you'd like to be translucent.  

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