If you have a product line, or are simply a fan of getting discounts on designer goods, then you have probably heard of Fab; the members-only website and mobile app that offers curated sales, featuring designers and manufacturers from around the world.
If you've never sold on Fab, but you're curious how the process works, well then we've got you covered. Many of our awesome Stitch customers have sold their creative wares on Fab, and in this post we're going to guide you through deciding on if Fab is right for you, how to prepare your self and your inventory, and what to expect throughout the process.
Determining if Selling through Fab is Right for You
Before entering into any major partnership (wholesale, consignment or daily-deals), you have to evaluate the risk and ROI (Return on Investment) to insure it's right for you and your business.
Speaking to Jess Moss of Hotline Design Ink - who also contributed to our SXSW CraftMakerCamp panel, Fab or Not: Do Discount Sites Help or Hurt Independent Makers? - she illustrated a very smart perspective on how she evaluated the opportunity, and made the decision to sell on Fab:
"Selling at craft shows can be hit or miss, and it almost seems like the more shows we do, the more flops are happening. With each show, your risk is depending upon the production company to organize and promote it well, where you're placed at the event, and [if it's outdoor] good weather. When it comes to Fab, their structured system makes me feel like they know what they're doing. That TRUST allowed us to feel confident there was very little risk."
"You know they have a solid brand. They know what they're doing. All of which is going to help mitigate your risk and allow you to move your product faster."
Continue reading on the next page: How to Get Started Selling on Fab »
How to Get Started Selling on Fab
In Hotline Design Ink's case, Fab contacted them directly, which is how its been a few of the other designers I've spoken to. That said, you can apply yourself, by submitting your line through their Partner contact form.
In either case, they're looking at your line before they contact you. They look at how you present yourself, and how & where you're selling your brand, so they can figure out where you fit with their sales. For example, if you have tshirts with cats & dogs on them, they may see you as a good fit to place you in their Pet Shop theme.
Jess' advice is, "Go to them when you have built a brand." She also remarked that if you do submit your line, and don't hear back from them, it's most likely because you're not a fit. C'est la vie!
Deciding on Inventory
Once you know you're going to be doing a sale with them, you need to determine what to sell, how much you need to make, and how much - if any - you may need to invest to be ready. You don't have much time to get this all figured out, either. Jess said, "After they've gotten in contact with you, they'll want to get you set up and have your sale running in 2-4 weeks. Essentially, they fill open slots as fast possible, so you have to be prepared."
One of the first questions you'll receive is "What can you provide us?" Deciding what you're willing to produce, and what you can manage within that time frame, will make or break your Fab sale.
Quantities and types of products differ for every seller, but Fab is flexible. You can offer up as many variations and product families as you’d like. Even if you only have limited quantities of a certain style or size, that’s ok!
Continue reading - Fab Paperwork: Crossing the T's and Dotting the I's »
Paperwork: Crossing the T's and Dotting the I's
In the process of determining what you want to provide for the sale, you'll be asked to fill out a mammoth spreadsheet, detailing out your items. This includes the basics, such as Item Name, MSRP, Description and Quantity/Sizes Available to Sell - to the ultra specifics, like the Material, Care Instructions, Dimensions and Shipping Weight, Country of Origin and Fulfillment Details (more on this below).
You'll submit descriptions for each of your products, but know that Fab will actually take your descriptions & rewrite them in their style. Therefore, when writing/submitting your descriptions to them, you may want to make sure you include all the keywords you can to help them describe the product. For example, instead of just a basic description, you may want to give them more colorful details around the techniques or materials you use, etc.
Once you've got all those details filled in (which can take a long time if you don't have your ducks in a row, or if it's your first time collecting all of that information!), Fab will double check that your numbers add up. Once that’s all set, they send you a contract to eSign, confirming your commitment to providing the stated inventory. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you will sell all of the inventory you’ve listed; the sale will determine that. It’s simply meant as a statement of purpose that all of the inventory you've agreed to put up for sale can and will be delivered as promised upon order. In other words, Fab is not responsible for any stock that doesn't sell.
Jess said she loves working with Fab, because she has one main rep there she communicates with all the time. "They respond to emails fast, usually less than 24 hours, and they'll even chat with you on the phone." Nothing like good client relationship management!
Continue reading on the next page: Show Me the Money »
Show Me the Money
Another extremely important factor in determining if a Fab sale is going to be worth it for you, is knowing what their profit-sharing/discount scale means for your business.
When reviewing the numbers, remember that your biggest cost - at least on the first sale you do through them - is going to be your time. Not just a few hours either; its entirely possible that you'll end up putting several DAYS into the communication, organization, inventory and project management, packaging, etc when it's all said and done.
The time aspect of running your own business is a topic I'm personally very passionate about. I've written a lot about how as creative small business owners we put our heart and soul into what we do, and how crucial it is to work smart and invest in systems that help you save time. Keep this in mind, not just for when you go to sell through Fab, but through all aspects of your business. As the old adage says: time is money.
Preparing for Cost of Production
Many business owners produce products on demand. When working with Fab, you must be sure you can provide what you've promised. This can get complicated if you're relying on other manufacturers (e.g. tshirt blanks) or services (e.g. factory production) to finish your product.
In Hotline Design Ink's case, they had to make an investment up-front, pre-ordering the blanks, to insure they wouldn’t run into any problems. Wisely, Jess contacted her supplier, and requested that they work with her to extend their standard 2-week return policy to 3-4 weeks. Turns out, after she placed the order, there was a shortage on one of the styles, so she was glad she did it that way to catch it before her sale went live!
Jess also warns: Don't try to do something you haven't done it before! There's too much potential for things to go wrong if you're trying to invent the wheel on a volatile, large-scale sales opportunity like this.
Continue reading on the next page: What to Expect on the Day of the Sale »
Day of the Sale
Every Fab seller receives access to an admin area (supplier website), where you can view your sales in real-time, and download a CSV file of the orders, to see exactly what's sold with sizes, etc. This is very helpful in terms of preparing what you need to make.
Fab is now launching sales twice a day, at 11am and 7pm, and doing pop-up shops which go online at 8am or 4pm. Hotline Design Ink's sale went out at 11am, and Jess said she was able to gauge what the end quantities would be based on that first day of sales.
Perks beyond the Fab sales
Every Fab seller is showcased with a photo, bio and link directly to your website. Jess said this resulted in the biggest hits their website has ever received. In fact, she said everything skyrocked: sales on their website, Facebook likes and they even received a few blog post features.
"Fab is all about supporting artists, not exploiting artists. That's who I want to be in business with. They're representing artists vs just selling you a booth."
Having your brand/website linked to from Fab.com will also increase your SEO!
Continue reading - Fulfillment: The Ins and Outs of Shipping Fab Orders »
Fulfillment: The Ins and Outs of Shipping Fab Orders
When you sign on to do a Fab sale, you determine how quickly each product will be sent to them. In Hotline Design Ink's case, Jess set it up so that each design had a different lead time, with the most popular shipping out earlier, and a little window for the next set. Nice to know you can set it on a per-product or per-design basis. That said, the lag time on receiving orders from Fab has been a challenge, so it's key that you know your limits and stick to the dates you've promised, if not earlier.
You also have two options for shipping. You can either choose to ship all of the orders yourself, or you can drop ship everything that's sold (tallied post sale) to Fab and they ship it out. There are pros and cons to each.
Shipping it all yourself can sound attractive, because you have full control over the packaging. That said, it's nice to know that if you do decide to drop ship it to Fab, they're happy to include small additional items, like a business card or a sticker, but it's probably best you attach it to each item prior to sending, just to be sure.
I’ve heard of sellers wanting to ship it themselves in order to receive the mailing addresses for all of the customers who have ordered, however utilizing that information to solicit other sales is strictly prohibited in Fab's Terms and Conditions, so don’t let that be your deciding factor.
The second option (drop shipping) is where you ship the entire order to Fab, for them to do the individual shipping. From everyone I've talked to, it seems pretty clear: If you're selling a lot of items, do drop ship. Here's how it works:
Less than 24 hrs later after your sale ends, you get a P.O. (Purchase Order) from Fab. At this point, it’s your job to get all of the ordered stock together and ready to ship to Fab. The beauty here is that they provide UPS labels for you, so you just have to give them the weight of the boxes you're shipping, they emailed you labels, and you tape them on and get them picked up or take them to a UPS shipping station.
As soon as Fab receives it, they go through the order, and if you're short or sent too much, they'll charge you for shipping anything back.
Keep in mind that, in either case, Fab does not disclose the email addresses of the customers who have purchased your products.
Once you receive the final P.O., send them an invoice. They'll send you a check within 15 days, as long as all the tracking has been submitted or Fab has received your product in full.
While not every item is returnable, Fab’s policy is to do everything they can (within reason) to make their members and design partners happy. Therefore, they request sellers with sizing (i.e. fashion) to fully support exchanges, and ask that returns be accepted on any defective/damaged/late products.
Continue reading: Formfire Glassworks and Hotline Design Ink's
First Fab Sale Experience »
Formfire Glassworks First Fab Sale Experience, and how Stitch helped
"When I finally got my full order from my Fab sale, I immediately added it [in Stitch]. I could see how many items I had waiting in stock, and how many I needed to create to fulfill the order. Having in all in one place, updated, has kept me sane through what would otherwise be a fairly overwhelming process due to the quantities involved. I'm sure that otherwise, I would be hidden in a pile of papers with tick-marks, trying desperately to keep track of all of it. Stitch Labs has been a lifesaver!"
- Amy Holms, Formfire Glassworks
Hotline Design Ink's First Fab Sale Experience
Hotline's sale was live for 72 hours in February. However, it was too late for Valentine's orders, and after Christmas season. They had 5 designs up for sale, 16 different items total, including tshirts, a baby doll tshirt, totebags, etc.
In the end, the sale was a success. Due to the volume of the orders, they were able to hire someone else to print them, and took that opportunity to make more stock while they were at it, so they still had tees on the shelf after fulfilling all those orders.
They made a substantial profit AND had stock for the next 4 months. Granted this profit isn't accounting for all the time they put into it, as the first sale you do with Fab will mostly serve as a huge learning experience more than anything.
"The biggest lesson was realizing what an excellent market test selling on Fab was for us."
"They have a sharing feature - kind of like Pinterest - so you can see how many people are talking about & sharing your products." By seeing who shared it, watching what blog posts were published, etc, Jess was able to see what designs/products were worth making in the future.
She said she also learned they need to include a size chart for their tees. "Sellers can submit up to 4 images per product, so next time, my last image will be a size chart."
What's Next for Hotline Design Ink?
Not all sellers will be called back to sell again, but when I talked to Jess, she said they've already been booked to do four more sales. They’re even doing a sale on Fab’s new Germany site. International, baby!
She also plans to pre-make everything next time, now that she is familiar with the process, and is confident the next few sales will make them a profit.
"If my time is valued down to the minute, in terms of what time I put into my company and how it will help my company, I will choose Fab every time. We want to grow our online presence, and brand, and Fab is helping us get there."
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