When should I go abroad to buy Beads and Findings?
As a Canadian wholesale bead store owner, you might want to dismiss everything I say. It is true I do have a bias. I would much rather you buy things from my bead store (www.stonesandfindings.com). I am going to try and set aside my bias and give you the benefit of my experience when I started to buy stones and findings abroad.
There are many good reasons to take the plunge and fly to foreign lands to look for jewellery supplies, I am going to limit this article to the business reasons for doing it. If you like travel and you love jewellery making and beading then pick a place where the two meet, book your tickets and set off on an adventure. If the decision to go travelling is a business decision then read on.
If you are a jewellery designer, at some point you have speculated that you can buy things much cheaper abroad and import them yourself. Remove the middle man and keep his cut for yourself. It is true. Every person you remove from the chain between you and the manufacturer reduces your cost. Here are some of the other good reasons to do it.
VARIETY- There is an infinite variety of shapes and materials to choose from. Local suppliers are limited by space, cost, and demand so they carry a much smaller selection than is available world wide. If you are starting to run out of ideas with what is available or you are not inspired by what you see locally maybe some more variety will spark your creativity and get you flowing again. If other designers with similar tastes are shopping at the same shops they may be producing jewellery that looks similar.
BARRIER TO ENTRY- You pour your heart and soul into designing a great necklace it is prominently displayed in the store and a week later the store across the way has something similar using the same components. By buying a key component from a small tribe in Madagascar that can only be accessed by canoe you ensure that your jewellery will never be copied. By using components that are not currently available in the local market you increase the distinctness of your jewellery and make it difficult for others to ride on your coat tails.
LARGE VOLUME- Hopefully you are at the point where people are buying your jewellery so fast that you are using up all of the local supply. Bead stores and wholesalers generally carry more variety than depth. Inventory is expensive. Businesses can’t have a lot of it sitting around waiting for the right buyer to come along.
BAD RELATIONSHIP WITH LOCAL WHOLESALE SUPPLIER- Bad relationships drain your energy and creativity, two things you absolutely need to design jewellery. Like any relationship you may have the odd squabble but if it affects your enthusiasm for jewellery making, then maybe it is time to look at your other options.
Your gut feeling is that you could save a lot of money by going on a trip. Don’t pack your bags just yet! This is a business decision so lets look at it rationally first. I am going to list out some of the costs and give 2 estimates of how much you will need to spend so that we get a range in the price.
| ||Roughing it.||I need a flush toilet.||I need my masseuse|
|Plane tickets – This obviously depends on where you are going.||$600 -Inside North America (You might be able to go slightly cheaper but it is a fair estimate.)||$1500 – World travelling (add an additional $500-$600 for each extra country.)||$4000 – First class doesn’t come cheap.|
|Hotel – You don’t want to go too cheap on this. Safety, ease of getting around, access to english, … need to be considered.||$420 – $60 per day 7 days||$1050 – $150 per day 7 days||$1750 – $250 per day 7 days|
|Meals- Depends on your tolerance. I am usually tired from a day of searching and opt for what is convenient. Some places inexpensive food is plentiful but toilets may not be.||$140 – $20 per day 7 days||$280 – $40 per day 7 days||$560 – $80 per day 7 days|
|Other – Cabs, Bus, tips, renting a hotel safe, presents for the kids, a museum, some fun,… It all adds up. This all depends on your resourcefulness and your tolerance for discomfort.||$150||$350||$700|
|Total – If my math is right.||$1310||$3180||$7010|
I had some other people look over this and they think I am being way too optimistic. I am pretty cheap, have a cast iron stomach and I am an experienced traveller. For a week long North-American trip I budget roughly $2000 depending on the cost of the flight. For a 2 week trip to an asian destination (Less than 2 weeks is tough.) I budget $4000.
What that means is unless you are spending $20,000+ per trip it is probably not going to save enough money to make it worth your while. Please take some time and go over things and let that number sink in. I am going to write 2 follow up articles, one for those of you who aren’t ready for a trip yet on “How to leverage your local Jewellery component supplier” and another for those who are ready to give it a try “How to make my first Buying trip Abroad a success.”.