Artisans looking to increase their exposure and expand sales should take notice of a new approach being utilized by large retailers that have begun working with local craftspeople in order to generate sales by appealing to a customer base interested in unique items.

Says Marc Mastronardi of Macy’s “There is a fundamental shift to more personalized, customized, individualized content.”

Businesses such as Whole Foods, Macy’s, Nordstrom, William-Sonoma, Urban Outfitters, have begun seeking out and contracting with local artists in an attempt to tap into a clientele that pays attention to point-of-origin and who prefer supporting local producers. So far, the strategy is paying off with the Vice-President of Brand Marketing for the Williams-Sonoma subsidiary West Elm Abigail Jacobs citing revenue generation as “significant.”

In addition to driving new business to traditional retailers, artisans can receive a significant boost in exposure, as well as sales, by moving beyond the standard venues of local fairs, sporadic on-line ordering, or small niche boutiques.

Several of these partnerships have been brokered by the e-commerce website Etsy. In addition, to make the process easier and less convoluted, they have also standardized fees and updated terms of their agreements.

However, a close examination all aspects of a pairing with a large retailer must be conducted by the artists in order to make they are in position to handle increases in production and still remain profitable. In addition to being able to generate product to keep up with orders, greater overhead costs such as new packaging and labelling requirements, changes to shipping and return policies, and a need for insurance can complicate matters.

Nordstrom has already anticipated this and offers assistance to those requiring it, saying “As a large retailer, we recognize that sometimes smaller vendors may need additional support.” In some cases, the retailer may assume production, or offer assistance with packaging and shipping logistics; in others, the crafter may need to handle this by sub-contracting certain stages of production in order to meet demand. In evaluating the attendant conditions and issues, the artist should be able to accept or decline an offer without regret.


Simon, Ruth. Big Retailers Seek Small-Artist Touch, The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 26, 2015.