1. MidnightUK

    MidnightUK

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    Jay
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    Following on from another persons post (I dont want to steal their thread) has anyone tried going large and instead of selling images to really big companies (such as say Hallmark) actually started their own smaller company selling to card shops etc? I dont mean the odd dozen locally, I mean on a more mass produced scale of thousands. I presume the competition would be quite intense?

    I remember there was (still is?) a photographer in Lyme Regis who had 2 shops entirely stocked with his animal images etc and the last time I went some years back, seemed to be doing a busy trade. I just assumed they sold across the country as well, as it looked a professional set up.

    I am curious what the chances of success would be, if financial backing were available?
     
  2. Kell

    Kell

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    A friend of mine set up her own greetings cards company a few years back (but with illustrations rather than photos).

    http://www.sweetingsgreetings.com/

    I know she left the company we both then worked for many years prior to join one of the bigger card companies (might have been hallmark, but I wouldn't swear to it) and hated it. I think she imagined this idyllic life where she was free to sketch to her heart's content, but said it was more time sensitive and pressurized than advertising.

    She then came back to our company before eventually setting up on her own.

    From what I gather, it's incredibly competitive these days - especially with the likes of Thortful, Moonpig, Funky Pigeon etc offering full customisability and slick websites.

    I'd certainly wish you luck if you went down that route.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
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  3. LongLensPhotography

    LongLensPhotography

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    I looked into it briefly a few years ago. The maths were tough. If you go for a simple A6 card it would retail around £1 for example with 50% - VAT going to you and from that you'd need to pay for printing which would have to be ordered in tens of thousands of each design to make it worthwhile. Folded cards retail for more but you have to then package them in plastic sleeves and print labels, etc which is time and money. It is doable but tough. Let's say you need to shift around 10,000 cards per month to make £2000. That's over 300 per day. How many outlets would you need to stock to meet such numbers?

    The bottom line is to do market research (do people buy enough cards in the target area? what competition is there? how do they respond to the design?), select a small number of popular designs to start with and find retail outlets with good footfall. Eventually it may all sell but it is the rate of sales you particularly concerned with because you need cashflow to keep going, and nobody likes to take up warehouse space. So maybe do a smaller test run even if print costs increase beyond profitability.

    My preferred route was to sell licence on RM basis and collect royalties per card (say 20p). Well that never worked out with the ones I talked to.

    Good luck if you go ahead with it.
     
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  4. Marcel

    Marcel Kim Jong Bod Staff Member Admin

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  5. HoppyUK

    HoppyUK

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    Richard
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  6. Jimmy_Lemon

    Jimmy_Lemon Spanko! Staff Member

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    I produce my own to sell myself (on my market stall and website) and have tried to work the numbers out for supplying them on a more "wholesale" basis and it is really hard to make the maths work out without putting in a big investment of time and cash.

    Most small gift/card shops work on a 240% mark-up (a handy nugget I learnt from a friend who runs a successful card and gift shop) so for them to sell a greetings card at £2 they aren't going to want to pay more than 83p. Out of that 83p you have to take the photo, design the card, get it printed, purchase an envelope, purchase a cellophane sleeve and then fold and pack the card. If you can do the photography, design, and packing yourself and order a fair chunk of cards you can just about make it work and maybe make 50p on each sale (if you don't pay yourself for the time of doing the design, packing etc....and packing takes forever!).

    You then have the fun of joining the competition and tyring to get shops to swap to your cards, as most already have someone. If you have some stunning local photos then you might stand a chance (for some reason the really big guys use really mediocre photos).

    The comes how to sell them, do you do mail order? do you create a website? do you have minimum orders? how to keep track of stock? how do you deliver them to the customer (if they are all local you can save a fortune and deliver them yourself, but that is more time). Do you register for VAT? Do you take payment on order or do you issue an invoice? Then add time at the end of the year for sorting out all the paperwork.

    After all that you have to allow the designs that just don't sell. I have some cards I really like that just have never done well so I have about 100 of them just sat on a shelf, so they are prett much just a straight loss.

    During all this you need time to go out and get more photos so you can update your range, but then you need to have sold enough cards to warrant another order from the printers because you have to do another large run to keep the price down, so you have to balance adding new designs and ordering more of what sells well. You then also get cards that sell well once and then for some reason stop being so popular so you can't just bulk load on those in case they end up on a shelf.

    None of this is different to any retail really, but you are just the one taking the risks and working on tiny margins. If you have a good product that you can shift a lot of and can get for the right price then sure it will work......but in the current climate nothing is guaranteed and I really don't know how many small shops are survivng at the moment.

    I learn the other say that Salmon (who were massive and had reps visiting card shops etc) have stopped publishing anything and are now just licensing their images - http://www.jsalmon.com/ - I'm not honesly sure if this is good or bad news. It obviously means it is working on a massive scale, but maybe it opens the doors for people like us doing it on a smaller scale.
     
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  7. MidnightUK

    MidnightUK

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    Jimmy, that was a really interesting post. Thanks lots for the time you put into writing it and the knowledge you have so kindly shared.

    I took a look at your web site (from your info page on TP)
    https://tomholmes.photography
    and there are some really good images on there.

    Thats a lot of different regional calenders to put together and send out!
     
  8. jerry12953

    jerry12953

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    Hi,

    Yes, I have been publishing postcards since about.....oooh.......1987!

    I started off very small scale, and at their peak (about 10/12 years ago) sales were roughly 130,000 per annum. Since then there has been a slow and steady decline such that last year they were about half this quantity. Much of what Jimmy Lemon says is true and he has very clearly pointed out many of the drawbacks involved in card publishing for the photographer, although I can't comment on the greetings card side of things as i don't do them.

    Referring to postcards again, the reasons for the decline are several.

    These days people just don't send so many postcards. Now it's just ......snap and send.......

    There was a BIG increase in postage rates about 8 years ago (IIRC) which I have no doubt was a big contributor to this. It now costs more to send the card then to actually buy it. I suspect many more cards now are bought and kept rather than sent.

    This would be relevant to greeting card sales as well - there has been a big decline in the number of outlets which are available to the photographer/ publisher. Most tourist information centres which i used to supply have either closed or are now situated in libraries which don't handle sales at all. The number of independent bookshops and gift shops also continues to go down; Places like WHS generally don't deal with small suppliers and if they do demand an extortionate mark-up. You wouldn't believe it.

    So there are a lot of negatives but there is one big positive - printing costs have come down. In recent years my unit cost has come down to the region of 3p or 4p each. The best way to do this is to find a printer who prints on a big sheet. Much of the expense in printing is setting up the machines, once they are running - and they run really fast - you are paying for little more than materials. That is with offset litho machines, which is what most printing is still done on, and the quality can be very good.

    I met one photographer whose cards are digitally printed which means that you don't need a big print-run to keep prices down. You can have them done in 10's if you want. This may be a way forward for you although when I've tried it the results haven't been very good. Maybe there are different machines which produce better results.

    Any more questions fire away although remember i only do postcards.:)
     
  9. Nod

    Nod Kronus

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    Speaking to a friend in Crete who sells (retailer not photographer) postcards, the market is all but dead. People just post on social media or send e-mails rather than postcards.
     

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