rothwoman stoneware

 
 

Stepping into the Wholesale Market

Hanging planters became a fad in the middle 1970’s. I rode the trend all the way up until it’s inevitable collapse a few years later. Thinking  sales could be made by going to stores directly,

I loaded some planters in my VW Beetle. At a rather fancy gift shop the buyer said,

“We only take crafts on consignment.”

I pointed to a row of clocks,

“Do you get those of consignment?”

“No,” she said, “They come from a manufacturer.”

“Well, I’m a manufacturer of ceramics.”

I left without a sale.

Los Angeles Gift Show, here comes The Rothwoman

The Pottery Barn opened their first store in Westwood, by UCLA. I drove over a dozen planters, just warm from the kiln. As I was negotiating a sale, soft pings emanated from one of the boxes. That’s the sound of a glaze not fitting the clay body. Without saying why, I took all the planters home and returned with fully inspected ones.

That turned out to be an ah ha moment. Jerry decided to design clay bodies with colorants mixed in, thus reducing the number of glazes we used, but offering many different color combinations. We one fired all the planters to reducing handling.

Taking time off to ride my horse, Christmas Cracker.

Having no seniority I couldn’t get a booth in any of the big halls at the Biltmore Hotel. A narrow room at the far end of a hall, and round a corner was my only option. How will buyers find me? This is an embarrassing mistake. 
The Show opened on Sunday. I wrote a couple of minimum opening orders. Monday came and in walked a woman dressed in a business suit, carrying a brief case. She looked at the planters, 
“How long is your delivery time?” she said.
“About six weeks.” I heard myself reply.
She wrote numbers on a form and handed it to me. Bamberger’s New Jersey was written in large lettering at the top.
“Three thousand dollars per order, and that will be for six stores,” she said.
Then added, “I’ll give you a ship by or cancel date, two months from now.”
“Thank you so much,” was the best response I could muster.
Only later did I learn Department Store Buyers had assistants who pre-screened exhibitors like me. Leading east coast stores wanted to carry the latest California crafts and journeyed to the Los Angeles Show looking for them. No wonder this buyer spent so little time in my cramped showroom. 

These twelve planters were design prototypes for this new wholesale line. There was no inventory. I called Jerry. He mumbled something. When I got back to the shop he was welding steel angle together. “You’ll need more ware carts,” he said, and flipped down the visor.

Next day my buyer returned.
“I’m going to put your planters in two additional stores,” she said.
The numbers rang in my head. That’s a total of twenty four thousand dollars. More like a year than two days, I remember thinking.

A fist full of orders and a time line to beat