While Etsy Wholesale, which launched in 2014 and closed four years later, may have been the first online wholesaler for small businesses, Faire is the largest online B2B marketplace and has been valued at more than $12 billion. Launched in 2017, Faire was built around the concept that “the future of retail is local” and was founded by four former colleagues at Square: Marcelo Cortes, Jeff Kolovson, Daniele Perito, and Max Rhodes. Over the past five years, the Faire marketplace has grown to include 600,000 independent retail accounts in Australia, Europe, and North America and 85,000 independent sellers, or brands. Though the company declined to provide data on how many bookstores and book publishers use its platform, anecdotal evidence suggests that the number is growing.

In part, that’s because more booksellers began buying gift products on Faire and publishers began selling on the online wholesaler with the outbreak of Covid-19, when much of the book business moved online. In addition to its easy-to-navigate web catalog, Faire began holding virtual trade shows in summer 2020, which helped push it to the top of Fast Company’s list of the 10 most innovative retail companies of 2022. Faire also earned a spot on Fast Company’s 2022 list of the 50 most innovative companies. Last summer’s trade show drew 50,000 retailers and resulted in more than 270,000 orders for 2.5 million products.

At this point, booksellers aren’t opening accounts with Faire to buy books, or even to take advantage of one of the online wholesaler’s most popular categories, “Not sold on Amazon.” Instead, one of Faire’s biggest attractions for buyers is its listings for items that aren’t available in other stores in their areas. Other incentives include 60-day payment terms, free returns, and a program that extends up to $20,000 in credit with no interest or application fees for retailers opening new businesses or store locations. U.S. bookstores that participate in Insider, Faire’s monthly paid membership program, get free shipping on select U.S. brands, as well as early access to Faire’s virtual trade shows and new brands on the site.

At a session for new booksellers held at NEIBA’s Fall Conference in Providence, R.I., Emily Russo, co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine, said that any bookstore that is not on Faire should be. Her store has been using Faire since March 2017, before the company went public. That’s because Russo’s business partner, store cofounder Josh Christie, learned about the platform from a childhood friend, who was a colleague of Faire cofounder and CEO Rhodes.

At the time, Print was already buying gift items online from Etsy Wholesale. “Like Ingram and Bookazine,” Christie said, “the biggest benefit of a sideline wholesaler is a central place for ordering, reorders, and billing.” He also likes how Faire’s interface has “easily browsable” categories and product images, and its large vendor base. “I can find products that fit our community and aren’t in many other bookstores. My consistent fear with vendors and reps that work with the regionals and ABA is that I’ll be bringing in products that are already in a ton of independent stores.”

Print’s biggest purchases on Faire are stationery, candy, and stickers, but Christie also uses it to buy zines, home goods, and toys. One product that has done particularly well is pencils with dirty phrases from Sweet Perversion. In addition to Faire, Christie relies on its competitors, including Abound and Tundra, as well as Alliance Game Distributors for cards, board games, and tabletop games.

RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Ct., uses Faire “quite a bit,” too, according to president and COO Lori Fazio. What her buyers like, she said, is that “there’s a lot of variety and it’s pretty efficient.” Another advantage, she added, is that it’s easy to try a new vendor on Faire without setting up a new account. Fazio’s team seeks out book-related items, which she calls the store’s “bread and butter” when it comes to gifts. But RJ Julia also does well with home goods, socks, body lotion, and candles.

Faire gains for publishers

Book publishers aren’t actively seeking out bookstore accounts on Faire. Instead, most rely on Faire to sell many of the same books and card decks found in their gift catalogs. “It’s just another way to get books out into the marketplace—and who doesn’t want that?” said Joe Langman, “sales therapist” at Schiffer Publishing. “We want to make sure retailers have our books, however they want them.” The company still has reps, and its books are available from Ingram.

Schiffer was one of the first book publishers to try Faire after meeting a representative at an Atlanta Gift Show at AmericasMart. Now the press has multiple platforms within Faire to support its publishing program, ranging from body, mind, and spirit to children’s, crafts, and military titles. So far Langman has been pleased. “The first year it was good,” he said. “The next year was better. Then, of course, the pandemic happened, and it really took off.”

One advantage—especially for small presses like Barefoot Books, another early Faire adopter—is that vendors don’t have to vet new accounts. Faire guarantees payment after each order, regardless of when retailers pay Faire. Publishers pay a commission when the platform is driving new relationships or sales. The standard rate for ongoing orders is 15%.

For Faire newbie Michael Kerber, president and CEO of Red Wheel/Weiser, which got its first orders in July, being on the online wholesaler has been “a tremendous success.” The company started slow by putting a small selection of titles online and has gradually added more. Though it has limited sales to the U.S., to date RWW has shipped to more than 300 accounts, the majority of which are new customers. Its top five sellers are Season of the Witch—Samhain Oracle, Macabre Tarot, Pure Magic Oracle, Daily Rituals Oracle, and Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews.

Sourcebooks has generated “a fair amount of sales, which have grown 10-fold” during its first two years on Faire, said Christina Noriega, director of gift sales, adding that “this is all incremental sales.” The press doesn’t post every book it publishes on the platform. Instead it focuses primarily on the books in its gift catalog. Titles that have done especially well include books for young children in the How to Catch series by Adam Wallace, illustrated by Andy Elkerton, and I Love You Like No Otter by Rose Rossner, illustrated by Sydney Hanson, part of the Punderland series. The one category that Sourcebooks avoids is fiction. That said, Noriega added, “buyers have the ability to go to the portal and request fiction.”

Noriega likes the fact that Faire facilitates reorders. It also takes care of operational aspects of the business so that publishers can focus on honing their collection, creating marketing blasts, and generating new accounts. But, she pointed out, “Faire will never replace handselling.” What Faire makes possible, she said, is a hybrid way of buying and selling—going through a portal, or online platform, or going through a gift rep.

One bookseller who uses Faire occasionally expressed concern that local gift reps will not get paid for orders the store places through Faire. Since sellers pay a commission to Faire, it may not always make economic sense to pay a local rep, too, when a bookstore orders through the platform.

Ultimately, what Faire offers, Noriega said, is “a good way to make sure our books are kept on shelves.” What publisher wouldn’t want that?