Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from previous Biz Ladies contributor Rena Tom. Rena owned her own brick-and-mortar store (the wonderful Rare Device), and now she consults for other creative businesses while running her blog. Today Rena shares some insight into getting your products in the storefronts. Thank you, Rena, for this invaluable information! — Stephanie
Read the full post after the jump . . .
As a consultant primarily to makers of physical goods, and as a former brick-and-mortar retailer, the questions I am asked the most have to do with wholesale. “How do I get stores to buy from me? What’s a line sheet? How do I price my work?”
I’m offering a workshop called Retail Readiness in San Francisco and also in Los Angeles and Brooklyn that addresses all of these questions and more, but I wanted to explain some key points here. Before you start talking to stores, take stock in your business and start off on the right foot!
Know Your Brand
Your products are great (naturally!), but for someone to sell them on your behalf, all the supporting materials have to be great, as well. Stores are increasingly selling the maker and the process along with the product because customers who shop for artisan-made or small-batch goods are buying provenance and authenticity. Avoid jarring disconnects by creating a smooth, end-to-end brand experience.
Do you have a specific point of view that will differentiate you from your competitors?
I like to have my clients write a few different versions of their background. This is material that ends up on About Me pages, is excerpted in the press and that you tell to the stranger in a doctor’s waiting room. What can you say that makes you stand out?
Can you clearly articulate the story of your products?
Working with a copywriter or copy editor will ensure that your story is consistent. If that editor or writer is you due to budget constraints, play a version of the children’s game “telephone” and ask a friend to briefly take a look at your brand and explain it back to you. The results may surprise you.
Is your brand’s style reflected in your product copy, your packaging, your website?
A retailer needs to communicate this information back to her customers to sell your line, so give her as much ammunition as possible. Again, try to find a store owner you are friendly with, or even another maker who already sells to stores, and have them evaluate your marketing materials.
Being professional includes knowing what a retailer expects from you. This means having a clear and comprehensive line sheet and catalog (I have free downloads on my website with more details) with your terms and conditions. It means that you have carefully considered your pricing, taking into account your needs but also the margins that retailers expect for your kind of product. It also means that you communicate any changes proactively and honestly with stores that have ordered.
I think that being professional also means presenting your best work. Many makers experiment a lot to “see what sticks,” which is fine at a hobbyist level, but a retailer wants to see a coherent body of work that is also well made and replicable. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but in general, you should only show your best work and eliminate colors or styles that you may personally love but have never sold well or attracted attention.
Finally, do your research. When you are making a list of stores to target, really try to determine if it’s a good fit for you. Look at the lines they carry, their buying philosophy and their price points. You will save yourself a lot of time by only pitching to stores that are a good match.
Make Enough Stuff
Nothing is less professional than making a promise you can’t keep. This may seem obvious, but ask yourself if you are able to produce the quantities necessary for wholesale. Writing orders with accounts and then being unable to meet deadlines is a big no-no.
Take a look at your production workflow, from sourcing to sales, and think about where can you optimize it.
- Can you cut costs by placing larger orders for materials?
- If you need to hire assistance, is the labor cost accounted for in your pricing?
- If you are making larger quantities, do you have a place to store, pack and ship, or will you need a bigger studio?
Getting ready to wholesale often means spending some of your hard-earned profits in the service of making even bigger profits. Look at what’s going on in your life and decide if it’s the right time to commit.