Maker and online boutique owner (and #ahasmember!) Stacy Wong understands the wholesale game from the inside out. A process we've talked about a bit before, but there's a lot to know about it and we're grateful that Stacy has offered to share some of her valuable wisdom with us!
Wholesaling can be a new endeavor for many makers/artists. It’s an opportunity to sell directly to a brick and mortar store or online boutique which will do the direct customer selling for you. While this venture may be ideal for additional business, it’s best to make sure you are prepared and ready to make sure the entire wholesaling process is not frustrating for both the store and the maker/artist.
Here are my "do’s and don’ts" when approaching a brick and mortar store or online boutique…
DO Research: Know the store, the products and whether your products have a potential fit. Visit the actual store, or even talk to current vendors to get a better idea of what the store owner looks for in products.
Communication: Write or email a brief introduction to your product line. Check for typos and proof-read any vendor communication. What you say and how you say it is a direct reflection on you and your product line. DON'T send an email to a store asking them to look at your line two weeks before the holiday season. (hint: they have already made their holiday buys months ago).
If a store approaches you and is interested in your product line, DO be prompt in responding – either YES or No. If it’s no, let the store or buyer know. DON'T keep them guessing as to whether you are interested in wholesaling. If you cannot wholesale your line now, (perhaps you don’t have your wholesale production in place yet or pricing isn’t worked out) then just thank the buyer for the opportunity and keep the store in mind for the future.
Set reasonable deadlines or timeframes for the delivery of your product. If you need four weeks lead time to produce it, let the store buyer/owner know. DON'T promise a delivery date if you cannot make it. Buyers will actually set “cancel by dates” so DO be prepared and plan ahead so your order doesn’t get canceled.
Photos & Line Sheet: Information should be included and attached to any email/written communication sent to the buyer. Store buyers/owners don’t have a lot of time to look for missing or unclear information. We want it to be at our “fingertips.” Consider easy to read descriptions and layouts. Good photos are also important. Digital linesheets are also utilized more often too. Brandboom.com is provides this service for free (with a limited number of products) and allows you to upload product images and create a customized linesheet. You then send a link to your retailers to access the linesheet.
Also, make sure your social media sites, websites and blog are up-to-date. A buyer/store owner will want to check you out and will look at everything.
Follow-Up: If the buyer does not get back to you within a few weeks, DO send a follow-up email. Many buyers/store owners are multi-tasking all the time and they often cannot get back to each vendor. I always try to get back to a prospective vendor and try to give them some sort of feedback since I have been in their position many times.
If you are lucky enough to receive an order, DO ask for feedback on how the product is doing or selling but DON'T be a pest. Be open to constructive feedback on pricing, color options or other things the retailer might suggest. I once had a store owner tell me the favorite colors of her customers and I made some adjustments in my color offerings to better appeal to her customers.
Good luck and happy selling!
Stacy Wong is a maker/designer of Handmade Wood Goodness. She sells her products through her Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/bysimple. She is also the owner/buyer of www.shoptwine.com an online boutique which features an edited selection of undiscovered handmade and artful objects. Stacy loves to support emerging makers, artists, and designers.