Wholesaling is by far the number one thing that makers ask about when we have meetings or workshops...or even just in social situations! While makers know that wholesaling can represent unloading a lot of the selling and markeitng work, get you a more steady stream of income and expand your customer base. But it's intimidating because it's much more unfamiliar territory than selling directly to customers. And wait, what is this... I need to be prepared to give a store 50% of my price?
Luckily we have as our guest blogger today wholesale veteran Mei Pak of Tiny Hands jewelry (a line of scented food jewelry at and sells in over 90 stores across the USA). She helps makers, artists and designers get more exposure and make more sales in their creative businesses. Here are five things Mei recommends you should be thinking about if you're going to wholesale.
Pricing is the first thing that always trips people up in the wholesale business. If you’ve never considered wholesale before but you find yourself reading this, you’re either looking to diversify your income and expand or you were recently approached by a store but they’re asking for a whopping 50% discount off your retail prices.
You really want to work with this store. Your credibility as a small business owner will shoot up and your customers (not to mention friends and family) will be super impressed. It’ll be so awesome to see your products in an actual storefront.
To make wholesale pricing work for you, you’ll need to raise your prices. Before you panic, know that it is completely doable and truthfully, no one will notice your price hike. It haunts you thinking that you’ll upset your existing customers when you raise your prices. You’re worried you’ll alienate them and you’ll lose business.
That cannot be further from the truth. Many other makers and artists have raised their prices and are doing way better than when they first started with low pricing. As much as you want to think it, your customers will not even bat an eye.
Use this pricing formula to figure out what you should truly be pricing at. Then go and raise your prices. I promise it’ll be okay.
2. Unique Selling Proposition
Before you dive into wholesale, or selling anywhere for that matter, you’ll need to get clear on what makes you unique. What makes your brand and products different from the rest? Why should people buy your products instead of your competition’s?
This matters because it’ll help you pitch to store buyers and owners. They need to know why they should carry your line. They need to know how to train their retail staff on how to promote your products to their customers.
Coming up with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is more of a discovery. Get to really know yourself – what are your values and personal beliefs that you’re transferring into your products and ultimately your business? Maybe you believe in heirloom quality wedding gifts or handmade greeting cards that don’t end up in the trash.
Your USP becomes a part of your brand. Just like your logo and your business name, you’ll want to use it everywhere and make sure to stick with it too.
3. Target Market
Just like your USP, you also need clarity around who your products are made for. Not just 25-70 year old women – really hone in on this one person you imagine would hold your products and shed tears of joy? That one perfect fit, match made in heaven between your product and this person? How old is she exactly? Where does she live? What movies does she love? What are her values? What are her dreams?
Identifying your target market will help a ton when you’re researching stores to sell wholesale to. Not every store will be a good fit for you and vice versa. Nothing annoys a shop owner more than a wholesale pitch that clearly isn’t a good fit. So if you sell baby and kids’ products, the store selling avant-garde men’s clothing down the street will not be an ideal match.
Store owners will welcome your email pitch if you’re both a good fit. A good way to double check is to see if there are similar products to yours that is currently selling at that store. It shouldn’t be the exact same product (because then the store won’t have room to sell your product too), but a brand that shares similar aesthetics as you. That’s always a good indicator that you will do well at that store, so make sure to do your research!
You know what’s as important as your product (and maybe even MORE important)? It’s how you package your items for display on a store’s shelves. As much as we want to believe not to judge a book by its cover, the first thing that draws a customer in is what’s on the outside.
Your wholesale packaging may be different from how you wrap your products up for shipping to your Etsy customer. When looking at your product line, the store owner will consider salability. Stores need to make a profit too, so it’s important that they believe in being able to sell a lot of your stuff.
How can you package your products so they draw attention and just cry to be picked up from the retail shelves? Even if your products don’t necessarily require packaging, consider adding it on because it’ll immediately elevate the perception of your product. It adds on a ton of value that it’ll be a no brainer for shoppers to buy. Here’s a great list to research packaging and printing vendors.
5. Scaling up Production
It goes without saying that stores will want multiple quantities of your product. Will you be able to keep up with production? If it takes you eight hours to create your hand painted yoga pants, how quickly will you be able to make ten of them? This ties back to your pricing as well, so make sure you’re accounting for your time spent making the product as it should reflect in your prices.
Plan for success and start thinking of how you’ll scale up your production. Create systems to streamline the process and save time making your products in bulk instead of one at a time. Consider hiring help. Or raise your prices again to lower demand and save your sanity.
Wholesale is a great way to grow your business and reach a wider audience. It’s also a solid stepping stone for bigger opportunities in your creative business.
What wholesale questions do you have? If you wholesale, have you found it to be worth it? Let us know in the comments!