Posts Tagged: selling to stores

biz tips :: approaching shops + the follow up

prettypaperplease3Mélanie Kimmett from Pretty Paper Please is back to talk about how to approach prospective shops and the follow up. If you missed part one, find it here! – Andrea

Given that we live in such a digital world, you can really get to know a shop, their lifestyle and their customers from their online presence these days. Most have their own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts. Make a strong effort in getting to know these shops and their community through their social media touch-points. I say this because I believe it makes a significant difference when you finally approach them. It’s been important to me that I develop a relationship with every shop that carries my stationery line, so I make sure to personalize each and every email. There is a clear difference between being truly genuine, trying too hard or sounding too general as though you’ve sent a mass email. Keep things short and to the point, but make sure to charm them with what makes you and your product special.

Main points you should cover in that initial email is a brief introduction, link to your online shop (if you have one), mention real life stats on what has sold well for you, or if you’ve been featured on a prominent blog with the feature’s link. Some shop owners are specific about wanting to see photos of your product and in that case you should certainly attach one or a few. You’re ultimately selling your personal image and product in any of these communications, so it’s important that you’re as polished and professional as possible.

You should also include a line sheet and product catalogue in that initial email. The line sheet is typically your order sheet and the catalogue’s main purpose is to showcase all available products, as well as provide the shop with your wholesale price points. I’ll talk about how to best set those up in my ‘Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue’ blog post in the next couple weeks.

I’ve been advised shops don’t really like being approached in person and I’ve noticed this to be true in some cases, but I’ve found when I’m traveling that it does help establish some sort of relationship that you can then follow up on later. Another option, if you can afford to do it, is to choose a few shops from outside your area every few months and mail them samples of your product. Same advice as above – write them a short note explaining who you are, and your product and why you chose to reach out to them.

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The Follow-Up
Eep. What to do with the dreaded follow-up email… Why haven’t you heard from them? How much time should you wait before emailing again? What should you say?

There are always several reasons why you may not have heard back from the shops you’ve reached out to. Shop owners are typically very busy people and can’t always respond in a timely manner. It’s important that you not take their silence personally though, as you’re likely NOT to be the only person emailing about your product, or they may have other shop-related priorities to handle first.

There’s no harm in a follow-up email if you haven’t heard from them after a couple of weeks. Please be cautioned to NEVER harass a prospective shop though, as you will likely alienate and create a strained relationship. Ultimately, shop owners know what’s best for their own stores, and it’s quite possible you’re just not the right fit for them. If you still haven’t heard from them after your follow-up email, maybe choose to move on for the time being. Try them again when you’ve got a new product to introduce.

next week’s topic :: How to Brand and Package Yourself

biz tips :: consignment vs. wholesale

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I am thrilled to introduce Mélanie Kimmett from Pretty Paper Please to the blog to talk to us about her experience with consignment / wholesale and creating your own product line. Mélanie has been a great help while I put together a catalogue and as I prepare to expand my own line of handmade goods to retail shops. She’ll be covering a lot of information, so make sure to follow along! – Andrea

When I first explored the idea of developing my own stationery line, I found most information about how to approach wholesale opportunities strangely allusive. Over these next several posts I’ll cover all relevant topics I wish I had been privy to before venturing into the world of consignment and wholesale myself.

Now, I also want to preface this by saying I’m really not an expert, but I’ve certainly gained some real life insight from my own trial and error ways. Hopefully you can all benefit from those lessons. Feel free to add your own points or comments in the comment section below. I’d love to treat this as an ongoing conversation!

Here’s the outline of what I’d like to touch on over the next coming weeks:

1. Consignment or Wholesale?
2. How to Brand and Package Yourself
3. Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue
4. The Business of Running your own Product Line

First things first, let’s understand the top-level difference between selling goods on consignment vs. wholesale. Here are the dictionary’s definitions for selling on consignment or wholesale.

Consignment – With the provision that payment is expected ONLY on completed sales and that unsold items may be returned to the one consigning.

Wholesale – The sale of goods in large quantities, as for resale by a retailer.

In simpler terms, one option provides you with monetary compensation now (wholesale) vs. later (consignment). Either way you look at it, someone (whether it’s you or the retailer) is taking a gamble on your product, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t made much of a name for yourself yet.

Where wholesale seems like the favourable choice when you’re first starting out, I’d like to mention that consignment is often times easier to come by, but it should also be recognized as a personal investment in yourself and product line. While it exposes your product to the marketplace, it also provides a testing ground for items you were maybe questioning and could help you streamline things in the future. Another strong point is that you sometimes profit more (per item) from selling on consignment. Most consignment shops offer you a 60/40 split on all goods sold, whereas in wholesale you have to find that magic wholesale price point that works for both you AND the retailer, which can get tricky. I’ll delve deeper into that in my ‘Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue’ blog post in the next coming weeks.

Most shops make a clear distinction on whether they are consignment or wholesale-based, but some will entertain both options. Some wholesale-based shops may want to try you on a consignment basis to minimize some risk on their end. Be open to this as an option, as this flexibility can strengthen your work relationship with the shop owners. If after a trial period of a few months on consignment you’ve proven to be a good fit and your product is selling well, you should then think about approaching the shop about wholesaling with them.

Check back as we cover topics such as ‘How to Approach Prospective Shops’ and ‘the Follow Up’!