There are advantages to having your products in brick and mortar locations, even if you run an e-commerce business. People prefer human-to-human interaction and being able to physically hold an item before purchasing. Furthermore, shoppers who walk into local gift shops intend to make a purchase – you don’t need to do much to convince them! Retailers may also promote your products, which indirectly, brings traffic to your social media platforms.
The big question is: HOW do I get my products into retail locations?
I finally have a product that I want in retail locations so I started asking my fellow business owners regarding their process of getting into retailer locations. I knew Allie, from The 6th Scent Candle had her products in many locations so I started chatting with her. When I found out that she would wait until her toddler’s nap time, then pack him into the car seat, and let him nap while she drives around the city bringing candles to various retailers. I was so impressed with her work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that I wanted to share what I learned from her!
Prep work: Before you even start going to stores, you need to prepare a few things.
- Know your margins. Wholesalers and consignment shops may have varying terms. Wholesalers expect a significant discount (at least 30% but 50% is more common, depending on type of product). Consignments may be a 30/70 or 40/60 split (i.e. you receive 60% of the sale and they receive 40%). Know what your margins are so that you can quickly tell a retailer whether or not their terms are realistic for you.
- Have a line sheet. Be ready to show the retailer which items are available to them and what the wholesale and MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) pricing is. Are you totally green and have no idea what a line sheet is? No worries, we have simplified your life by providing a sample here.
- Your line sheet should also include the following information:
- Shipping/delivery: Know whether you’re willing to deliver the items in person, if you’re charging a delivery fee, or if you’ll be shipping the items.
- Pay-out schedule (if it is consignment)
- The method of payment (how should the retailer pay you?)
- Any refund/exchange conditions that you may have
- Your minimum order quantity. In particular, if you are selling at wholesale costs, you’ll want to establish a minimum order quantity (either a minimum quantity of units, or a minimum purchase price). Sometimes it is not worth your time and trouble if a retailer only orders a handful of products at wholesale price. Make sure the numbers make sense for you!
- Prepare a sales pitch for your product and practice it!
Find the retailers
You want to find retailers who share your demographic. Remember, quality over quantity! There’s no point in having your products in a retailer if they’re unable to sell it.
There are many ways to find them:
- search relevant hashtags and use location-based hashtags
- do a Google search for boutique shops in your area
- ask your fellow business owners which retailers they recommend
- find someone who is in the same niche as you (but does not sell the same product!) and see which retailers they are in
- For example, if you sell candles, then you might want to find a small shop that sells wall décor and see which retailers they are in. Chances are, if the retailer is interested in wall décor, then they would also be interested in your candles. You might ask, “Why can’t I find a candle shop and see what retailers they’re in?” Well, the retailer already carries candles. Why would they want to carry yours when they already have an existing relationship with someone else? Unless you can offer something different or you’re ready to be a douche and undercut the price, your time and energy would have higher pay-offs if you target shops that do not already have your type of product.
Pro-tip: Look for retailers who are active with their social media and marketing. They are likely to market your products on social media which will not only drive traffic to their brick-and-mortar, but also to your social media platforms!
Approach the retailers
- Visit the stores in the middle of the day, on a weekday. Do not go on weekends! They are likely to be busy and may not have time to chat with you.
- Don’t forget to bring your business card. Not all shop owners are working and sometimes you will have to leave your business card and plan a revisit.
- Bring samples of your actual products or photographs, if you sell large items.
- Don’t forget to bring any packaging material that you may have (i.e. inserts, boxes, cards, etc.). Retailers want items that are ready to be put on the shelf so if yours is ready to go, it’s a bonus!
- Keep it simple with a straightforward introduction and go from there:
- (I don’t know where I should put this part.) When you approach retailers, it is the best to avoid stocking many stores in a small area. Have one or two stockists in a town/city so your products are not over-saturated in a small area.
- Know your best market, area and audience. Know what demographic work best for selling your products. Most likely, the shops are in those areas will take your product.
- It varies but most of retailers are busy at holiday season. That means they are very busy or don’t have enough investment for bringing new products in (in this case – wholesale). Start looking for retailers before holiday season.
“Hi there! My name is Allie and I make soy candles. Do you have a moment to chat with me?”
You’re marketing your product but don’t forget – you’re also marketing yourself! People want to support people that they know, like and trust. Be a nice and kind human being.
Do I have to visit the stores in person?
No! It’s easier to make a connection in person but it’s not always possible to personally visit the stores. You can also connect with them over e-mail or social media. Take a look at the retailer’s website first because they might have an application form available. Very often, retailers prefer that you send them an e-mail because it is easier for them to keep track. Have your product sheet and an e-mail “blurb” ready to go.
Pro-tip: Follow and genuinely engage on your prospective retailer’s social media. After you approach them, what do you think they’re going to do? Very likely, they’ll hop onto your social media to see what type of marketing you do, the variety of your products, your audience, etc. It looks bad if they see that you’re not following and supporting them. Networking is a simple concept – we support the people who support us!
The nitty gritty details
Have all the terms and conditions written out. There should be no ambiguity regarding the pricing, distribution of sale, pay-out dates, minimum pay-out amounts, minimum order quantity, etc.
Congrats! Your product is in retail locations… now what?
It doesn’t end there!
Support your retailer by announcing them on your social media. It will help people know where they can buy your products in person and it helps drive traffic to your retailer. They will really appreciate the marketing! Furthermore, other retailers will see that you support your stockists and be more motivated to working with you.
I asked Allie, “What should I do if the retailers stop re-stocking?” She said, “Don’t be afraid to ask them why!” Pro-tip: Follow up with your retailers because they may have valuable information that you can use to improve your product. Find out if your products are selling, who is buying them, and if they’re not selling, why not?
When the retail shops say “no”?
Most shop owners are not shy to say no and why. Maybe the shop is already full of the similar products in the same category as yours, or they are not looking to invest anything at the moment. It is good to listen why and keep it mind for next searching.
When the shop says no, it is okay. Make the conversation open and bright and see if they might want to stock your product in the future. Make sure you give a business card at the end of the visit, just in case they would want to contact you in the future.
There you have it! A brief guide to getting into retail locations. Questions? Comments? Tell us down below or contact us on our social. We would love to hear them and will be forwarding all relevant questions to Allie.
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