Thursday, July 8, 2010

How to ... a step by step guide to approaching a retail shop

This is a re-up of a previous blog post. I decided to do this not because I can't do it again with fresh pictures, but because the comments in this original post were also very informative.

OK this is for any handmade product e-commerce shop owners. I've been asked to do a blog post on how to approach a shop to have them carry your line. Having run a retail shop (my mom's) for over 5 years, and successfully gotten my items in several local stores is the ONLY expertise I have. I don't really know any other way to do this except step by step, so that's what I'm going to do.

1) SCOPE IT OUT - Visit said shop, see if they carry similar items, whats the price range, are they already full of the items you want to sell there?
2) PLANT A SEED - If the shop looks like something that would be a good place to sell your items, briefly mention to the person at the counter about your items, leave a business card.
3) BUY SOMETHING - Make a purchase in that shop, if you won't buy something why would they sell your items?

The First Three Can Be Done In One Visit!
4) STAY VISIBLE - Come back for a second visit within a week when the owner is there (call ahead). Usually in any small shop the owner is the ONLY decision maker, any one else just passes the info along with their opinions and recommendations.
5) SHOW YOUR PRODUCT - Bring something you make as a gift for the owner. If you deal with children's products OR if the owner has kids (many times they kids would be at the shop with them) be sure to bring a little something for the kids and don't forget to have one for each kid to prevent sibling arguments.
6) BE POLITE - Ask the owner if NOW is a good time to discuss the possibility of them carrying your line. If they say they are covered up -Southern term for really busy, they ask WHEN is a good time. Don't leave without a time scheduled to come back.
7) BE PROFESSIONAL - If scheduled, be sure to call one day ahead to confirm - its good business, they'll know you're serious AND you'll know they'll be there and not blow you off.
8) BE READY - Come back with items in hand ready to leave there for a trial basis.

-Most consignments in my area are on a 70/30 basis so be prepared for that and don't expect them to sell your items for you at 90/10. They have overhead, rent, advertising, etc. to pay and are doing all that for you if your items are in their shop.
-If they ask you to keep up with your inventory be sure to have all items recorded before you bring them in. Most shops have computerized inventory, but not all so be ready for that as well.
- Be prepared to rotate inventory, if items sit too long people will over look them. If the shop keep allows it, ask if you can come in at least once a month and move your items around. Some prefer to do it themselves, others will appreciate the help and outside perspective that you'll offer.
-Promote the shops you work with, you'll all make money if you work together and promote each other. Word of mouth is still the strongest advertising I know of. People go places that others recommend.
-NEVER offer to sell straight off your site or circumvent the shop to any of their customers. If someone wants a special order it should still go through the shop and they should still get their cut. WHY would they continue to carry your items if you're going to cut them out? I've seen this happen and I personally find it sad and very unprofessional. If I meet a customer as a result of a particular shop, then the sale goes to that shop REGARDLESS, its just good business.
-Take care of your brick and mortar stores and they'll promote your items more, direct customers to your product and in short take care of you.
Remember it might take a month to get your first sale in a brick and mortar shop just as online. Don't give up, work with them, be available and be flexible. GOOD LUCK!

*** Please be sure to read the comments section of this post. There is a bit of dialog in there that is important as well to the topic ***


Chrissy Ann Ceramics said...

ooh.. thanks for the tip! I get so nervous with that stuff!
Be well :)

Candice said...

Very good information. I have a question, what do you do if they tell you to email them about it? I feel like they won't buy if they don't see your stuff in person first.

Maddie and Mommy said...

I would (and have) send an email as requested with links to my internet shop and again ask when is a good time to bring the items by. Say something like "a picture is worth a thousand words, but to touch it, hold it and really get a feel for the product (and quality of what I provide) I'd love to bring something by to you." Never ask, do you want me to? Always ask WHEN should I come by. It may seem cocky to assume that they'll want you to come by and present your items, but if we aren't 100% confident in the product we are making then why should they be?

smokeymountainscents said...

Thank you so much for posting this for me. I really appreciate all your information. said...

Great post Maddie...thanks so much!

Teri's Treasures said...

This is a great post and something I really should have known about! I am on the line of selling outside of the internet... so this is some very amazing info to have! Thanks for this post! :)

Anonymous said...

Nice tips :) I'm going to work on getting my stuff in a B & M once we move, but don't want to do it here because we're moving soon

Maddie and Mommy said...

In the thread on etsy I had someone say this which I feel is important to add to my post: "I just wanted to add to your helpful hints that I think 70/30 is on the low end and find most to be 50/50 with a smattering of 60/40. I think everyone should be prepared for the 50/50 pricing structure."

My Response was this: "I took major losses at 50/50 and found that while I was accepting that price most of my competitors were working on 70/30. 50/50 is usually more for wholesale when you sell the product outright, consignment will (in my area) work on a lower basis since they know they don't have the time and money invested in the manufacture of the product.

Again, this is just my experience and not anything written in stone, different parts of the country / world are going to have different ways of doing things."

Nicki Leigh said...

Thank you so much for this post. I have not done a 70/30, but I have two 60/40. I also would never go 50/50 as that is on the same level as wholesale terms.

I plan to scope out this spring, just as I did in the fall. I do have a question however. What do you think of a seller contacting out of state shops by e-mail or phone?

Amy said...

Good advice. Thanks

terryann said...

Oh, yes good ideas and remember to be brave and say something, so many times in the past I was just tongue tied ... and over whelmed by lovely stuff already in the shop. It really helped me when a friend had a shop and talked me through it! Go for it!

Beth said...

Great info!!!

Maddie and Mommy said...

Nicki Leigh - I think that would be ok, but with consignment I'd be VERY careful! I've heard stories of things not being returned and in my case one time the children's clothing that didn't sell came back smelling like cigarette smoke - not good for kids clothing!

Anonymous said...

Great tips! I'll be using these in the future, for sure!

glutenfreegirl said...

Great post! Will be looking into this!

earth baby said...

great info, thanks! I have one boutique that sells my stuff 50/50 but my half is my etsy price anyway, so I feel like I'm not losing anything. However, I find myself a little resentful that she's making as much as I am and I did the work! I know she has overhead, but it's starting to not sit well with me anyway.

Creasol said...

Thank you so much for the great info! I would never think of actually buy something from the shop I want to leave my mosaics, but totally makes sense. I'm not a great buyer, that's the thing...

sheenanegans said...

thanks for the info. I have been selling in a few different shops over the past few years all with different terms. At the moment I am only selling on etsy because I recently made a big move but I have already made contact with a nice local boutique but I just wanted to comment on what earth baby said, and mention that usually when you are selling in stores you can't offer the same items in your online shop or elsewhere for less than what the B&M are selling it for.

KayzKreationz said...

Some great info. Thanks. I've been wanting to try approaching a retail shop, but end up always being too nervous to try.

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