Monday, 12 August 2013

Approaching Retailers Seminar - long post!!

This post was originally posted in February last year but I thought it would be useful to share again :)

Last Wednesday I went to a seminar held at Inc Creative in Keighley. It was run by Neil Campbell from Business Specs and it was a very interesting evening. The first point he made was about your actual product - where does it sit in the market? What is your price point? And most importantly, what is your USP (unique selling point) If you don't have a USP then price has to be your key selling point.

My USP is that the large majority of my stuff is unique - once it's gone, it's gone!

Then you need to look at the sector of the market that your product fits into. Also observing trends helps as you can see where your product fits in with those. Also understanding your consumer is vital - certain products fit certain people and once you know who your demographic is you can target them. All of this is more about your product and not the retailers yet but of course you have to get your product right before approaching retailers.

Then Neil said something which I think is very difficult for for the small scale designer/maker to comprehend - we should make the retailers think that they are lucky to have our work in their shop. Now I don't know about you but when I get a retailer who wants to stock my things I jump for joy (often literally!) and often feel very grateful. Neil thinks that we should actually choose the retailers who stock our work very carefully which is a strange concept for me - in the past I have grabbed any opportunity that comes along. But thinking about it, it makes much more sense - target your products to the right people and places and avoid making mistakes.

He is just here to add some colour to this post!

There are 2 main types of deal that retailers will offer you - wholesale or sale or return. I won't go into these as I'm sure you will know about them but there are some points Neil had about SOR. Get them to sign for the goods on the delivery so that both parties know where they are (I do this already so do I get a brownie point?!) and have a return notice period which I hadn't thought about at all. It makes a great deal of sense though so that each of you knows exactly where you stand. And it also gives an opt out from both sides if the goods aren't selling or either side isn't happy for any reason. Neil suggested 7 day terms but I think that isn't enough - I would aim for 3 or 4 weeks myself. It's a good deal for the retailer as stock rotates fairly quickly and they get fresh things in (providing they want to continue stocking you!) There should also be a ceiling price on your goods that you should stick to across all your shops/stockists/websites so that retailers don't think that they are competing against your own website. And another good point that Neil raised is once you have these contacts, then make sure you keep them. Get in touch with your retailers and see how things are going. Pop in if you can and try to foster a relationship with them. If they are decent retailers they will want your work to sell as it means money for them as well as for you!

So how do you pitch to potential retailers? Research the shop first - will your products fit? Are they at the right price point for that particular shop? A phone call to verify the best time to go in is a good idea and then make sure you stick to that! Introduce yourself and your company. A great opening line is 'I've chosen to call you and I'd like to work with you because........' Another good line is 'I believe my products are complimentary but I would like to know more about your business' Next is when you show off your product ask about comparable product lines and how many they sell. What do they expect from you in terms of lead times? And always repeat back what they have said to you to make sure you both understand where you are coming from.

The last little bit is rushed as I have been writing this blog post for the last two hours and it's bedtime but I would love to know what you think. Are these things you stick to? Do you have any other advice? What works for you in terms of approaching retailers?


CurlyPops said...

I've tried to only choose retailers where my products will fit their genre of goods. I think that if your product doesn't fit in with the look of their shop, then it's probably not going to be the right target market.

Unknown said...

This is really interesting, thank you for sharing, I've worked with a few retailers, but never really concentrated on it enough.

Emma (Sugar Cane) said...

Thank you Swirly :D This has been very helpful :D:D