A few "Do's and Don'ts" when asking shops to stock your lovely products!
These little guidelines were cobbled together by I Am Acrylic & Magma for the Crafty Fox Market August 2015 Meet-Up - and are just some of the things we've seen & learned along the way! All advice is to be taken lightly and with a cup of tea and a biscuit : )
Find photos from the meet-up on our facebook page.
-Do your research! Make sure that your product is actually a good fit for the shop you're approaching!
-Think about what time of year you are approaching them. If it's during summer it may not be the best time as a lot of buyers go away or aren't able to order much new stock due to quieter sales in store. If it's approaching Christmas when buyers are keen to get nicely stocked up, that's much better! : ) But don't leave it too late.....from September onwards is the best time. (That's now by the way!)
-Get to know the shop a bit before you approach them - whether that's in the flesh or online - this will make the email you send more genuine and personal.
-Maybe pick a few of your items/bestsellers that you think are a particularly good fit for that particular shop and then if the buyer likes them they can request to see the rest of your range/full catalogue.
-Get your prices right! You might be able to ring up and check what a shop's usual margin is before contacting them. This is a good idea as you can then pitch your product to them at just the right price.
-Most shops will most likely take at least a 50% margin with many working on a 2.4 mark up. [wholesale price x 2.4= retail price] [and your retail price divided by 2.4 will give you the wholesale price!]
-Make sure your own online retail prices match those which you work out your wholesale prices from. Don't undercut the shops you are trying to supply to! When working out your retail prices initially maybe take this into account even if you're not ready to approach shops just yet.
-Make sure you include all necessary info in your initial email. Anything left out just adds extra work for the buyer before they are able to make a decision about your work. It's so time consuming to exchange emails back and forth to get the info that you could lose out on an order as the buyer just doesn't have time!
So be sure to include at least the following info:
·Who are you? And what do you make (how you make it? Where? What from? Is it eco etc...) Introduce yourself fully - but still try to keep it fairly brief & fun! - you don't want to send them to sleep!
·Include a link to your website, brochure, images, line sheet etc. Upload images to Dropbox or similar & giving a link is far better than attachments. And DON'T EVER send massive images, it over-fills their inbox!
·Make sure that the size of your product is obvious in any images or that it is written somewhere.
·Include your wholesale price & Recommended Retail Price (RRP).
·What are your normal payment terms? Do you offer Sale or Return (SOR) for example?
·What payments do you accept? Bank transfer? Paypal? Cheque? Credit Card?
·Do you charge postage/shipping? If you don't charge postage/shipping mention that too.
·What kind of packaging will your item come in? Include a picture - this could be a deal breaker!
·Do you have any point of sale items?
·What are your lead times? (eg: How long will it take you to make an average sized order?)
·Do you have minimum orders? Pack sizes? If you have no minimum requirements mention that too.
·Can you provide a list of bestsellers if needed? This is always useful.
·Are you VAT registered?
·Where else do you sell your stuff? (A few key stockists can add weight to your brand)
·Offer to send a sample in for free (if applicable) so that they can see the quality of the goods. And if it's fragile can you also offer a free/discounted display copy if they stock your item?
-If you are sending a catalogue in the post rather than sending an email, all of the above still applies! Make sure you include everything on your cover letter that they need to make a decision. And send it to the right place and person!
-Free samples are preferable mainly because most shops don't have the space, time or resources to be returning or hanging on to tons of samples for collection. And it's a good idea to wait to be asked for a sample rather than just sending one (unless it's really tiny!) as it can still be a burden, even if it's free!
-Do chase up your email if you haven't heard anything back for a few weeks. But bear in mind that you are essentially sending unsolicited email, and no-one is obliged to get back to you! And remember that they might really like your stuff but have just been too busy to get around to contacting you, so tread gently when 'chasing' it up as you don't want to change their mind about your product by being unreasonably demanding about not yet getting a response!!
-If you do get an order, be good to your word and deliver on time! If you are going to be late, just let them know. They will understand and it just means they can plan for the delay.
-It may be useful to mention at some point, before you deliver the goods, if your items have a barcode or not. This way the shop can get prepared with codes before your stock arrives and then they'll hopefully be no delay in it going out on the shelves!
-Make sure when delivering that your paperwork is in order! At the very least include this info:
·On Delivery Notes: the date, your company details, your contact info, who delivering to, the items delivered (make the descriptions obvious for any staff that have to check in the delivery! (probably won't be the buyer)), quantity delivered, wholesale price and RRP. Order reference. Is the invoice to follow in the post or is it Sale or Return...etc..And outline any postage costs that might need to be factored in to the retail price..
·On Invoices: A unique Invoice Number (never repeat invoice numbers) the date, your company details, your contact info, who delivering to, the items delivered (make the descriptions obvious for any staff that have to check in the delivery! (probably won't be the buyer), quantity delivered, wholesale price and RRP, Order reference. And any postage costs that might need to be factored in to the retail price. Plus: What are the payment terms 30 days? 60 days etc? Who's it payable to? Bank Account Number, Sort Code, (for overseas IBAN and bank's address.)
-Bear in mind that the accountant for the company will not necessarily be the same person as the buyer or work in the same building as the buyer, or ever set foot on the shop floor. So be consistent across all your paperwork so the accountant, without having any knowledge or you, your products or your funny company name ; ) , can match all the paperwork together.
-The above is equally important to remember if you need to chase up unpaid invoices. Chase the right person and don't run the risk of alienating and upsetting the buyer, who may not even have direct power over the accountant.
-Be sure to keep lines of communication going after the initial order, sending info about new products etc and hopefully you'll build up a lovely working relationship with that shop for years to come!
-Remember that lots of shops have regular customers to impress, so they are keen to have new/different things! (Not just new colour-ways of same ideas etc) So keep it fresh! And the shop will be even more keen to keep working with you : )
-And shops love discounts, incentives and exclusives too : ) Pay them back for putting their trust in your product and offer them nice things in return : ) Also, some chocolates with a delivery sometimes, is nice too!
-Finally: DO take any rejection well!! Ask that they can keep you in mind for the future and mention that you'd love to approach them again when you have some new designs to offer. You could also ask for any feedback or advice they had about your product, but understand that they might be too busy to provide you with any.
-Don't approach too many shops in the same area - you don't want to over-saturate an area or tread on the toes of your existing stockists in that area.
-Don't just copy and paste the same email to 50 shops all in one day! It will be obvious and feel impersonal. Also, you'd be surprised how many people do that and then forget to change the name of the shop in the main body of the text. eg: "Dear Magma buying team, I hope you are well etc, etc, etc............I'd love to see my cards stocked amongst all the other lovely things that you stock in the Southbank Centre........."
It's funny to read! But it's not going to make the buyer feel very special!
-Emails that are humorous & funny (for the right reasons!) are a plus! Another reason not to copy and paste!
-Don't just 'pop in' to a shop with your sample and expect to see the buyer! Ring up and find out what the process is and the correct place to drop stuff. Ask if you can leave a free sample and all relevant info instead. If you 'drop-in' not only will the buyer be very busy in the day-to-day running of the shop, but it's a lot of pressure to put someone under - on the spot - asking them if they like your stuff - when they know how much it means to you...but when perhaps it is just not the right fit for them. It's awkward for everyone & can work against you.
-If you can't leave sample for free and need to collect it, don't just pop in, unannounced, to collect it again - the likelihood is that the person working there that day won't even know where it is....
-Don't send a shop multiples of your item, unsolicited, asking them to please just give it a try on their shelves for free. You are putting them under a huge obligation to do something with those 10 tea-towels (for example). If they like them they will want to pay you for them. If they don't like them they will feel guilty if they don't contact you, and either way they are a burden and not the lovely offer that you had intended them to be!
-Don't have unrealistically high minimum order quantities. Most shops when placing an initial order would quite like to test the water and a lot of indie shops just won't have the budget for huge orders.
-Don't have massively complicated pricing structures. Make it as easy for the buyer to place an order. By all means offer incentives for bulk buying, but don't make it too complex that it becomes a nightmare system to navigate - this could be off-putting.
-Don't EVER send massive files and images of your work by email-they will either go into the spam or collapse the inbox of the person you're trying to impress! Use Dropbox or similar and only send a link instead.
-Don't quote unrealistic lead times. If it's going to take you 2 months to make a batch of 20 (crikey! what are you making?!) - be honest about it - the shop won't mind, they'll just have to tailor their ordering and re-ordering to take that into consideration.
-Don't take any rejections personally! Even if you think that your product is the perfect fit for that shop and you cannot understand why they don't want to stock you, at the end of the day that is their decision and there could be a hundred reasons why not. Maybe it's not the right time, they just ordered 5 things really similar to yours that they haven't received yet, they have tried a similar product in the past and it didn't sell so they are wary of trying yours, they have bought everything for that season already, maybe they just don't like your stuff! You just have to accept it and move on!
-Don't 'stalk' the buyers on social media! Or automatically add them to your mailing list, especially if you've been turned down......Just approach them again, through the proper channels, when you have new things to show!
-Lastly, don't just clinically think of a shop as a place to make money from! Think of it more as a window onto your brand as well. It's not always about the money, money, money...... : )
Magma would love to hear from you! Read these guidelines first ; ) and then send info about your products to their buyer Ruben. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org