Selling to shops at Christmas

Getting wholesale orders can be an amazing boost to your handmade business. The months leading up to Christmas are a great time for independent retailers and designer makers to make the most of the increased sales.

Harriet Peacock, Buyer at The Old Fire Station Shop in Oxford, shares with us advice on how to approach shops leading up to the festive season...

Christmas is a crazy, crazy time for retailers. It requires a lot of planning, and most shop buyers are thinking about Christmas back in August! Especially when you’re a shop stocking handmade products, you’re very aware that your makers need that bit longer to get products ready for you than a traditional wholesaler.

To get the ball rolling, I try and approach ordering systematically and make myself a massive list of all my makers. Naturally I know some have a longer lead in time than others so I prioritise those first. However, I have around 90 makers in my shop and so getting through that list can take rather a long time! It’s always a good idea to just send a quick friendly email if you haven’t heard anything from a stockist about Christmas ordering. We’ve got rather a lot to get through, and sometimes a little reminder via email can be very helpful to jog our memory! If you have no response, it might be worth sending a follow up email a week or so later.

It’s great to include an up to date wholesale catalogue or line sheet if you have one. It’s a lot easier putting together an order if all the information is in one place- much more straight forward than switching back and forth between someone’s website and their Etsy shop.

Likewise, please let us know of any new ranges or designs you have for Christmas. This can cover specific Christmas products or just something new which would freshen up your range for the festive period. Newness is an important factor in keeping a shop looking exciting and fresh so I’m always on the lookout for new products to excite our customers (and I must admit myself too!)

Information about lead times is also really helpful for our planning, although understandably it can be difficult to figure out until you have the orders in the first place. If you only normally take 2 weeks to fulfil an order but have double the workload, let us know that it may be more like a month for you to send the stock. As always, communication is the key here! Letting us know when the parcel is on its way also provides peace of mind.

Consider offering a lower minimum order or free delivery if someone is ordering from you for the first time. Whilst we’re likely to place larger orders at this time of year, independent retailers usually don’t have enormous wholesale budgets and having a smaller minimum order lessens the pressure on the bank.

Even if you think you’ve missed your chance for Christmas ordering, stay in touch throughout November and December because chances are a stockist may need a last minute top up. However much we try to get customers to buy early it’s always most busy in those last few weeks!

Christmas is a stressful time for all of us- whether makers or retailers, it’s our best opportunity of the year to really capitalise on gift buying. Handmade goods have a great advantage in that they have that personal touch which everyone is looking for at Christmas time, and that is something both makers and retailers can benefit from. Fingers crossed for a fantastic festive period for all!