The Lowdown on Wholesale - Part 2
This month we are focusing on showing some love to our stockists on social media so we thought it would be good to share our experience of selling wholesale. This is a two part blog post (click here for part one) where we'll talk about some of the key thing to consider if you are planning to go down the wholesale route. Think of it as a mini guide from our personal experience. Hopefully it will be helpful if it's something you're new to, too!
How do you find stockists?
When we dreamed up Mustard we knew wholesale would be crucial to our business model and especially for getting it up and running at the start. We launched at Life Instyle in Australia in February and Top Drawer in London in September to give us the best chance of reaching the audience of stockists we were aiming for. Each trade show will attract a different crowd and have particular pros and cons. We picked the medium sized, boutique shows that felt the most aligned with our branding and goals for our business. Understanding what the focus of the event is will help you to decide where you will get the best return on your investment. Both the shows we chose focus on medium sized brands, show support for new products, cater to a design led buyer and cover both homewares and kids which are our two main categories.
Before attending we researched a lot to build up a list of dream stockists. It's important to know what you are aiming for and this process helped us identify how wholesale could work for us and what kind of shops we thought would suit and sell our products best. We then sent out a postcard and email to the stores we'd hand picked so that we would be on their radar to look out for at the shows. Buying is a big job and there's a lot for them to see so it helps to make it easy for them by telling them what you are selling and where to find you. I think this really works best when you are narrowly targeting your dream stockists rather than spamming anyone with a shop!
We've also been found by lots of stores through Instagram which has become a great space to build your wholesale list. Many shop accounts will be following similar shops and on the look out for what's trending. It's an exponential growth situation: You get a stockist who shares your product and that attracts more, similar shops to be interested. I really believe that the key to social media is in the name... be SOCIAL! Find the stores you love and genuinely engage with them. While this is part strategy it is mostly just what makes being on social media fun and a place we want to be. From that natural engagement good things will flow.
Don't be afraid to reach out directly to places you'd love to sell to. I've been known to strike up a conversation in person when I discover a shop I love and drop business card to the person at the counter. But, if you aren't there in person then send an email or make a phone call. This doesn't always happen instantly but you can lay the foundations. The key thing is to be targeted, if you are a good fit then the chances of it working well for you both are higher.
You'll need to consider the location of your potential stockists. A good example is if you sold perishables like food or plants you probably want to aim more local, at least to begin with. If you sell beach products like bath towels then finding beachfront shops is going to be a good start. It's worth considering what the surrounding area is like too. Is it affluent? Hipster? Full of yummy mummies? An industrial area? What's the vibe they've got going on and does that suit the products you are trying to sell.
Another point on location is that you don't want to overlap your stockists. It doesn't do anyone any favours to have two stores next door to each other selling the same thing! We are always open about this with potential customers and talk it through with them if needed. You won't always be the best judge of what is considered "too close" but the shop owner will know their local market so it's good to hear what they think. For example in busy major city it wouldn't be unreasonable to have more than one stockist but in a country town with a single strip of shops it's not serving anyone to double up.
Once you've found your stockists you want to keep them, obviously. Think about how hard they work, how most of the day they'll be busy with customers and all the other stuff that it takes to run a shop. With this in mind, how can you make life easier for them? Being speedy at getting back to them when they ask a question can make the difference between them selling your product and not. Keeping them up to date with what's in stock or what's new helps them to give accurate information to their customers and get excited to promote what's coming.
We ask for feedback and try to help overcome the little reasons that a customer may not make a purchase. For example, we give out colour swatches to each shop so that they can show off all the colour range even if they don't have them in stock. We also send out little cards with the dimensions on them so the potential buyer can take it home to measure their space. Ultimately, we see it as our job to make selling as easy as possible for our stockists.
If there's a problem, whatever it is, have their back. We've been known to pull all the strings to make sure a little girl gets her birthday present on time, send replacement parts when a courier has damaged something or FaceTime a stockist who got stuck building their locker. The way we see it is that we want these relationships to be long term, they matter, so we want to be a pleasure to work with on a professional and personal level.
Beneath it all, we are all just humans. We are all just doing our best. We have made a HEAP of mistakes along the way and it can be a bumpy learning curve, just when you think you've got one thing sussed, something else spring up out of nowhere and floors you! (Trust me!) But that is the beauty of small business life and your stockists will be on this journey with you.
We still feel like we have bucket loads to learn but we are always happy to share what we've picked up along the way! Feel free to quiz us any time :) firstname.lastname@example.org