An introduction to working with buyers and retailers, from who to approach and how to how to prepare for a meeting to understanding what a buyer is looking for, through to tips on handling the production process and delivery of the products.
THE BENEFITS OF SELLING THROUGH A STORE
Selling your work through a store, whether a physical store or online, can be a major step forward to getting your work to a larger customer base, as well as freeing you from the time needed to sell directly.
Selling to a prestigious ‘name’ can be a huge PR and press boost and, in addition, an important ‘foot in the door’ in introducing yourself to other stores.
WHICH RETAILERS SHOULD I TARGET?
Do read our article on MARKET RESEARCH to understand how to select the right retailers.
HOW SHOULD I APPROACH THEM?
- Telephone or email the store to obtain the name of the person responsible for buying products for the store. If by telephone, make sure you note down their name and title correctly.
- Send a press pack in the post with a covering letter specifically addressed to the buyer, asking him/her to look at your work and if you could arrange a meeting to show your work in person.
- Telephone after a few days to ask if he/she has received it. Unless prompted otherwise, do not irritate them by asking their opinion of your work when they might be in the middle of something they consider more important!
- Follow up with an email if no news after two weeks. It is often useful, if it’s a larger organisation, to telephone the buyer’s office or the reception and explain your situation, you might find the buyer has been on a business trip for 2 or 3 weeks – so be patient.
- Buyers are very busy people and do not be disheartened if you don’t hear back at all – not everyone is courteous enough to send a reply, even a short ‘it’s not for us.’
I HAVE THE MEETING, WHAT DO I NEED TO PREPARE?
- Prepare all the details that a retailer may ask. The wholesale price, your retail price (if this applies), lead times, how many you or other retailers have sold. In addition, have to hand information on the materials and techniques used and be prepared to show information and proof of safety standards, care instructions and the provenance of any primary materials subject to ethical standards.
- Make sure all your samples are in perfect condition and any labelling and packaging is too.
- Be clear on the number of items you can produce over a given period; if you are prepared for others to make all or some of the work, have an idea of the quantities this extra help would give you.
- Analyse the strong selling points of your work to this particular retailer. Does it fill a missing gap in the store for a product item they don’t stock, or offer a new material or technique they don’t feature? Does it fill a price gap for a particular product?
- Finally, decide on the lowest price you are prepared to drop down to and make sure you stick to it.
WHAT IS A RETAILER LOOKING FOR?
- A product their customer likes and wants to buy. The overriding need is for a product that sells at the full price and sells quickly, leaving the store with no markdown sales and no stock hanging around for too long.
- Perceived value – the customers need to understand the value of the product and therefore be happy with its retail price.
- A degree of exclusivity. This can range from a product sold exclusively to one store only to exclusivity in a certain country, region or city. In addition, a retailer may wish for an exclusive colour or material.
- Products that sit well with the other items in the store, but do not overlap sales.
- A confidence that you will deliver the work on time, to the quantities required and that the work will be produced to a certain quality standard.
TIPS WHEN MEETING THE BUYER?
- Be friendly, polite and always enthusiastic about your work.
- Have a notebook and pen ready and take lots of notes.
- Pay careful attention to the buyer’s comments on your work and any general pointers he/she may have – they may come in useful!
- Ask the buyer what percentage they take as their retail mark-up and keep a list of the different percentages used by each store. That way you know the various retail price differences for your work.
- If the buyer asks you questions on delivery or materials, for example, that you can’t answer, don’t guess or brush over it. Tell the buyer you will quickly give them the answers once back in the studio. And make sure you do!
- Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into lowering your prices below the price you set yourself as the lowest possible or agreeing terms you don’t fully understand. Tell the buyer you will reply to him/her as soon as possible after the meeting.
THE BUYER WANTS MY WORK – WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER?
- After the meeting, email the buyer confirming what was agreed in the meeting and ask the buyer to acknowledge and agree with your summery.
- Don’t start the production process before you receive, read and sign a confirmation order for the work. Make sure you understand all the clauses in the order, such as penalties for late delivery and their policy on returns.
- Be upfront about lead times and realistic about how quickly you or others can make the products. If the buyer wants it in 10 weeks and you can only deliver it in 12 weeks, be honest with the buyer. It is much better to be on time or early with a delivery rather than late.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
- Keep a close eye on the quality of work sent off to the retailer.
- Stay in contact with the buyer in the lead up to delivery. If it’s a larger company, try to deal with the same person all the time, so they are fully aware of your delivery and timings.
- If delays occur, inform the buyer as soon as possible and offer possible solutions, e.g. a different material or making a smaller quantity.
- Telephone or email the buyer after delivery to ensure everything is ok and ask for a regular update on sales.
IN THE FUTURE
- Keep in touch with the buyer with regard to new products you are launching. It is often taken as understood that existing buyers will be given exclusive previews of new work and the opportunity to be first to stock the new products.
- If the products sell well, look to build your relationship with the store by offering other products they may not have first considered buying from you.