How to talk to retailers about your work

Post by Clare Yuille : Part 3 of a 3 Part series for the Kindness in Business series.

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How to talk to retailers about your work

Hey again!

Welcome to the final post in my How To Sell Your Work to Shops series. In the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about how to tell if you’re ready for retail and what might be preventing you getting your wholesale groove on.

Today we’re going to look at the basics of actually pitching your work to retailers.

When you’re starting out it’s easy to get a particular picture of shopkeepers in your mind. Well, let me set you straight.

That fire-breathing thing is a total myth. I mean come on, we’d burn our own lips off. And we don’t sharpen our talons on the bones of suppliers who displease us. We use emery boards like everyone else.

Lastly, despite what you may have heard, let me assure you that we really like puppies and other small furry creatures. Especially on rye with crisp lettuce and a few slices of pickle.

No, I’m kidding. Hold the pickle.

My point is it’s natural to feel a bit apprehensive when approaching stores about stocking your stuff, but here’s what I want you to keep in mind:

Retailers actually want you to get in touch.

Seriously, we really do. We want you to waltz into our inbox and blow our socks off. We want to say YES!

Tracking down lovely things to sell in our stores is a never-ending, time-consuming process. When artists and designers get in touch about their work, they actually make our job easier. Sure, not every item will be right for us but a few of them definitely will be.

We want to hear from you.

So let’s look at how to do this thing right.

1. Choose the retailers you pitch to very carefully

A blanket approach isn’t going to work. Contacting every retailer you can think of is a waste of your time and theirs. Before you even think about getting in touch, you need to have good reasons to think each store will be interested in your items.

It’s not enough to go “Well, they sell gifts. And my widget makes a great gift. It’s a match made in heaven!”

For your pitch to have a good chance of success, there needs to be a significant overlap between your product and what they currently sell. You’re looking for similarities in style, price, category of products, philosophy and target customer.

So play the detective. Study their website and, if you can, go visit the shop in person. When you’ve got strong evidence that a retailer might consider stocking your work, it’s time to drop them a line.

2. Write your pitch email.

Each shopkeeper is different, but submissions via email are now pretty much standard in the gifts and home industries. Sending your pitch through the mail is usually also cool, and can be a good idea if you intend to include samples of things like greetings cards and wrapping paper. If you’re in any doubt about how to pitch to a particular shop, phone them up and ask what they prefer.

Some things to remember:

· Always send your email to a real person and address them by their name, spelled correctly. Starting your pitch with Dear Owner or To Whom It May Concern isn’t a great start.

· Keep your email brief – two or three paragraphs is fine.

· Show you know something about the shop. Mention something you admire about how they do things and make it clear you’ve done your homework.

· Don’t say “I think my widgets are ideal for your store.” They might be, but that’s up to the retailer, right?

· Be clear and confident about what you want – to be considered as a potential supplier.

3. Attach all the details

This is where lots of artists and designers fall down.

In order to make a decision about stocking your stuff, a retailer needs to know certain things. We’re talking about:

· Bright, clear photos of your product – they can be attached to your email, included in a PDF or physical catalogue or on your website

· Your wholesale price list

· Any minimum quantities – do I have to order six or twelve or thirty of each item?

· Your minimum order level – to make an order with you, do I have to spend over a certain amount?

· Your carriage paid level – if I order over a particular amount will you cover the cost of shipping?

This isn’t an exhaustive list but you can see where I’m coming from. We need details.

If you don’t include these things with your pitch email then you’re wasting your chance to grab a buyer’s attention. If she likes the look of your stuff but hasn’t got the figures, she’ll have to email you back to ask for them. That means there’s likely to be a delay, and in that time you’ll almost certainly slip right down her priority list.

Make the most of your chance by giving your potential stockists everything they need to know.

Before I head off, here’s a final word of advice. Want your submission to really stand out?

Write your pitch with kindness.

The best submissions I come across are written with the retailer firmly in mind. Instead of concentrating on what you might get out of it, think about things from your potential stockist’s point of view.

Running a shop is often a hectic experience. Although it’s rewarding, there’s also stress and worry and sometimes not enough hours in the day.

I love it when artists and designers show they understand by sending me an email that’s professional, sincere, enthusiastic about my business and full of personality.

Those pitches don’t feel like pitches at all. They feel like invitations.

And we all love to get those.

Clare Yuille is a retail coach for creative types who want their wholesale business to go whoooosh. Want to sell your work to indie retailers but feel overwhelmed, out of your depth or, erm…completely paralysed by fear, doubt and self-criticism? Clare’s blend of insider knowledge and expertise will help you simmer-the-heck-down, plot your course and experience so many biz-related epiphanies you’ll actually enjoy pitching your work to retailers. She takes away the eeeek! and replaces it with aaah.

Ready to get moving? Download her free Indie Retail Starter Kit.


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