In response to this blog, I receive numerous emails from other entrepreneurs looking for input and/or guidance regarding specific situations. I would say that manufacturing seems to be the biggest challenge across the board, but once you finally have something made, the next most popular question is how to get it into stores. Yes, this is the million dollar question! Over the past few years our company has grown organically, but I have often thought, it sure would be nice if all of the stores that are just now learning about us had heard of our brand even just a year earlier! They often feel the same way, once they find that our products are typically a pretty consistent seller for them. So, how do you get your products into stores?
1. Word of mouth
Yes, the is obviously the easiest and least time-consuming, but is the non-aggresive approach of letting stores learn about your products through other avenues. I always love to hear that a store is applying to carry our products after numerous customers have requested that they carry our brand! This obviously shows us that we are on the right track, but it also shows me that we have not done a great job of letting these stores know that we exist.
This is obviously the most expensive form of spreading the word. The great thing is that it most often pays for itself in the long-run, but in the start-up phase, we all know that cash is not always the easiest thing to come by.
This is definitely my recommendation for those of you in the beginning phases. Truly it is wonderful at any stage, but the great thing about editorial is that it doesn't cost a thing. Okay, maybe a sample or two, but that is certainly well worth it! Editorial was a large factor in our initial growth. We were very fortunate to receive buzz from some fabulous publications that really helped to earn us credibility as we were gaining momentum. My advice here...you don't get what you don't ask for you. Get out there, you have nothing to lose!
4. Selling directly to stores
This can be a bit discouraging at first, but if you have proof and therefore confidence that your products will sell, that will relay to your wholesale customers. Don't waste their time, know who they are and why your products are a good fit. Also know that you will receive more "I don't have time" than "sure, let's take a look at that", but for every "sure" your brand is building and the ratio works itself out as stores realize that there really is something in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes...there are truly a ton of great products out there, but there are also quite a few that aren't so great. They need to know that this is going to help their business.
When selling to stores, what do you need (this was a question that I just received this week, specifically inquiring about the items below)? Hope this is helpful Kristi!
1. Brochures / line sheets
We started out with basic line sheets, but have found them to be a bit old school in some ways. Obviously they are neccessary, but my advice is to keep them simple. Let stores know what you are offering and at what price. We now use a simple brochure for our basic products to convey the line in general and then we assist them in selecting the items best for their store.
2. Swatches / samples
If you are meeting with a store in-person, they will likely want to see some samples and swatches. They are just like any shopper, and if possible, would like to see what they are purchasing. I wouldn't advise taking in your entire apparel line on the first appointment, but be prepared to give them a good feel for your product. This is also where websites can be super helpful. If you have great lifestyle pictures on your website, this can often eliminate the need for samples, saving everyone the hassle.
3. Sales order form
Yes, once they give you their order, you will need to write it on something (unless you have an online ordering system). Honestly, I ordered a ton of carbon copies of a RuffleButts order form when we first started, and I still have them sitting in our office today. We RARELY use these since most of our ordering is through our website, but you better have something that looks professional to take orders in the beginning. Here is a link to a sale order that I found online. It is pretty basic, but a good guideline for getting started.
So, this is all just my personal opinion, but I hope it helps =)