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6 Steps to Selling Your Artisan Goods to Retailers

  • Business
  • August 3, 2015 | Suzanne Kearns

The maker movement is spreading across the country as more shoppers recognize the value of homemade and handcrafted wares. Just ask the profitable sellers at sites like Etsy, Wix, and ArtFire and they’ll tell you about the newfound interest in their products.

The popularity of these home-crafted goods have some sellers wondering if they shouldn’t expand their offerings to retail stores in order to increase their profit and brand recognition. If you’re thinking about approaching retailers and asking them to sell your products, here’s a six-step plan to help get you there.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Item is Right for Wholesale

In order to sell your goods on a wholesale level, you will likely need to make some adjustments in your line, pricing, and packaging. For instance, it’s important for retailers to be able to select from a variety of products when you present to them, and they like to buy from lines that tell a story. Are your products distinct enough to stand out in a crowd?

Step 2: Get Your Pricing in Line

When retailers buy your goods wholesale, they expect to set a retail price of at least double their cost. To determine whether or not you can afford this, begin by comparing other products similar to yours in retail establishments, and get an average price. Then divide that price by one-half, and that’s what most retailers will expect to pay you for the product. Now figure your costs for producing the product, and if there is still a good enough margin, you’re ready for retail. If not, you may need to renegotiate with your suppliers in order to lower your costs.

Elonka Perez, Founder and designer of Elonka Nichole Designs, is an Etsy seller who also sells to children’s boutiques nationwide. She stresses that when selling to wholesalers, it’s important to remember that your other offerings are in direct competition to them, so you will also need to sell your goods at full retail in order to be fair.

Step 3: Review Your Branding and Packaging

Whether you sell your products to a local shop or a national chain, it’s important that your product’s brand is clear, and the packaging backs it up in a uniform and cohesive manner. For instance, Perez is known for soft comfortable fabrics that any kid would fall asleep on at nap time. What is your story? What sets your product apart from the competition? Use it to develop your brand.

And don’t forget the packaging. Remember, your product will be sitting on store shelves and you won’t be there to sell it. The packaging is what will have to draw in the customers and make them want to buy.

Step 4: Create a Line Sheet

A line sheet shows a buyer exactly what you have to offer in your collection. It should include a line for each product in your collection, and provide a style number, a detailed description, and its wholesale price. In addition, you should include one clear photograph of each item. Make your line sheet as clear and concise as you can so if buyers want to reference one of your products, they’ll be able to easily locate it.

Step 5: Make a List of Your Target Stores

If you’ve been selling on Etsy or other avenues for a while, you already know who your ideal buyer is. Your next step in the process is to identify the retail stores that sell to those types of buyers. For instance, many of Perez’s customers are moms with small children, so she sells to dozens of retail baby stores.

“I spend a great deal of time researching,” says Perez. She says she wants to know their location, because their specific climate and style will dictate what she offers them, the demographics of their customers, and the other brands they carry. “I have multiple products and it's important that I know what items will do best for them based on the information I find.”

Step 6: Email Retailers

Now that you have a list of retail stores that might be interested in your products, it’s time to send them an email. Initially grab their attention with the subject line. Rather than simply stating: Wholesale Proposal or some other generic term, include your business name, along with specifics about your offering. For example, “One of a kind art pillows by Sheri’s Pillow Talk.”

Next, you want the reader to understand that you’re not blindly sending out emails, but that you’ve researched their store and know that their shoppers tend to buy your products.

The next paragraph should sell them on your brand. Give the buyer a succinct idea of who you are, why you create your products, what problems they solve for shoppers, what makes your line unique, and why they (and their shoppers) should care about them. In other words, tell them the story of your line in a way that highlights its features and benefits and makes them envision your products in their store.

Finally, you should give them a call to action. Whether it’s requesting an in-person meeting, a follow-up phone call, or placing an order, you want the buyer to take the next step.

Perez tells us that she would have loved it if she had a lot of capital behind her and could have gone full-force when approaching retailers, but that isn’t always realistic. She says that starting out small, learning all of the aspects of your product and consumers, and running your business successfully will lay a solid foundation from which you can grow.

“Because it’s a lot easier to change directions on a smaller scale without losing a substantial investment,” she says.


Avalara Author
Suzanne Kearns
Avalara Author Suzanne Kearns