How to Get Your Products in Retail Stores

This is a Maker Mentors‘ guest post from Wholesale in a Box.

We help makers at all different stages get their beautiful handmade goods into fantastic stores.

But so many of the makers we work with have one thing in common: they’re not sure what to say in emails to stores to get a positive response and not feel icky.

Reaching out to new prospective retailers can be scary and frustrating.  You are putting yourself out there and that’s always challenging: they may say that your work is not a good fit for them or — worse still — they may not respond at all.

Ultimately, though, we’ve found that introducing your products to stores does not have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be scary, it doesn’t have to feel slimy, and it can work.  In fact, with the maker businesses we work with, we’ve found that the most important thing they can do to grow their business is to do consistent outreach to stores that are aligned with their brands.  There is no surer thing.  And when we talk to retailers, they love hearing from makers — but they want to hear from them in certain ways.


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So these are our best tips, culled from advice from makers and stores across the country, for introducing your products to stores — and getting results:

  1. Choose stores that are a great fit It can be really time consuming to find stores that are a perfect fit.  But if you’re not “lit up” by what they do, they probably won’t be lit up by what you do.  When we talk to stores, they’re often frustrated that makers aren’t more discerning about who they reach out to.  So put in the time to really vet stores as being aligned with what you make — and you’ll get a much better response.
  2. Have a compelling subject line and a clear opening – Say it simple and say it short.  Who are you and what are you offering should be easily scannable.  Don’t make them work for it.  Good subject lines are more like “A line of bold clutches for Kin & Pine” and less like “wholesale inquiry.”
  3. Make it excessively personal – Why do you think you’re a good fit for that store in particular?  What else do you like that they carry?  Go on their Instagram and dig around for something nice to say about what they’re doing, which if the store is a good fit, shouldn’t be so hard.  And paint a picture about how you fit into that.  For instance, “I’ve always loved Kin & Pine because you have such disciplined curation and a fearless eye for new talent.  When I was in recently, I noticed that you’ve been carrying some minimal, modern tops — and I think my clutches would be a strong complement to those clothes.”
  4. Offer a bargain – A good account can really pay dividends over the years.  For instance, you can pull them in during the slower summer months by telling them about a special you’re running (in terms of a discount or lower minimum).  A smaller order at first, (if cultivated) can mean a true collaborator and steady orders for years to come.  And from the store’s perspective, a bargain for the first order lowers their risk.
  5. Pay attention to the little things – Break up text into smaller blocks so it is more readable at a glance.  A good way to tell if you’re doing this well is to ‘put on your beer goggles’ (just squint a little bit) and scan through it as a store owner might, to see if your most crucial points stand out or if they are lost in a paragraph of text.

Share what other fancy stores you are in and any other claims to fame.  Now is no time to be shy.

Store owners are more excited about something that seems like a sure thing so if you have an account at the revered ___ in L.A., let them know.

Make your contact info easy to find and include a line sheet, even a basic one if they want to look at prices.

Delete any unnecessary words to make it as short as you can.

We cannot stress this enough.  Keep it short!  If it’s short it might be read.  If it’s not, no matter how good of a fit you are for the store, your email is likely to be ignored.

Emily and Etan founded Wholesale in a Box to help maker businesses grow their wholesale accounts.  They are passionate about helping makers grow their business in a way that feels right for their brand.  Their subscription service helps makers go from a few stores to a few dozen stores — with a fraction of the work it would otherwise take.  Previously, Emily founded Liga Masiva, a global market connecting small-scale farmers with consumers and Etan has worked with small food companies to grow distribution and guided operations at some of the most progressive startups in the US.

Emily and Etan have passed along a lifetime discount of $20 per month for Maker Mentors folks with the code makermentors20off

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