Gill Cordiner, who makes fabulous jewellery, has 18 stockists at last count! Her first tip is to be relentless in your quest. This isn’t necessarily an easy process, but you can make is happen a bit more smoothly by researching what retailers are out there. Cynthia from Shiny Rabbit says that for starters, if you’re going to give a shop insight into expanding their range with your products, make sure you fit! As Cynthia very correctly puts it, there’s no point in trying to sell nipple tassels to a home-wares store! As well as figuring out if you’re a good fit for their shop, let them know where you fit into their ethos and range. Suggest what items from your range suit theirs, what price point they fit in.
Kate from ceramic snippets adds to look at things from all angles. For instance, as well as the right type of item and the right price point, is your product the right style (are your products rustic when everything in the shop you’re looking at is highly polished)?
Peta from Petrafanella and Gill also suggest seeing where your peers are stocked. You can look for labels in the same vein as those sold in magazines you admire, like Frankie and Peppermint. See where they’re stocked and send through an introductory email. Davina from Fluid Ink suggests having a little ‘stalk’ of
potential stockists on Facebook and the internet, this can help you find a contact (the ‘important’ person’s name), and also allows you to find some point of commonality to bring up or base your email around if you choose.
STRIKE A BALANCE WITH YOUR PRICES
Gill emphasises being realistic with your prices. You want to get paid for your work and you know how much effort you’ve put in, but retailers are also looking to make money from selling your work so you need to balance these aspects. Kate says to consider whether you’re looking to approach a shop as a
wholesaler or whether you’re looking to sell on consignment. This affects your pricing structure but also things like how much product you’ll have to make and at what point in the process you can expect payment.
Straightforward but important; Gill says be professional and super-reliable on getting work to retailers; after all, they’re investing in and depending on you! Along with this, take the approach that there is ‘no job too big or small’. Be willing to take on challenges and excel in them, but also acknowledge that a
small job or sale may lead to other things!
Be friendly, approachable and flexible – might you get a stockist if you take a little longer to explain something to someone at your market stall? Kate says that that is how she got her latest stockist… what starts as a general conversation about your craft can end up with the customer revealing they have a
shop and would like to stock your work!
HOW YOU PRESENT YOURSELF ONLINE
Gill says make sure your photos and descriptions are good. If people are perusing your work online they need to see things from angles and displayed in ways that enable them to visualise how they’d fit into their shop stock. On this same note use Facebook, keep it updated, on-point and interesting. Kate
reiterates this, say that too many general updates on things like the weather or positive affirmations etc. can turn people off – it’s a business page, so you can be friendly and fun but make your work the focus of the page. A bit of ‘in process’ information can be interesting. Showing you working on your products
can put a human face to the business and emphasise the work and skill involved in doing what you do!
When approaching people electronically, Gill uses email or Facebook, keeping the message concise and to the point with good images and reference to her website, which is laid out in the style of an online catalogue. Peta makes the point that she always includes images, as you can’t rely on people to click
through all your links to see the relevant work. Cynthia reiterates this, and says to include anything that makes you or your stuff special… people buy stories (that includes the stockists you’re approaching). Keep your email brief but informative too, and don’t be generic, pick your images and tailor the email content to the particular store.
…AND IN PERSON
Approach people when you’re out and about, if you see an ‘on the fly’ opportunity to promote your business then take it – Gill likes to be brazen and push a wee bit – but says don’t be too pushy! Peta suggests going into a store and starting up a conversation to find out how you would go about being stocked there. You can then make an appointment to take some items in to show. It can take courage, but if you pick a good moment (like when the store owner isn’t trying to serve a million customers) and the right store, you can definitely have success!
Whatever way you approach people, Cynthia reminds you to be organised! You’re the one making contact so have your prices, terms and stock sorted before you get in touch with your target! The goal is to get an appointment to show your range.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Finally, be original and your product will appeal. Kate adds to this that not everyone is going to love everything you do, and your work may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Don’t take it personally, accept it and move on. The creation and appreciation of arts and crafts can be very subjective, and for every one person not so keen on what you’ve produced, there’s two or three who will fall in love with your work! If someone doesn’t want to stock your work it could be for any number of reasons – they may have just stocked similar products; they may be on a tight budget, and so forth. Don’t take it as a set back, tell them to get in touch in the future if anything changes and also look at your own approach and take a quick moment to make sure you’re doing everything the best you can… and then move on to your next target!
If you don’t hear back, don’t assume that’s a no! As Cynthia says, ‘follow up!’ Shop owners are super-busy these days and won’t be sitting, twiddling their thumb at the keyboard, waiting for your email. They may forget they even saw your email once they’ve read it, and a follow up may jog their memory. Cynthia
uses the approach of emailng first and then calling or sending a follow-up email after that. Davina is also a fan of the email over ‘cold calling’ – it allows potential stockists to absorb information at their leisure, and if you’re a bit shy it saves any awkwardness!
Once you are stocked somewhere, that’s not the end of the story – as Cynthia says, you’re only going to continue to be stocked if there’s effort on your part in the form of communication and further contact. So take the initiative and keep in regular contact for more orders or refill orders.
As Davina says, the whole process takes a bit of courage and some investment of time, but have a bit of faith in your hard work and your power to make others see its value and loveliness! If you have any other tips or think we’ve missed any good advice, please share and let others who are starting out have a little slice of your expertise! Good luck.
Kate from ceramic snippets: http://www.ceramicsnippets.com
With many thanks to:
Gill from Gill Cordiner Australia: http://www.gillcordiner.com/ (earrings pictured
at top of page by Gill)
Cynthia from Shiny Rabbit: http://www.shinyrabbit.com.au/
Davina from Fluid Ink: http://www.fluidink.com.au/
Peta from Petrafanella: http://www.petrafanella.com/