This past year I took steps to sell some of my items on wholesale to shops and boutiques. I had been planning and researching this process for a while and I want to share 6 steps to a successful handmade business that I found to be essential. After selling my original art, prints, journals and note cards at craft shows and my shop, I decided to move into the wholesale market.
I already had success in the retail market through Etsy first and then my own online shop. But now I would be dealing with shop and boutique owners and they would have different expectations from me. I quickly learned that I would need to make my products unique and attractive to them, but also my brand and what I could provide for them. So, here are some of the things I learned…
- What is unique about your product? Is there a story or purpose behind your handmade products? Do you use an unusual process in how you make them? Make the retailer aware of this. Shop owners want unique items that have a connection to the artisan. For me, it is using vibrant colors for inspirational art, especially for Cancer patients.
- Is your ordering process easy? It’s essential to have a clear and simply line sheet and order form for the retailers. How will the retailer submit their purchase orders, fax, online or in person? The easier the process for them, the more likely they will order from you again. I have been using Etsy Wholesale for that last 6 months and overall I’m pleased with the site. I’ve had several retailers find me on the site when doing searches. (*Update) But, effective 7/31/18, Etsy Wholesale will be closing it’s digital doors. It was just too small of a portion for the online giant There are other online sites specifically for handmade wholesalers; Art Setters and Brand Boom. If you want to create your own documents try Line Sheet Maker.
- Are your policies clear and easily available? Ensure that the retailer understands the payment terms, minimum orders, and processing/shipping times. I would recommend reviewing these with them at the first order. Have them easily accessible on your online shop too. This will help you if there are any issues with an order and the retailer wants a refund.
- Is your pricing correct? Retailers will expect to increase the prices by 100% to reach the suggested retail price, so you need to make sure that your wholesale price covers your materials cost and labor. Here is an easy formula to use as a guide. Within your line sheet you will show your wholesale price and then the SRP (suggested retail price).
- What kind of support can you offer the owner? You can provide a customized display unit to showcase your items, do live demonstrations or trunk shows if you’re local, or provide sales materials. Supporting local artisans is a very popular movement right now. So, for a retailer to have the artist there to sign prints or do a demonstration is a great opportunity for both.
- What shipping options will you offer? This can be a great expense for the retailer, so research the most economical option, but also be prepared to provide expedited shipping for an additional cost. Take care to package your items in a secure manner, but also include a sample of another product that they haven’t ordered and may be interested in purchasing at a later date, i.e. Christmas cards, Valentine cards.
One common thread that all of these steps have is communication. Make sure that you have regular communication with the retailer and reply to their inquiries in a timely manner. Let them know of new products or collections that will coming out and send them samples or pictures. One way I accomplish this is having a separate newsletter just for my wholesale retailers (current and potential). Remember to get their permission to be added to the email list. All of these steps will ensure that you have a long and successful wholesale relationship with them.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. I would love to hear any other suggestions or if you have any specific questions about wholesale business.