We love sharing resources and geeking out about all things related to small business. Wholesaling is a common topic of conversation, and so we thought it would be a great idea to share a roundup of the top 10 tips for wholesaling handmade items from our community of creative small business owners & industry experts. Enjoy!
1. Don’t Wait For Business to Come to You
Go get the people who don’t know that you exist yet. Look for stores that you think would be a perfect match and send them an inexpensive but well done package with a catalog or promotional materials. It isn’t always necessary to send samples, except for things with a scent or a flavor. When you send a sample, make a nice presentation, but there’s no need to go overboard. Before you make contact, do a little research on their website or Facebook page and include a short note, mentioning something you discovered about them. The personal touch and thoughtful approach will set you apart.
2. Keep Costs Low
There is not one answer to this, but the following points are important:
- Improve your buying capabilities. Check for better pricing constantly to reduce cost. You make money by buying smart!
- Study new ways to improve production time and cost.
- Place your product in stores that are willing to practice a smaller margin while selling.
- Create a secondary less expensive line that will later drive sales of more expensive items.
3. Account For Your Production & Creative Time
Wholesale can be great if you have the proper terms & costs in place. A wholesaling strategy for a handmade business is different from a non-handmade business because creative time & production time have to be taken into account. It isn’t a simple (costX2) situation. Consider all costs including: labor, research, overhead, materials, and any other set costs and multiply by 2 or 3 to get that wholesale price.
4. Plan Ahead For Seasonal Sales
Here’s a rough timeline:
- March: Choose products, develop packaging
- April: Schedule a photo shoot, include packaging and product prototypes
- May: Begin production to have stock on hand by August
- June: Design your catalog and create a price list/order form with wholesale guidelines. Be sure to include: minimum order size, requirements to qualify as a business to resell our things, and an agreement to follow our Minimum Advertised Price (MAP).
- July: Print copies of the catalog and price list. Order or print packaging needed for the product (hang tag, box, wrapper). By the end of July, packaging the product, and sending out catalogs/price lists to your mailing list of stores and websites.
- August: Get orders for fall/holiday, and fill them within a week of receipt. Some customers may provide their UPS account to use for shipping, or you can use our own and charge them.
The same process happens in Spring, ideally starting in October, with a flyer or catalog going out at the end of February.
5. Establish Relationships With Like-Minded Retailers
Consider working with just a few stores with whom you have an excellent rapport and sense of kinship. You and your shops will become invested in each other. Shop owners agree, cold-calling — emailing stores that you think are right for you — is still the best way to go.
6. Communication is Key
Especially when it comes to things like delivery times. The handmade process takes a lot longer than manufacturing items, so be mindful of your capacity and communicate that clearly with your stores. Also, be sure to consider your retailers if you are planning a rebrand.
When reaching out to stores, be sure to include a functioning link to your website, include some photos and don’t forget to proofread!
7. Wholesale Can Widen Your Customer Base & Provide Feedback
For an emerging brand, wholesale customers can be an invaluable source of feedback. This is especially true if you sell into different types of retailers (brick and mortar vs ecommerce, home-furnishing/gift retailers vs toy retailers vs educational, etc) which means the feedback you receive from each segment is really rich and varied. As an entrepreneur, one of your strongest assets is the ability to gain feedback and be agile about integrating it back into your products or workflow. There’s always room for improvement!
8. Stand Out & Be Persistent
Shop owners are looking for things that are really unique and will fit well with their store. It’s a fine line — not necessarily trendy, but fitting into a trend. If you’ve contacted a shop about carrying your line, and you feel like it’s a good fit, but you haven’t heard back, it’s definitely effective to follow up.
9. Meet Shop Owners Halfway
Having a wholesale site and the ability to offer payment options are really helpful for shop owners. Make it easy for shop owners to work with you!
Packaging is a big consideration for shop owners. Not everything has to have a fancy package, but you need to think about the kinds of stores you want to be in, and the packaging has to fit.
Your packaging doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to work — a lot of the paper labels rub off, so it’s important to test these things out first.
Packaging needs to tell people what they are looking at, without being too wordy. For instance, tea towels need to be labeled as tea towels, and it really helps when it says the dimensions so we’re not guessing or having to unfold everything for customers.
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Here are some links from the Aeolidia blog that can help you when pitching your product to boutiques and gift shops:
Huge thanks to everyone who chimed in and shared their insights in this post: Etan and Emily from Wholesale In a Box, Chelsea from Moon and Arrow, Ryan from Stitch and Saw, Amy from Bow Wow Couture, Lior from La Boîte, Teri from Body Systems, Sarah of Sarah’s Silks, Asya from Gleena, Sarah of Jack Be Nimble!
Do you have any wholesaling tips to share or questions of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
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