This is a guest post from Etan & Emily from Wholesale In a Box. More info on them below.
Falling Into Place is one of those stores that are community institutions pretty much from the day they open. Mary Claire started Falling Into Place just last year, but she already has a devoted following in Memphis, an impressive roster of makers, a gorgeous space, a lust-worthy workshop calendar. The store is the culmination of many passions and experiences for Mary Claire. A former school teacher, and a passionate supporter of arts education, this store owner also has a thriving candle line. In fact, she just did a gorgeous relaunch of the line, with a percentage of proceeds going to childhood arts education.
We had the chance to talk to Mary Claire the other day and the conversation ranged from the surprising thing she’s learned about the best way to approach store owners, to what she really looks for in an email pitch, to the key thing that you need to do in your story-telling to prompt a sale. So much of what she shares is resonant with other conversations we’ve had with store owners, from Moon + Arrow’s unique sensibility and approach to makers, to the owner of Select Shop’s emphasis on a warm, direct, respectful approach to pitching.
Mary Claire’s generous spirit, curious mind, and courageous work shines through in everything she does — and the “pro tips” she shared in our conversations for makers growing wholesale are no exception.
7 Tips for Makers Growing Wholesale:
1. Email works great to pitch your line — but do it thoughtfully.
I don’t go to markets. All of my buying is done through things I stumble on, Instagram, suggestions from friends or customers, or submissions. If I like somebody, I mostly go ahead and order. But I do have a folder in my email for products that are under consideration or that I like but don’t have room for. Or that I like, but I don’t like for right now.
The tone of the email is really important. Trying to inject something warm is really key. Most of the letters I get are obviously form letters. A perfect pitch is really warm and references a couple of specific things in my store. That way I can tell that you really do think you’d be a good fit, you’re not just saying that.
Also, I love it when there are a couple of thumbnails in the email that keep me from having to go to the line sheet without knowing what the line is going to be like. It’s an easy and fast way for me to see if it’s a fit.
2. Make it easy for me to order — and to reorder.
What I’ve discovered is fairly personal to me because I’m a new store owner. One of my favorite jewelry designers out of Portland — her stuff sells like hotcakes. And I just send her an email and whatever she wants to send me, she sends me, and it’s really informal.
But I sometimes find it confusing ordering through a line sheet because I write down the item numbers and put it in the email — and when I look back it is just item numbers that don’t match to the products.
Or, some people would say print out this order form and fax it back. And I hate doing that because my printer is not that great, etc.
This is me being “new school” but my favorite is shopping online through a wholesale store. Whether it’s a separate store, or a code that you get at checkout that gives you 50% off everything — both just make it easier to order and to reorder.
3. Consider reaching out through multiple channels
Sending a postcard out of the blue is super cool. And the main reason is that if you send a postcard, it’s very different from getting an email. Depending on the photography, it’s just kind of laying around and looks great. This is what happened with one jewelry line. They sent me a postcard. I said, “Interesting. Not going to place an order, but I’m interested.” Then they sent me another postcard and I said, “Look at you, little tenacious thing.” Then they sent me an email offering free shipping. Loved it. Placed an order. Then I reordered 3-4 times with them.
4. Be firm, but flexible, when it comes to your terms.
I will ask for a lower minimum if the minimum is too high. If you need to do $250 on an opening order, absolutely say that in your terms, but if you can come down, be flexible on that. Stores will always ask if there is something that they want. Because they know better than to be intimidated. I think people who own a store have the balls to ask.
I like to deal with really new wholesalers and they’re sooo accommodating. Be confident and firm and flexible and kind and warm. It’s so great to think about somebody as a person. Even if I don’t know a story behind a product, if I at least know the person is nice, that makes all the difference — and I’m able to tell that to my customer.
5. Make your 2-sentence story your selling point.
What’s really important for retailers is to have a 1-2 sentence, succinct story about the maker because THAT SELLS PRODUCT.
The best stories are like Fashionable out of Nashville. They work with women in Ethiopia, and name each piece after one of the women they work with.
I have to be able to say the story in 2 sentences because that is the amount of attention the shopper has.
6. Cover your bases with packaging, but you don’t need to go overboard.
Jewelry is no big deal, but packaging for other stuff is a big deal. Thinking about how it’s going to look on my shelf is really important. If I’m going to have to do something special to get it on the shelf, that’s not good.
[Wondering what retailers want to see as far as product packaging? 6 Product Packaging Design Tips From Store Owners]
7. Follow up and don’t be afraid of silence at first.
I don’t mean to ignore people but it happens. For instance, I’ll be in the car and mean to come back to it and I just forget. We don’t mean to be rude. So if you’re ignored – don’t worry about that. If you get one that says they’re not interested then that’s pretty definitive. That’s a pretty square rejection and move on from there.
But reach out again in 2-3 weeks and touch base — that’s good and reaching back out with a reminder is totally fine. Even if you’ve been in contact with someone before and it didn’t lead to a sale, I’d say to reach out again if it’s a new season because things change.
Thank you so much for your insight and your gorgeous work, Mary Claire!
This post was shared with us by Etan and Emily from Wholesale In a Box, a service that can help your handmade business grow wholesale. Etan and Emily will be answering your questions in a live wholesale Q&A on Tuesday, June 14th 2016 from 1-1:30pm PST in the Aeolidia Facebook group. Request to join our group today, and put it on your calendar. They’ll be available to answer any and all questions that you have on getting your handmade work into more stores! They will cover some of the biggest mistakes they see makers make when jumping into wholesale, answer questions on anything from line sheets to emails to wholesale terms, and share the simple things any maker can do TODAY to grow their wholesale business.
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Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting has generously let me share her product pricing guide with you here.
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