Handmade Wholesale – How to find your stockists
You’re confident and ready to start approaching retailers, but where do you find them?
Start a list. Write down every store you would love to see your products in.
How do you know which stores to add to said list? Here’s a few ideas…
Look at other makers stockists
Check out the websites of makers whose work you love and check for a stockist page. The stores on this list obviously appreciate handmade products and could be a good store for you to pitch your product to.
Don’t look at makers whose work is super similar too yours. If you make fine silver jewellery almost identical to the work of another maker, their stockists are not likely to take on your brand. Retailers are constantly on the hunt for something new and different for their customers so they will rarely stock two brands that are super similar.
It’s also just a bit ethically yuck really…
You don’t want to look like you’re trying to poach business from another maker. We gotta stick together right!
Look at makers whose work complements your range. Do they have a similar aesthetic, would their product appeal to the same target market as yours? Would your pieces look good sitting next to theirs in a retail store? If you answered yes to these questions, their stockists are the ones to contact.
When you contact the store, mention you know they carry Jo Flynn’s jewellery, and you love her work. Tell them if they like her pieces they might be interested in your work too… This tells the retailer you have a genuine interest in their business and what would suit their store. Retailers will be more engaged with you if you show a genuine interest in their business and care about their customers. It also tells them you didn’t just contact them out of the blue.
Look for retailers on social media
You can use social channels to search for retailers but you can also use it as a platform for them to find you.
It’s quite common for stores to approach makers and ask if they can stock your product. You want to make it clear that you offer wholesale and are keen to work with retailers. Include something in your bio like “Please contact for wholesale enquiries” Nice and simple. They know that they can approach you and you’re ready and willing to take their order.
When you know a few stockists you would like to aim for, follow them on social media and engage with them. Genuinely comment on their posts and like their photos. More often than not, this can result in them checking out your Instagram account, and seeing your work. What a great organic introduction! Approaching a shop will seem far less daunting when you know a thing or two about what’s happening with the store and even more so if you know they have also seen your work.
You can also let Instagram suggest potential stockists for you! When you look at a store you like on Instagram, hit the little arrow next to the “following” button. This then comes up with a list of other accounts Instagram thinks you’ll like. It’s quite likely there will be other stores in these lists similar to the one you’re looking at. Now you have more stores to engage with! More potential stockists! Yeah!
Check out the local areas
If you know a particular area is a hot spot for the kind of people you would consider to be your target market go out and explore that part of town. Check out the retail stores in the area, if you find some that would be a good fit, note down their details. If you’re feeling confident, just go straight in, tell them what an amazing shop they have and maybe leave them a business card. This style of pop in, if done well can come across very genuine and you’re going to get leave the buyer feeling positive about you and your business. You could then follow this up with an email or perhaps sending some samples.
If you just pop in unannounced with all of your stuff and want to show them everything, they will smell a sales rat and have their guard up. Keep it casual and build a relationship with the retailer.
Having said that, you could go with a small product to leave with the them but keep it simple and your visit short. Retailers are busy and without a booked appointment please don’t expect to take up more than 2 minute of their time. A simple, “Hi, love your store, I have a product that I think you’ll love, can I leave this with you…” will go a lot further than coming equipped with your whole collection and 10 catalogues. TRUST ME! – I know this from experience.
Go to trade fairs
A trade fair is like a market that is only open to people in the retail industry, media and designers. Wholesale businesses exhibit at these fairs to meet potential stockists and show off their current collections to new and existing customers. A lot of retailers will go to these fairs to order their stock and find new suppliers to work with.
If you’re ready to make the jump and sell at fairs I would recommend starting with Life InStyle. They have a First InStyle category where first time exhibitors get the opportunity to have a small stand at the entry of the fair. This is where buyers find a lot of new and upcoming designers and brands.
Taking part in trade fairs is a fabulous way to meet potential stockists but it may be a little out of your budget to start. If that’s the case you should still be aware of trade fair seasons. This is key buying time for retailers. We’ll talk more about this is the next post.
Find the right retailers for your brand
Don’t just enquire with every retailer you come across, find the right stores for your products. During the research I conducted for these articles several retailers offered this advice which I think is spot on. Here’s a quick quote from one retailer on Sydney’s North Shore.
“Do your research beforehand regarding the style and price point of the retailers you are approaching. Remember that they are approached by a number of brands, and unless your products are on point with their style and price point, you may not even be considered.”
If you sell coastal themed candles, maybe don’t approach the inner city boutiques first. Start looking around coastal towns instead. If you sell jewellery and the store you’re looking at is 99% homewares, leave that one for now. If the store only sells high end cushions and you have cushions made from a relatively common fabric, maybe it’s not the store for you.
This might sound harsh but when you’re starting out you want to aim for stores that you’re more likely to get the yes from. Don’t aim too far out of your niche or you’ll just end up disheartened. There’s a store for every maker and a maker for every store! You just need to find your store.
Aim for stores that fit your aesthetic and whose customers are likely to fit with your target audience. It’s not just about the store owner liking your products, you need their customers to connect with your pieces too. If a retailer takes on your products but their customers don’t buy it from the store, they are not likely to place another order with you.
Well those are just some ideas! Do you have others? How do you find new stockists?
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Next up: How to approach potential stockists
Stay tuned! 🙂