Selling into retail

Selling your product and designs to a shop can be very rewarding and preparing for a sales meeting doesn’t need to be a daunting process. After you’ve successfully set up a sales appointment with a buyer, it’s time to prepare for it. When you meet the buyer, make sure you can provide the key information about your product or brand. This article discusses what buyers want to know and some of the key information you should always bring with you.

Why sell through a retailer?

Getting retailers to sell your product can be an exciting and crucial step to expanding your business in an effective way. The benefits are many and can include:

Wider reach – your product in a large number of shops puts it on the map, promoting it to a range of potential customers in different locations.
Credibility – your product in a trusted outlet creates prestige for your brand and sparks people’s interest and trust in your product.
Broader sales – although your profit margin is lower, the amount you sell through a retailer is greater.
Marketing and PR – a retailer can promote the value of your brand to your ideal customers, interest and excite them, and lead them to your website.
Product contact – your customer has a chance to ‘feel and touch’ the product, as well as try it on and see the detail in its production. This is difficult to convey in an online shop

What does a buyer do exactly?

From planning and selecting products to predicting new trends, a buyer has many responsibilities. However, generally, their key focus is driving sales, increasing customer traffic and ultimately increasing profits. That’s why when you meet them to discuss how your product could fit into their range, it’s important to understand their main concerns. These priorities can include:

Increasing sales – They want to know and understand how your product will sell well in their shop and is right for their customer/audience.
Market knowledge - understanding the audience for the products that they sell, considering a customer’s buying habits and changing their product offer to suit those changing tastes.
Analysing trends – predicting style and fashion trends for their market.
Planning merchandise and space – knowing what’s been ordered, when it’s arriving and how to present it in an appealing way in the store.
Controlling budgets – managing budgets, buying the right amount and type of stock to hit sales targets.
Developing product ranges – identifying exciting new products for their shop/department and ensuring existing products are updated to maintain customer interest.

What kind of retailers are out there?

From niche to mainstream businesses and everything in between, there are a variety of retail structures buying in different ways.

Independent Retailers

An independent retailer is often the owner. So they’ll normally be able to make decisions quickly about what they buy including whether to stock your product. This type of retailer also:

  • Often know their customers personally and have close relationships with them
  • Tends to buy according to their own and their customers’ taste
  • Are often flexible in their approach, interested in new product ideas and open to trying new brands/product lines
  • Order small quantities rather than set amounts or minimum order levels
  • May want to be the only ones selling your product in a particular area and may ask for ‘exclusivity’ within their location

Chain Store Retailers

A chain store retailer is often owned by a single firm and can be located across the country or even worldwide. They typically have standardised business practices so can be slower to place orders because they need approval from management. This can also include things like getting approval to raise a purchase order. This type of retailer also may:

  • Want to present your product in a certain way – possibly with their labelling
  • Buy a range or group of products (sometimes called collections or stories) rather than single designs/products
  • Request exclusivity on a particular design, colour, print or finish, so be prepared to negotiate on this, perhaps raising the unit price to avoid you losing sales by not being able to offer the product elsewhere
  • Make larger orders – so be ready with accurate ‘lead times’ and negotiate a realistic delivery time when they place the order
  • Need you to schedule deliveries to a centralised warehouse
  • Follow company buying guidelines rather than buy intuitively
  • Want to price your product at a higher retail mark up to align with the overall company strategy e.g. some London stores can work on mark-ups of 3.3 equates to 3.3 X your cost price i.e. if your cost price for a product is £10 they will retail this for around £33.00

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