A Buyers Perspective from Guest Writer, Irina Rachow, owner of Fairen Del
Pretty much not a day goes by where we don’t get at least one inquiry from a designer looking to place their goods in my stores. I take this as a huge compliment, believe me, but as space is limited on the selling floor, it is critical to make the correct buying decisions. Without the right product in front of the customers, none of us will have a job for long… there’s also not a whole lot of extra time to spend sitting down with every potential designer and manufacturer who wants in (or who we want to get) so you need to have your ducks all in a row to nail that coveted appointment with the buyer. So, aside from attending local gift shows or having your products represented professionally by a designer showroom, by following these tips and suggestions, you will be that much closer to getting your goods, whatever they may be, into the stores that cater to your potential customers.
1. Do your homework
When looking for a store to sell your products, take time for a little advance reconnaissance so you know the basics: Store location(s). Is the owner on site? Who’s the buyer? A quick phone call for a name is helpful, or you could check out their website to get more information and a better feel for their operation including the product lines they carry. Local directories offer customer feedback sections as well. If you have the time and inclination, visit the store as a customer to gauge their customer service, product mix, policies, etc.
2. Getting that appointment
I’m more likely to see you if you tell me the meeting will be super-quick, you are two minutes away and can pop in right now. Other buyers may stick to rigid appointment schedules so things like great price-points and consignment are important to mention, and your friendliness will go a long way. Truthfully, one of the best entries to the buyers desk is a referral by a very good customer or one of the staff. Proven sales in similar stores makes me pay attention too.
3. Branding & Presentation
At the buying meeting, it’s nice to see your goods displayed in a clean, organized fashion so I can visualize buying in collections and ‘get’ the look you wish to portray. Always bring physical samples of your products. It’s helpful (and you look like you know what you’re doing) if you have a line sheet; some type of information catalog showing images, style names or numbers and pricing information as well as your company name and contact information. A separate price sheet and order form is helpful as well (don’t you want to write a nice order on the spot?), branding with your logo on a product tag, or on the product itself (not overdone) gives it a legitimate feeling and increases its perceived value. Shelf signs or image cards for the store add a nice touch. Buyers also appreciate display stands and props to showcase the products, as long as they fit in with the space and decor of the store.
4. Does the product fit in?
Each store has a certain product mix, creating a look or personality… do your designs share that look? Chances are, if you have things that appeal to the uber-glitzy gal, that organic-eco-friendly earth muffin shop isn’t going to bite. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to cast a wide net, because you never know what is going on inside a buyer’s head…
5. Find the ‘magic’ selling price
Yes, I know it took a long time to make it, but if the perceived value and the actual price are too far apart, it’s not going to sell. Don’t cheat yourself out of a fair return – take into consideration the real and hidden costs of production: materials, time, shipping, packaging, marketing materials, storage, trade show costs, etc. On the flip side, don’t calculate your time at an inflated rate, either. As a manufacturer of a product, you must calculate your pricing based on efficient production or it will be priced to appeal to fewer people. I want product to turn, not sit.
6. Watch your timing
Please don’t call a buyer on or near holidays or any time during the month of December, if you know what’s good for you. And keep in mind that seasonal products are usually ordered up to 6 months ahead. That means I don’t want to see Fall product in September, unless you want to sell it at a deep discount due to a shorter selling season.
7. Don’t become your own competition
Just because you started out selling at street fairs and home parties doesn’t mean you should keep selling there once you are in retail stores. It can cheapen the product and we don’t want to compete with your friend Joan’s Book Club gathering. The same goes with selling directly online. Be sure your prices are the same or higher than mine. If not, it doesn’t feel fair, so please decide ahead of time if you want to be a wholesaler or private retailer.
8. Seasonal Rotation
Even the best buyer can’t gauge every nuance of the marketplace, so sometimes there is product left over from the last season, or some styles didn’t perform well. If you are willing to trade out your goods for fresh styles, we will be thrilled.
9. Support your line
Successful retailers know that service is everything. We like to work with designers who believe the same applies to them. If there is a defect in the product, fix it or replace it. If there is damage done by a customer, do your best to accommodate them. Special orders are a plus, same with custom designs (we love exclusives). We all want to believe in your line, so we all need to show it. It makes for a great relationship.
Lastly, congrats on your endeavor and keep on going! First impressions are lasting impressions, so slap on a smile and be confident with your creation. Best of luck to you.