You have your range ready, you've done your market research, set your prices, and made a catalogue or line-sheet and now you're ready to approach some potential stockists to see if they would be interested in stocking your products. Finding potential stockists takes a little bit of detective work but you will soon get a hang of it.
1. Go local
I'm sure that you can think of several independent stores in your or nearby towns that you could see your products in. Start by approaching them. If you feel comfortable with approaching them in person, take your catalogue and a couple of samples and make a visit, ask for the shop owner or store manager and see if they are interested.
If you're not comfortable approaching in person, find out the name of the buyer and drop them an email. You can often find this on their website or their social media channels. Read my blog post about writing your email pitch here.
You could also ask friends and family where they shop and where they think your products could sell.
2. Social media
If you're active on social media start by having a look at your followers, there might already be a few stores that follow you. Contact these stores first as they would have already seen your products and are much more likely to buy.
Contact them through email rather than through social media, it's more professional and allows you to include all the information you need.
3. Check out the competition
Look at your competitors' websites, this might feel a bit funny at first but a lot of them do have stockist lists on their sites and you are likely to have a similar customer base so their stockist might like your range too. Look out for brands that compliment your range rather than things that are the same as yours.
You can also have a look at their social media and see what shops are following them and have a google of their brand and a town as their stockists are likely to list their products on their websites.
4. Google is your friend
Or any other search engine that you prefer, the internet has a wealth of information and most independent stores have at least a social media presence, most have a website. Search for terms relevant to your products, to narrow it down I often add in an area or town. A few example searches below that might get you started:
Often your searches will come up with articles such as "15 best independent shops..." etc. This is great as they often have pictures and you can quickly get a feel for the store concepts.
5. Exhibit at a Trade show
This is a fairly costly way of reaching potential customers and I would often recommend that you get your first few stockists before you exhibit at a show, this way you can be confident that your prices work, that your range sells, and you can practice your selling skills and build your confidence before being approached by a larger retailer at a trade show.
There is nothing wrong with growing slow and making sure you know what you're doing before spending thousands of pounds at a show. However, if you want to reach lots of stockists quickly the right trade show can help you do so.