Starting a small business and expanding into independent retail can be challenging. In this blog post, I spoke to Antonia Sanches-Toomey, a successful independent store owner, who shares valuable insights. Learn how to create aesthetically pleasing content to attract retail buyers, how being flexible with payment terms can help you build a relationship with your retail buyers, how to set competitive price points that make it viable for stockists to buy from you, and how to improve communication to help your stockists sell more of your products.
I spoke to Antonia Sanches-Toomey, founder and owner of Tailor Made Living (formerly known as Tinker Tailor) who successfully runs an independent store in North London. During our chat, she shared a few tips on how to get noticed in the world of wholesale by independent retailers.
Aesthetically pleasing content
When you started to build your brand and your story, you will have had a clear vision in your mind of how you wanted it to look, is this still relevant and are you keeping on top of this? When independent retailers check out your Instagram page and website is it aesthetically pleasing or a complete mess?
Before approaching a retailer this is the first step in winning them over and giving yourself a better chance of being noticed. Independent retailers can receive at least 3-5 pitch emails a day, how will your email and your content stand out?
Be clear about your message, if you are eco friendly, shout about it! If you have a life-changing product, tell them why they need it! Clear messaging and well-structured content will go a long way and make the decision for the buyer a lot easier.
Additionally, when you approach an independent retailer for the first time, take the time out to research their social media and website to see if your brand will even fit into the look they are trying to conceive. It can be a waste of time to spend hours writing emails and sending DM’s if your product does not align with the aesthetic they already have.
Retailers cannot say yes to everybody so do your research, clean up your content, and make the best first impression that you can.
Be Flexible with your payment terms
Independent retailers are often bricks and mortar stores with high overheads, they need to pay rent, staff, etc so buying stock on top of this can mean cash flow is tight. When you sell to an independent retailer bear in mind that they only have space for a limited amount of stock and probably a low amount of storage space.
You may have payment terms for big retailers but ask smaller businesses for payment upfront, which is normal but why not offer payment terms to an independent store that you love and have been admiring? It’s all about working together and helping each other as small businesses. They build trust in your brand to supply great products and you trust them to place regular orders with payment terms. Of course, this isn’t feasible in all cases but could you shorten your payment terms to two weeks instead of 30 days to help the retailer and start building a strong relationship?
Minimum orders are also very normal to put in place but once again if you are keen on selling in a particular store, can you make an exception? You never know how one trial order of 10 units could spiral into 100 units the next time if your product sells well for them.
Is your stock readily available? Having stock ready to send within a matter of days is highly attractive to buyers. For example, in the run-up to Christmas, if you are selling a candle but your lead time is 6 weeks, the buyer is never going to wait until January, they will simply buy from another supplier, maybe even multiple times in the lead up resulting in a relationship being built and stock being shifted quickly.
Being flexible will result in a strong and solid relationship with the buyer, leading to repeat orders and mutual respect.
Price Points that works for wholesale
So you have an amazing product, everybody is going to want it but you are being turned away because of your wholesale price, why?
As previously mentioned, independents have high overhead costs, so in order for them to make money, they need to carefully consider each product margin and don’t forget VAT.
Can you hand on heart say that you can offer your product to a retailer at 50% off the RRP including VAT? If a retailer can’t claim back the VAT on your products, the margin is tighter and they will find it harder to push the products out the door.
Being VAT registered will not only help you secure wholesale orders, but it will also benefit you in the long run as you will end up being able to claim back VAT on your material costs as well.
Take some time to reflect on your pricing before approaching retailers as it really can make the difference between a sale or not to them.
Clear and regular communication that nurtures the relationships you have with your retail buyers
We all know that communication is key and this is no different when selling to an independent. If you are serious about building your wholesale then block time out each week to reach out to your current stockists, and potential stockists to check-in. You may not get a response, they may tell you to call back in 3 weeks, or you may jog their memory and you secure an order they’ve been meaning to send you for a month.
You may find picking up the phone daunting but from the point of view from the buyer, a quick phone call for a catch-up will make the world of difference. You are speaking directly to the buyer, with the tone you want to get across, you are building a relationship, and most importantly it is much quicker than firing backwards and forwards with emails.
However, you may communicate try and get your products in front of the retailer. Tell them you can pop in-store to show them, make an appointment and take them a coffee!
Keeping in touch will show retailers that you are passionate and proactive. Bear in mind though that you don’t want to become an annoying salesperson, you need to be persistent but in a friendly way. Gauge the response of the buyer and ask for honest feedback, you may feel disheartened if they don’t want to sell your product but there are so many other stores out there who may not even know your brand exists just yet.
Do you need a helping hand?
As a small business you already have the products and the knowledge of your brand, but could you be doing more to grow? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a helping hand, somebody to help streamline your processes and save you time in the long run? My expertise as a mentor is in helping businesses like yours gain the confidence to sell, be more profitable, feel comfortable with your pricing strategy and be the business owner you dreamed of when you started your journey! You can find out more about my course Start To Wholesale by clicking the banner below.