Psssst. Over here.
I’m going to whisper something in your ear, okay? You don’t have to answer – just nod your head if you agree. Here goes:
Would you like to sell your work to shops?
Ah. Since you’re nodding vigorously and giving me the thumbs up, I’m going to take that as a yes. That’s great news!
You might be wondering why we’re whispering. Well, let me fill you in. Selling your work to shops is probably something you’ve never done before. It involves learning lots of new skills like pricing for wholesale, scaling up production and pitching your product to retailers.
It means taking your business to a whole new level. That’s potentially quite a scary thought, isn’t it?
Come on, you can tell me. Are you a teeny bit scared by it all?
Yep, I thought so. That’s why we’re whispering. The idea of starting a wholesale business can be pretty intimidating when you say it out loud. It’s enough to wake up all of your monsters. You know, those little fuzzballs who sit on your shoulder saying things like this:
“Are you kidding? You can’t do that!”
“You haven’t got the first idea about how to approach a retailer!”
“Who do you think you are? It’ll never work out and you’ll lose loads of money.”
They only say this stuff cause they don’t want you to get hurt, but it’s not exactly helpful or encouraging, is it? Unfortunately, telling your monsters to get knotted only makes them shout all the louder, so here’s what we’re going to do.
I’m going to tell you how to turn your next craft fair into a mini trade show.
With a few easy tweaks, you can take something you’re already comfortable doing and turn it into a showcase for attracting retailers. As far as your monsters are concerned, it’s business as usual. There’s no reason for them to get excited because you’ve done craft fairs lots of times before.
That means they can stay snuggled up in their little monster beds while you lay the foundations for a thriving wholesale business.
Want to know the best part?
The things that attract retailers ALSO attract paying customers, so you’ll sell more too.
Here are my four steps to making it happen.
1. Pick some retailers and write a friendly email
Okay, you’ve got a craft fair coming up. You can use this event to get on the radar of potential stockists in a very easy, non-scary way, simply by inviting them to come and see you.
So what do you say?
Let’s use my shop as an example. Here’s the kind of craft fair invitation I’d like to receive:
I’m Julie and I own Snowflake Designs, a stationery design company. I make screen printed cards and notebooks with a bright, botanical style – please have a look at my website here
I’m exhibiting at the Magpie Craft Fair at The Hub in Edinburgh from 11am-4pm on Sunday 17th March. If you’re free that day I’d like to invite you to come along and visit my stall.
I’m a huge admirer of what you’re doing at Plaisir – it would be wonderful to meet you and perhaps get your thoughts on my latest designs.
Hope you can make it and thanks for your time!
All best wishes,
That’s it! Feel free to mix things up and make it your own, but keep it friendly, relaxed and straightforward.
2. Lay out your stall like it’s a shop
The next two steps are going to help you to draw in paying customers as well as potential stockists. Here’s what they want to see:
The name of your business.
Make it visible and readable.
A simple but polished backdrop
Don’t lay out your precious things on an old tablecloth. The one thing you always, always want to communicate with your display is quality. You need buyers to feel that your stuff is worth spending money on, so invest in some high quality, creative props that compliment your work.
Your prices, refund policy and contact details.
This one’s a cinch. Simply show that you’ve got all the hallmarks of an established, professional outfit. As a buyer, this makes me relax, and when I’m relaxed, I spend.
3. Make eye contact
This is my own personal little bête noire. When I get on this subject I tend to get very SHOUTY, and I don’t want to shout at you. You’re lovely. So I’m going to try to keep a lid on it and simply say:
When I come up to your craft fair stall, LOOK ME IN THE EYE!
What? No, you must be mistaken. That wasn’t shouting, it was just an admirably forthright tone of voice.
Seriously, if there’s one thing I want you take away from this post, it’s this. When someone comes over to browse your stall, look them in the eye and say hello. It’s polite, professional and it’ll help you sell more. Easy, right?
4. Have a casual chat
When a potential stockist arrives at your stall, be relaxed and friendly. It’s okay to feel a bit nervous, but remember this is just a general chat about your work.
The shopkeeper might express an interest in stocking your work right away, without you even having to ask. If that happens, you need to know how close you are to being ready for retail. If you’re at an early stage make that clear, give them your business card and say you’ll be back in touch when you’re set.
If you’re pretty much ready to go, you should have things like your line sheet and wholesale pricelist available. Alternatively, you might just get some expert advice. When the fair’s over, go back to the drawing board and think about how you can use that advice to improve your product.
So what do you think?
Four easy steps and you could be on the way to banking your first wholesale order, and all while your monsters are napping.
Sounds like a plan to me.
Got a question or a worry about selling your work to shops? Sweetie, that’s what I’m here for! Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to make the scary go away.
Clare Yuille — Indie Retail Academy
Clare Yuille is an award-winning indie retailer and writer. She’s the founder of Indie Retail Academy, a place where artists and designers learn how to sell their work to shops. She aims to take away the eeeek! and replace it with aaaah.
For more on using craft fairs to attract potential stockists and getting your creative biz ready for retail, download her free Indie Retail Starter Kit.
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