As a product based business owner, there is nothing more exciting than having orders hit your inbox and watching your products sell. While having more money in your pocket is awesome, chances are you didn’t get into this business solely to make some quick cash (because let’s be honest, this isn’t a get rich quick kind of biz) Your passion for product is driven by something else that only other product people truly understand.
If you’ve been selling your products for awhile and over the counter sales are good you may be at a point in your business when you’re asking yourself, “what’s next?”
Wholesale is my absolute FAVORITE ways to scale your business. Offering your products at wholesale is awesome not only for boosting sales volume but for establishing your business as a brand in the marketplace. Plus, nothing beats walking into a store and seeing something you’ve poured your heart and soul into sitting on a shelf.
I know just how scary diving into wholesale can be. Selling to a retail chain or local boutique looks very different than selling your products directly to a customer. There are a lot more rules + steps involved which means a lot more risk for your business. Plus, you’re selling your products at a lower cost than you would be directly at retail. So, how would doing more work and selling products for less than your current retail be beneficial to your business?
Your volume you sell can skyrocket.
What you sacrifice in retail dollars to get your product to a wholesale price point will be made up in volume. Ask yourself, how long does it take to sell 100 pieces of a $20 product? A week? A month? Enter your wholesale accounts. One larger store has the potential to place these units (if not more!) Even if you’re only planning to work with independent boutiques, once you account for your minimum order and unit requirements you’re still most likely going to hit that 100 piece mark faster than selling individually.
It’s easier to project your income
You know that slightly nauseous feeling that comes with a slump in your online sales? That fear of wondering if anyone will keep buying from you because you’ve heard crickets for the past week? Because buyers work further in advance (think months ahead!) you’re going to have a pretty good idea about how much money you have coming in. Wholesale orders make it much easier to keep a consistent sales calendar while also giving you the opportunity to grow your business through reorders. If your product is performing well, re-orders are one of the easiest ways to boost your bottom line.
Wholesale builds your business credibility
Your business and brand will immediately be seen as more credible because people know that in order to be carried by a retailer, you’ve got to have your shit together. Even if your product biz is currently your side hustle, you’re going to appear in the marketplace (to customers, your competitors, and other retailers) as a real and reliable business.
Selling Wholesale is easier than selling direct to customers
When you’re selling directly and need to generate sales what do you do? Run a special promotion and hope a customer bites? Email your list with an offer and cross your fingers someone is into it? Introduce new products to your shop? While the thought of reaching out to a buyer can be scary the reality is, once you have your pitch and process down you can quickly crank out targeted emails to buyers + stores who would be a great fit for your collection. Just one order can be enough to meet your monthly goal!
Wholesale allows you to reach a larger audience
When your products are in stores throughout the country, you never know who is going to pick one up. The bigger your wholesale account list, the more exposure you can expect to gain and the more diverse your audience will become. This audience will most likely include other store owners and retail buyers too! They are constantly on the lookout for new brands and shopping other retailers is a great way to seek inspiration and learn about new products. If they see something of yours, they like at a store the next town over you can probably expect to receive a call or email inquiring about the other awesome products in your assortment.
Now that we’ve talked a bit about why wholesale is AWESOME let’s talk about setting your foundation because having a strong + consistent wholesale business means having a solid foundation in place. Here are a few building blocks you may want to consider before diving in:
1) Your online shop is established and thriving
By selling products in your online shop you’ve validated that your products are in demand and established a wealth of consumer information + selling stats. Having selling history means you can speak to what people want and like the most. When you know your top selling styles you can share this information with your wholesale buyers and guide them into the styles that are proven sellers. Not only do buyers appreciate the guidance, but when they see your recommendations sell they’ll be much more likely to trust what you have to say in the future. While nobody has a crystal ball and knows exactly what will happen sales wise with a store, having previous selling history is the next best thing.
2) You offer a wide variety of products
Buyers + retailers want to see a wide variety of product options before placing an order. When you line appears to be developed buyers become more confident in your business because you don’t look like the new kid on the block (even if you are!) The more designs and products you have in place the greater chance you have at landing an order simply because there are more options that may appeal to a buyer.
3) You have established your Unique Selling Position
In a nutshell, this is the thing that makes your brand and products unique. It’s a selling point that garners attention and gives buyers and retailers a reason to pick your products over the competition. This may be as simple as Made in the USA, Fair Trade, Made with 100% Recycled paper or as complex as a witty brand tagline.
4) You have packaging that works for a retail sales floor
Packaging is a huge part of a retailer's presentation. When they invest in product, they want to make sure it not only looks pretty and unique enough to grab a customer's attention but that it can withstand living on the sales floor and not be ruined easily. Having packaging that is on brand will help paint the picture for buyers thinking of carrying your products. Keep in mind that the packaging effort that goes into an etsy order or order from your website is probably going to be very different than what you’re sending to a store. When you send directly to an etsy customer you probably add a few extra bells and whistles (maybe some fancy tissue or a handwritten card) when you pack an order. The packaging for the sales floor is what is going to make your product identifiable like include backer cards, belly bands, and product labeling.
5) The numbers WORK
Not every product is destined for wholesale. Sometimes, the numbers just don’t add up! As a general rule of thumb, your wholesale price is going to be half of your retail price. So that $20 art print would wholesale for $10. Sometimes, slashing prices in half doesn’t work. The bigger the store, the bigger chance that they will require a higher markup.
6) You are prepared to carry debt
Larger retailers work on a different set of payment terms than independent boutiques. As exciting as that multi-thousand unit order sounds, the stipulations are big. One of the most common requests is payment terms. This means that you front a lot of money up front to product and ship the product and have to wait for a specific amount of time before getting paid.
7) You know your target market as well as your BFF
Knowing who buys your products and being able to speak to some of your key customer traits will help you establish yourself as an expert. When you can confidently sit across from a buyer and say, “if your client loves X then they will definitely be into (insert your product here) Going the “Every store with a door” route isn’t going to get you very far. When you’re reaching out to buyers they want to see that you’ve done your homework and are seeking them out for a specific reason. The quickest way to piss off a potential retailer? Blindly sending them an email or product samples that make zero sense for their customer base. The buyer will be put off by your lack of effort and you’ll be left looking like an ametur.
8) You have a plan to take on higher volume orders
Whether you’re making each product by hand or outsourcing to a printer you want to take a look at your process to make sure you can accommodate larger orders. Look at how long it takes to either make your products individually or for your printer to turn an order around. When you’re just starting out the volume will most likely be more manageable but if Paper Source came a knocking and wanted to place hundreds or thousands of units, are you able to accommodate? You don’t necessarily have to have this answer immediately, but you do need to start thinking about scalability.
9) You have you done your homework
Here’s the thing, wholesale isn’t for everyone. Running a wholesale business and managing retailer orders + expectations is a full-time job in itself. While you may have dreams of being on the shelf at paper source, it makes sense to test the waters and to focus on working with smaller stores, in the beginning, to learn as much as you can. Big Stores can be a big payoff, but they can also make for big losses.
Keeping all this info in mind, how does diving into wholesale sound to you? If it sounds like your jam and you'd ready to take the next steps in growing your business we should totally chat.