Meredith Ireland runs a retail space in Tasmania promoting local makers and creatives. She is also a weaver and my right-hand gal here at Create & Thrive.
In this episode, we discuss what the process of wholesaling your products looks like from a retailer’s perspective, the do’s and don’ts of approaching a retailer, and also the reasons why retailers charge what they do.
As a maker and a retailer Meredith sees both sides of this relationship and so we discuss this and how best to go about approaching retailers with a good chance of success!
If you would like to hear what it’s like to be on the other side of the handmaker-retailer relationship, don’t miss this one.
(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)
Join us for our premiere, wholesale marketplace showcasing the highest-quality handmade work by more than 300 of the country’s most talented jewelry, clothing, and home goods artists. The variety of price points available makes our Baltimore show a destination for wholesale buyers regardless of budget.
view show detailsRegister
If you register as a buyer for our 2020 Baltimore wholesale show, you can use your badge at our four additional retail shows throughout the remainder of the 2020 season – no additional registration required. Just show up with your badge!
The Baltimore wholesale show is followed by our retail show in the same location. Stick around to shop the more than 550 makers exhibiting February 21 – 23. Our other three retails shows happen in three different cities throughout the year.
view show details
view show details
view show details
view show details
If you do not register as a wholesale buyer for our Baltimore show, you can still shop our Atlanta, St. Paul, and San Francisco retail shows as a wholesale buyer; you will just need to purchase an advance ticket to the retail show. Please bring your ticket our show office when you arrive:
Register for Baltimore wholesale show
Want to get your products onto the shelves of major retailers? Discover 10 tips direct from small businesses who are already selling wholesale.
I spend a lot of time researching reputable wholesale suppliers for Silhouette Cameo and Cricut small business crafters. But, everyone always wants to know where they can buy vinyl wholesale! Let’s talk about that today.
To understand how to buy vinyl wholesale, we have to look at the flow of the vinyl before it gets in your hands. First, a manufacturer makes the vinyl. This takes place in large factories with large equipment. Some well known manufacturers of vinyl are Siser, Chemica, 3M, Orafol, Avery, and more. Next, the manufacturer sells vinyl to distributors. These distributors buy large rolls of vinyl and cut them down to size. Distributors also often have large warehouses. (Note: Some manufacturers have their own distribution centers.) Now, the vinyl is sold to retailers who sell the vinyl to end consumers either online or in a brick and mortar store.
If you want to continue selling handmade products – you’ll need to continue buying vinyl from your favorite distributor. If you would like to abandon selling handmade products and become a vinyl retailer – make sure your paperwork is in order and contact your favorite vinyl manufacturer.
Which business do you prefer: making and selling handmade products or selling vinyl to other crafters? Let me know in the comments.
Save this post to Pinterest:
Wholesale transactions occur when you sell quantities of your work to a dealer or a retailer, usually at a discount. In other words, you charge your costs plus a markup that generates a profit (although usually not as large a markup as when you sell the item directly to consumers). That dealer or reseller resells your work to the general public.
Don’t expect to get a check as soon as the wholesale deal is made. Payments for wholesale sales are traditionally made 30, 60 or 90 days after the goods have been transferred. In effect, your crafts business is extending credit to the retail outlet. You may not feel like you’re extending credit—after all, you’re just waiting for payment—but from a legal perspective, you’re making an unsecured loan to the store or gallery. Your “creditor” status can have a significant impact on your business, particularly if you extend a lot of credit to a store that has financial problems.
When selling wholesale, you don’t need a custom-made wholesale order form. Perfectly suitable order forms can be purchased at an office supply store or downloaded from the Internet. You can personalize these forms with the name of your business. Alternatively, many business software accounting sites include customizable forms and invoices. At a minimum, your order form should include:
It’s normal to include a statement in the invoice that the order cannot be canceled. After all, a deal is a deal, and most stores understand that. If you want, you can seek compensation in the event of cancellation. For example, in the sample invoice, check the box, “Buyer agrees that in the event the order is cancelled, there is a cancellation fee of __% of balance due.” Although some crafts businesses use such language, always keep in mind that if a store fails to pay it, you must go to court to enforce the agreement. The same is true for the optional statements regarding interest payments and collection fees. When preparing your own invoices, you can decide whether to use this language (or delete it) in your invoice.
When People’s Pottery, the 47-store chain specializing in American-made crafts, filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, it claimed $20 million in debts. That sum included $3 million that remained owing to approximately 250-300 crafts vendors. An attorney working on the case told one of the crafts artists that it would be a victory if the crafts businesses got 1% of the amount owed them.
What happened to the $8 to $10 million in assets that the company still had when it declared bankruptcy? It was used to pay secured creditors—lenders who had demanded that their loans be secured with property. If the debt wasn’t paid, the secured creditors could demand that the bankruptcy court sell the assets and turn the proceeds over to the creditors. Crafts artists who had used Net 30 or Net 60 terms were considered unsecured creditors and would only be paid if money remained after paying the secured creditors. In other words, the crafts artists were left holding an empty bag!
It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, for a small crafts vendor to avoid the disastrous results of the People’s Pottery debacle. Unless a crafts business has somehow secured its loan by requiring in writing some collateral as a condition of a wholesale purchase, the purchaser’s bankruptcy will effectively wipe away the debt. Because there’s not much you can do once a store goes into bankruptcy, you’ll need to minimize your risks beforehand. Below are some suggestions:
Our tips on wholesale and consignment will help you find stores that fit your niche , learn the best Looking to get your art or handmade crafts into more stores?.
Selling handmade products wholesale is a momentous achievement for handmade artisans. For some, it’s a goal they’ve worked towards for years… building their brand, refining designs, streamlining production and sourcing the most cost-effective materials.
Landing your first wholesale gig is not only a massive achievement, but also a huge relief, knowing the products you’re making have already sold – without having to face frosty winter mornings at the markets!
If you’re considering selling handmade products wholesale, follow these tips to land your first order with the right retailer.
Pricing handmade products may be the least exciting part of the job, but when it comes to selling wholesale, you’ve gotta get it right from the start. There are various pricing formulas available for selling handmade products wholesale, so just be sure whichever you choose takes into account all your expenses and the cost of your labour.
Handmade marketplace Etsy suggests multiplying your break-even price by at least two to arrive at a wholesale price that helps both makers and retailers achieve a fair profit. Let’s break that down…
Supplies = cost of supplies to produce your product (fabric, paint, paper, clay, leather, glue, beads etc)
Overheads = expenses like rent, equipment, advertising, transport etc. Add up the monthly cost and divide that number by the number of items you’d like to sell each month for a rough idea of overhead costs.
Labour = decide on the hourly wage for you and any employees, then multiply that by the time it takes to produce each item, remembering the skills, qualifications and knowledge required to do what you do.
For info on suggesting recommended retail prices and volume pricing to incentivise large orders checkout this article.
Wholesale could be the difference between leisurely selling 20 units at a market that you’ve spent months making, and fulfilling an order for 200 units before a shop opens in two weeks’ time. At some point production is going to dramatically increase, even if you’ve got a stash ready to go for your first order. And if your products sell well, you’ll have re-orders before you know it!
To maximise efficiency and fulfil orders within a reasonable time, you may want to limit the product lines you offer at wholesale prices. Choose the products that have the most efficient production processes, with the highest profit margin. By striking this balance you’ll ensure you’re producing quality products quickly with the highest possible returns.
When was the last time you shopped around for materials? Suppliers’ prices change over time… They grow and pass savings onto customers… Lower prices when a competitor enters the market… Discount for EOFY… Offer seasonal sales… Slash prices on materials reaching expiry… There’s even the odd closing down sale.
Keep an eye on competing suppliers by signing up for their newsletters and be in the know about changing prices to ensure you’re always getting the best value. You’re ordering wholesale quantities now too, so the discounts available should be greater, and the more you save on materials, the more you’ll profit from each product.
When wholesaling, you need to wear the cost of buying bulk quantities until orders are paid in full, so put money aside now to prepare for wholesaling in the future.
Every sale’s a good sale, right?! If you’re driven purely by profit, sure. If however the reason you started your handmade business was to reduce your carbon footprint, create one-of-a-kind gifts made with love, or build a home-business that gives you more time with your family, consider how these goals and values align with the retailers you’re pitching to.
Find like-minded businesses who share your vision for ethical consumerism and fully appreciate the long hours and learned skills that have gone into each and every one of your products. Remember to set clear expectations around order size and delivery times in the very beginning as well, so your part-time business doesn’t become a full-time headache.
You’ve probably got a couple of businesses in mind that you’d love to stock your products. Add them to the top of a spreadsheet which includes the following columns:
Keep building this list until you’ve got at least 10 businesses that stock complementary products with a recommended retail price similar to yours (wholesale price x 2 or more) and keep it updated throughout the pitching process.
Focus on local retailers first to keep delivery times and costs to a minimum while reducing your transport emissions. Then when you’ve exhausted all local options, cast your net further and check out retailers in neighbouring suburbs and towns.
Whether your first point of contact is email, over the counter, or you’ve been approached at a market, have a beautifully branded wholesale pack ready to give retailers with product images, benefit-driven product descriptions and a list of wholesale prices that can be emailed as a PDF, or printed for distributing in-person. VistaPrint offer a range of presentation folders great for collating your pitching docs.
Now, what to include in your wholesale pack…
This includes a concise description of your brand and products, including a customised section about how you discovered the store, what you like about their brand and the products they sell, and how your handmade products complement their range and add value to their customers. Where possible, find out the name of the owner and personally address the letter to them. Keep this letter short, around 3-5 paragraphs is ideal.
Here you can go into more detail about your story, how and why you started making handmade and info about your production process and materials. If you’ve got other wholesale customers, list them in this section, along with any media coverage you’ve had and a couple of customer testimonials. Limit this to 1-2 pages and include some photos of you working on your products to bring this section to life.
If your product images are lacklustre, invest in a professional photographer to take some high-quality images – it will pay for itself in the long run! If your budget is tight, consider offering photographers the products you need photographed in exchange for the shoot. More detailed products should have multiple images showcasing different angles, and every product should have a brief description outlining the features and benefits. Include any minimum order requirements and give each product a Product ID that can be listed on your order form.
An order form is a single page insert that retailers will send to you by fax or email to place an order. It should include your business branding and contact details, along with a space for the retailer’s contact and delivery details. It includes a table for customers to list the products and quantities they want to purchase and allows them to calculate total costs.
A graphic designer will help you present your information in a clear and logical format for prospects to flick through and easily find the information they need to reach a decision. Quality graphic designers can be found at affordable rates on Upwork and Fiverr. Search for designers who specialise in catalogues and ask to see their portfolio to view similar work.
An elevator pitch is a succinct overview of your business that can be delivered in no more than 30-60 seconds (or during the course of a brief elevator ride). It tells prospects the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW of your business, and should highlight any unique aspects of your products. For example…
When delivering your pitch, don’t recite it word-for-word. Be flexible and use it more as a guide for pitching in person or over the phone to get the conversation rolling naturally.
Get ready to pull on your cape, Super Maker… it’s time to promote your products! If sales isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry – the more you practice and rework your pitch (taking into account retailers’ feedback and objections) the more confident you’ll feel about approaching prospective wholesale buyers. To get you started, choose the pitching strategy below you’re most comfortable with…
Check retailers’ websites to see if they have a protocol for accepting wholesale applications. If there’s no formal process and you’re feeling brave, pick up the phone and give them a call. Let them know you’d like to provide a sample of your work and get the contact details of the best person to send a sample to, or arrange a time to drop in and present your collection.
There’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. Pack some samples, grab your info packs and drop into the shops on your hit list. Avoid peak times so you have the full attention of shop owners. If the owner isn’t available, leave your info pack and product sample to be passed on, then follow up with a call the next day to confirm they received the pack and arrange a time to show them the rest of your collection.
If you’re shy and prefer to pitch from the safety of your studio, email retailers an info pack and let it do the heavy lifting before calling the following day to confirm they received it. On the call, butter them up by offering to drop in a free sample. This should be enough to get you in the door, where your products will speak for themselves and you can be on hand to answer questions.
Be proactive in asking for retailers’ feedback during the pitching process, and again with every re-order. If your products are selling in a brick and mortar store, staff may be able to provide feedback from interactions with customers and conversations they’ve overheard between shoppers…
This information is extremely valuable in terms of product variety, functionality, quality and pricing, so view it as an opportunity to improve your products and make more sales.
Similarly, for e-commerce retailers, check their product reviews regularly for customer feedback, not just about your products, but also regarding the retailer’s delivery times and service. If negative feedback becomes a regular occurrence, review your relationship with the retailer to ensure it doesn’t negatively reflect on your brand.
Some brick and mortar shops like The Make It Collective in Northcote operate on a consignment basis, whereby the Maker rents space in the retailer’s shop for a monthly fee, then the shop keeps a percentage of each sale.
This model offers Makers an alternative to dropping prices for wholesale, as well as allowing you to stock whatever you choose and test new products in the market to find your best-sellers.
Get in touch for more info on showcasing your products at The Make It Collective.
While selling wholesale is an exciting prospect, few makers land an order from the very first retailer they approach. Don’t be put off if it takes 10, 20… even more rejections before you find the perfect fit for your brand and a retailer that truly appreciates the quality of your work.
It takes trial and error to perfect your pricing and your pitch, and every ‘no’ should be viewed as an opportunity to improve. Remember, selling handmade products wholesale is more than a quick sale; it’s about entering into a mutually beneficial partnership, so don’t just take whatever comes your way – stick to your glue guns until you find the right fit!
Where are you on the road to selling wholesale and what have you learned along the way? We’d love to hear about it over on The Make It Collective Facebook Page.
As a small biz owner and product maker, consignment can initially, sound like a pretty sweet deal. It's usually the first partnership opportunity.