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Get into the Shops: Tips for Independent Business Owners

Posted By Jess Cook,, Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If you make a product and you’d like to get it featured on the shelves of a retail store, TNNA is the perfect opportunity for you to do just that! Participating in the TNNA show and featuring your products on the floor is one way to make connections with retail store owners and get your products in front of them, but it’s not the only way. You can contact retailers throughout the year to forge these types of partnerships individually - and at the same time, you can take steps to make your product line-up even more appealing to retailers so that you’ll really rock the next show.

Here are some tips for getting your products into retail stores:

  1. Know your numbers. Before you can do anything else, you’ve got to know the numbers side of putting your product into retail shops. The general breakdown is that your wholesale price point (the price you’ll sell your product directly to a store owner) should be half of the retail price (the price you use when selling to the consumer). If you look at that amount and you realize that you can’t break even at that price point, it might be time to examine your profit margin for your individual products and increase your retail prices to accommodate wholesale sales. (For more on pricing & profit margins, read this or this.)
  2. Have a line sheet prepared. A line sheet is a document that outlines your business, the products you offer, the wholesale pricing for each and the requirements for placing an order. Having this document ready means that you can send one (digitally or physically through the mail) to a retailer and they’ll have all the information they need to know about your products right there on that sheet. (For more tips on line sheets, read this.)
  3. Make an appointment. If you’re going to physically visit a store in person to pitch your products, make an appointment ahead of time. You can go in personally to speak to the owner, or call the store - ask for an appointment that would be convenient so you don’t accidentally waltz into a store in the middle of their rush time and expect the owner to care that you’re there.
  4. Show some samples. If you’re going to a store in-person, bring full-sized samples of your products, and lots of ‘em. Make sure you show diversity in the products you display - at least one of every type of yarn base, for instance, or a finished project from each of your embroidery designs. If you’re not visiting a shop in person, it’s good to have either high-quality digital photos of your products to send in a catalog (digitally or a print version), or to send smaller swatch-sized samples of your products if that’s an option. Send those along with your line sheet and a friendly letter introducing yourself and telling them how to get in touch if they want to order something.
  5. Be persistent. The first store may say they’re not interested. Heck, the first 10 stores may say the same thing. But keep trying - you’ll get #11 if you do. As a way of turning these obstacles into learning experiences, ask the store owner if she’s willing to share with you why she didn’t want to stock your products, and then do your best to change that particular scenario when you pitch to the next shop. (For instance, if a store owner didn’t think you had enough variety, change up the samples you offer or consider adding some new products to your line before you try again.) No matter what, don’t be discouraged! Not every shop is a perfect fit for every product, and sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find the shop that’s right for you.

If you’re a store owner, share a comment below and let us know what you look for in the products you stock. If you’re an independent business owner and you’ve had success breaking into the wholesale market, share your tips with your fellow indies. We want to hear from you - let’s work together to improve the market for everyone!

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