Are you Retail Ready?
People ask me all the time – How do I make my product retail ready? How do I get into more retail stores? That’s the million dollar question. I hate to break it to you but it’s not an easy task and there is no quick fix. It is a process of understanding the basic tools to honing assortments, maximizing sales opportunities, and understanding buyers’ open-to-buy system and overall mentality to expand to more retail stores.
There is no shortcut around these crucial steps but I believe in making things simple. Are you ready?
1) Eat your veggies (the absolute must do things that you can’t survive without):
* Do your homework! – Visit the store you want to be in (or at least check out their website) and see what their assortment is like before contacting the buyer. (You’d be amazed how many people skip this simple step).
* Be sure to having that compelling story behind your brand that I have mentioned before. Buyers want to connect with the person behind the brand and hear their story.
* Professional looking website & email – The first thing a buyer will do when they hear about a line is google their website. Make sure that it is professionally put together, reflects your style and is easy to navigate. Your presence on the web will show the buyer that you take your business seriously. It’s also a great way for buyers to “preview” your collection before meeting with you. Also, no janky emails!
* Have a linesheet – Buyers are inundated with product submissions every day. Stand out from the crowd by having a linesheet that has all the necessary components that buyers need to write a purchase order: product shot, style number, wholesale cost, suggested retail and delivery. If you have a clothing line, it helps to have a lookbook as well as a linesheet.
* Know your competition – It helps to know who your competition is so that you can be competitive with what’s already out there, speak confidently about what makes your line different, and how it fills a void in the market.
2) Add a little sugar (the extra little things designers can do to sweeten the deal when trying to get in stores)
* Send samples – Depending on the nature of your product, you can either “show” samples or “leave” samples for the buyers to try. Buyers like to see a production sample in person so that they will know exactly what they will be getting in shop.
* Give an incentive – With the nature of the current economy, every dollar helps the margin. Give a 10% discount for new accounts or free shipping with an opening order. This is the kind of incentive that might push a buyer from “maybe” to “yes!”
* Be open to do consignment – This is a great way for stores to “test” your line without having to commit to buying the inventory upfront. It can be mutually beneficial because it gives you an opportunity to sell your product in the store (that you want to be in) while gaining feedback and exposure.
3) Create a buzz (ways for designers to garner interest with public)
* Stores want to know that you are doing your part in getting the word out about your line. The secret that many designers may not know is that buyers are looking for new vendors as much as each vendor is looking to be in stores. You need to get out there with your product line to increase their chances of getting picked up by a store or media.
* Participate in local craft fairs and flea markets (ones that are relevant to your business) – It is imperative for designers to get direct customer feedback on their line. (For example: the two designers from Foley + Corinna started selling their vintage dresses at a flea market in chelsea. They now have a thriving multi-million dollar wholesale and retail business.
* Use social media outlets to create your own posse – Be relevant to your customers and engage with them for feedback and support. Create a facebook fan page and twitter accounts and use them as if you are networking at a cocktail party.
* Pitch to editors and bloggers to obtain press mentions – Customers, as well as stores, love press mentions! Post them on your website and have tear sheets to show to prospective stores.
This may seem easy for some but overwhelming for others. If you want to learn how you can implement these strategies into your own business, please share below. I would love to keep you accountable and take more action in the next 60 days!
Here’s to getting your product retail ready!
Your Retail Product Mentor