Are you still wondering how to get your product into retail stores or turn your creative product idea into a sustainable business? This is not an easy task but one that can be learned — it’s a process of understanding the basic tools to honing assortments, maximizing sales opportunities, and understanding buyers’ open-to-buy system.
In all my years in retail, I can tell you there is no shortcut around the crucial steps for getting your product retail ready, but I believe in making things simple. What I am about to share with you is a brief introduction to my secret recipe to get a piece of the buyer’s Open-to-Buy (OBT). 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.
- Share your story – Buyers want to connect with the person behind the brand and hear their story. Or else, it’s just another product.
- Professional looking website & email – The first thing a buyer will do when he/she hears about a line is google their website. Make sure that your website is professionally put together, reflects your style and easy to navigate. Your presence on the web will show the buyer that you take your business seriously and ready for the next step. 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 send product samples for the buyers to try. Top buyers like to see products in person so that they can see how the product feels in their hands and on retail shelves.
- 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 a “maybe” to a “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 if you’re starting out 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 you’re 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 so that you can share this information with potential store buyers.
- 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/twitter/instagram 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.
Do you have a success story you want to share with others? I would love to hear your story, comment below.
Your Retail Product Mentor
P.S. If you are looking to shake things up and propel your business to the next level, be sure to check your inbox next week. I will be sharing something that has helped me to grow my little empire to unexpected heights and you can do the same! :) See you then. xoxo