Approaching Retailers

Recap: 12/12/12

Jen Farrell shared with us the story of The Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Wisconsin.  You can find out more information from the wonderful documentary Typeface made by local Kartemquin Films.

-Discussion:  Approaching retailers.  We discussed marketing your products and getting them in stores and out in the market.

-Tips on getting started:

Design Story:  What is your design story.  What makes your brand and your product special.  The design story is often the first item that can attract store owners as well as give them a way to sell you product in their store.

  • Is your product a limited edition or are you ready and prepared to go into production.
  • Do you know how many hours and how much money it will take to produce your products.  This is key to knowing the next step of retail cost.
  • Do you know what the suggested retail price should be.  This will be key to knowing what the wholesale price will be.  Price has to be consistant with all the retailers you sell with.
  • Are you willing to sell consignment.  This can be a great foot in the door to a retailer you want to work with but there are downsides to working with consignment as well.  Figuring this out can be a learning curve.  Deciding how you want to work with retailers and what your business terms are before hand is helpful.
  • If you sell with online retailers are you willing to to “drop ship” terms.  If so how much will shipping your product cost?


  • Know your market and where your products would fit well
  • Research stores, what products and brands do they sell.  How would your product fit in.  Research local stores and national stores.  Also, never hurts to see where your competetors sell.  Sometimes this helps you get a better idea of small boutiques in other cities.
  • Pick 10 stores you would love to get in to and go from there.  It never hurts to reach for the highest goal.  From there make a list of second tier retailers.
  • Online retailers as well.  Are there any online retailers that your brand would be a good match for?, Design Public to name a couple.
  • If you are doing trade shows and craft fairs keep your “opportunity monitor” on.  You never know when an interested retailer will stop by your  booth.  Be ready to answer questions and make a followup meeting after the show.

-Product photography:

-One of the most important steps.  Taking good product photography.  Whether it is for your catalog or website.  These photographs will sell the product to potential retailers or customers.

-Good photograph of you the designer.  Gillian said this is as important as a good press photo and goes with your brand story.

Here are some local resources to help with good product photography:

Lillestreet Art Center workshops

Chicago Photography Center

Snip Snap Go

Progear Rental

Erika Dufour

-It is your brand and business and often your are the creative director.  It is helpful and was suggested to have a shot list before hand.

-Catalogs and line list:

-Before you can approach any retailers successfully it helps to have a catalog or line list of the products that you sell wholesale.  Catalogs give you an opportunity to show your products and the material, color choices available.  A Line list give you an opportunity to lay out all the important information and terms:  suggested retail costs, wholesale costs, drop ship costs, shipping and handling fee, sizes ect.

-You can mail your catalog and line list to potential retailers.  Also, sometimes it is helpful to email an online catalog or PDF with downloadable line list

-We also talked about promo kits and examples to send retailers.  When this is a good idea and when your items will just get lost in the shuffle.

-Approaching Retailers:  Always make an appointment ahead of time

-Write an email pitch

– Why you feel your items would be a good fit for their store.

– Politely asking for consideration OR requesting an appointment (if they are a local store).

– Aside from your 10 top tier stores, mass email your pitch, linesheet, terms and conditions as well as a few small photos of your best sellers to the contacts you compiled and wait to hear back.

– Each day you should aim to continue emailing people on your list

– Follow up by phone no sooner than a week after sending your initial email.  Sometimes this helps to keep an excel sheet or something so you remember who you contacted.

– Call and introduce yourself to buyers at local stores that are very important to you. It will sometimes increase your chances of getting your email opened faster.

-Once you land an appointment make sure to:

– Have a professional entrance and set up.

– Bring everything you have made because most times they order based on what you bring, not what you can make (with black and white items being an exception).

– Treat the meeting as if the client will be ordering by ensuring you have paper and pens, a copy of your line sheet (professionally printed in a binder (not to be given away) for them to browse through if necessary as well as copies of your terms for them to look over.

-Have a great month. Look forward to the next meeting!