Small Business Stocking A Shop
Many small businesses have the dream of stocking a shop with their products, and this post aims to help guide those who have decided it’s the right time to approach shops. This post will also help new businesses evaluate when it’s the right time to begin the process. Everything you need to know about Small Business Stocking A Shop is right here!
What are the options?
There are many things to consider when approaching a shop; do you want to sell your products on a wholesale basis? Would you prefer a sale or return agreement? Or perhaps renting a shelf is your preference? Not all shops offer each of these options, and it may depend on many factors as to whether they offer it, and whether it’s suitable for your business.
Wholesale is the best option from a seller’s perspective because as a business you just deal with the order, and the rest is left to the shop. However, it does mean making less profit per item as a general rule.
Sale or return is the second best option as it’s relatively low risk for each party. However, it does mean having a large amount of stock tied up in a shop.
Renting a shelf seems to be the most popular option of offerings from shops, but it should be seriously considered as the pitfalls tend to be greater than the other options. The shop owner has no incentive to sell your products as you’ve already paid your rent.
When beginning the process of choosing a shop to approach, there is a method that you should attempt to adhere to. The first step is collating information about all the shops in your area that would accept being approached, if you feel comfortable with being in shops further afield then you can collate information about those as well.
Independents are easier to get the opportunity to stock in, but remember not to just think of gift shops; galleries, community shops, garden centres and more are all great markets to consider.
If you’re not ready to stock in a shop just yet, it’s a good idea to make a database anyway and start building a working relationship and rapport with the shop owners. They’ll remember you when it’s the right time for you to think about stocking a shop again.
Once you have your list of shops, you should begin getting information to help narrow down your choice. Visit the shops if possible, talk to other stockists to get their honest opinion, and get a feel for the shop.
When you visit the shop, have a think about and make a note of certain aspects, the following questions are excellent things to note:
- Is the shop clean and tidy?
- Are the staff polite?
- What is the product range like?
- Are the products of high quality?
- Is the shop busy?
- Are people buying or just browsing?
- How does the window display look?
- Are the brands currently in the shop ones you’d like to be associated with?
- Does the feel of the shop fit with your brand?
Using this list will help you weed out unsuitable shops. It’s tempting to get excited and be happy to be stocked anywhere but it’s important the shop is congruent with your brand and will provide the best return on investment.
Contact the shops
Once you have it narrowed down, you should begin contacting the shops one by one. Don’t contact them all at once because if they all said yes, would you be able to keep up with the demand?
If the shops have a website, you might find information about contacting them as a stockist. Alternatively, an email or a phone call is best. Avoid going into the shop and approaching the owner directly because they may not have the time to see you.
Once you’ve made initial contact, they may offer you an appointment to meet in person to discuss the options, this is when the research and preparation begins.
Research, research, and research some more! Make sure when you go to the appointment you know all about the business and their market.
- How long has the business been established?
- Who is their primary market and demographic?
- Similar shops in the area?
- Do they have a social media/online presence?
These are all factors to consider, and it’s always good to know everything about businesses affiliated with your own.
Dress to impress
The key to impress shop buyers and owners is to know your stuff. We’ve all seen on Dragons Den when the pitchers get asked a question, especially about their figures, and they just don’t know the answer. This is the type of situation you want to avoid.
Prepare your pitch, prepare everything you’re taking with you, and prepare your products. Take a list of questions you want to ask, this will ensure you don’t get caught in the moment and then later realise you’ve missed crucial answers. Organise your press clippings, awards and accolades to show the shop owner that you’re a serious sustainable business.
Make sure you showcase a variety of your products, you can do this by taking them with you or having a catalogue to show. You can offer the shop owners samples to keep to enable them to get a feel for your work.
If you decide to take products with you, have some loose samples and make sure you have an example of how you’d like the product displayed on the shelf.
All the questions
Ensure you’re ready to answer questions such as:
- What makes your product unique?
- Why should they sell it?
- Does your product fit a gap in the market?
- Where else do you sell your products (including online)?
- How long have you been in business?
- What is the history of your business?
Don’t forget to have a business card or flyer handy to show them!
Prepare your price list, this should include wholesale and retail prices, discounts, shipping options, minimum order requirements and any other specifications.
If you decide to go with the wholesale option, include details of how they can order. If possible, have a designated coupon or section on the website for wholesale orders; at the very least, have a downloadable order form they can email to you with their order.
Once you arrive for the appointment, ensure your appearance and manner are professional at all times; get a feel for the shop owner.
- Do they organise themselves properly?
- Do they appear professional?
- Are they prepared for the meeting?
- Are they the type of people you want to do business with?
If you are considering stocking a shop with this particular business, it’s important to make sure the owner is a fit as much as the shop itself.
Don’t forget to ask
Make sure you get answers to all of these questions before you leave the meeting as these will help you to make an informed decision.
These questions aren’t necessarily in the order you should ask them, get a feel for how the conversation is flowing and fit them in, alternatively ask them at the end
A few of our favourite questions
- Can you run marketing campaigns, sales, or promotions?
- Do they allow point-of-sale displays and advertising?
- What are the payment terms?
- When will they pay you?
- What happens if they don’t pay on time?
- If the shop is crafty, can you give demos or workshops to compliment your product?
- What payment options do they accept? If they only accept cash, this might be detrimental to sales as a result.
- How do they provide receipts?
- How do they present their products to customers post-purchase? Do they give carrier bags? Additionally, could you provide branded ones, eco ones or ones that fit your brand?
- What communication method do they prefer, furthermore how often can you expect contact from them?
- Who do they feel is their niche customer?
- What is their price point?
- Are you permitted to provide your own display methods, signs, free gifts, samples etc.?
- Do they offer gift wrap? Can you offer branded?
- Do they have any specifications as to the display of the price? Tag, shelf strip, labels?
- Do they include any window displays in your package?
- Why do they feel their customers will be interested in your products?
- Does the store meet with any policies your business has? Environmental, ethical, etc.
Not forgetting some of the important ones
- Can you offer custom orders to customers in the shop? In addition, can people order online from yours and their website and pick it up from the shop?
- Do they want an exclusive range?
- If they place a wholesale order, how long do they expect for turnaround time?
- Will they use your packaging or their own?
- Will they credit your work?
- Are there any benefits such as discounts, social media/web promotion?
- Who covers the postage cost if it’s a shop not in your local area?
- What happens if damage occurs to an item whilst in the shop?
- What is the situation with insurance?
- Do they have a minimum term?
- How much is the commission?
- Are there any exclusivity clauses?
- What is their average sale amount?
- Do they have peak times of the day/week/month?
- How do they track trends?
- How do they promote their shop?
- When stocking a shop are you allowed to stock in others?
You might think of more questions relevant to your business, but these are a starting point to help you make an informed decision that is made with your business’s best interests in mind.
Remember not just to think about the money aspects of the deal, think about the shop itself, the quality, and the respect for designers.
Furthermore, make sure you can cope with the demand they’re asking for.
Take as much time as you need to think about your decision, don’t allow yourself to be rushed into something you might regret.
The shop is privileged to have the opportunity to stock your products, they should make allowances for that.
The end game
If you’re not offered any type of deal, try and get feedback as it will help your business to progress in the future.
Once you’ve made a decision to begin stocking a shop, make sure a formal contract is drawn up and both parties sign it. Most of all, this is to protect your business and theirs.
Ensure both parties have an updated stock list and keep in contact.
Encourage feedback from shop assistants, if they notice any trends with your products or customer behaviour, you’d like to know as it will help to improve your range.
Try and make sure your prices are consistent in every outlet you sell in (including online!), this is a lot fairer to customers.
Most of all, good luck!
Conclusively, stocking a shop is such an exciting process, consequently, cherish every single second and rock their world! You will love being a small business stocking a shop.