August 28, 2014

10 Steps to get Handmade Products into Retailers

If you’re ready to expand your reach, sell wholesale and get your products into retail stores around your city, province, country or even other countries, you need to make a plan. Here are some areas to think about and 10 steps you can follow to get started!


10 simple steps to follow to prepare before you start approaching retailers and selling your handmade product wholesale (or consignment)


1) Set your Wholesale prices

Selling at a craft show or online is much different than selling through a boutique. You get to keep majority of your profits when selling directly to customers, whereas retail stores will pay your wholesale prices, which takes away a good chunk of your profits.


Every business is different and must find their ideal formula for pricing. What’s important is that you’re still making a healthy profit when you cut your prices in half.


If one of your products is priced at $50 but you only get paid $25, are you still making money once ALL your costs are covered? 


Typically wholesale prices are half your retail price. This means when you sell an item at a craft show, you get to keep all the money that’s listed on the price tag and after your costs are covered, the rest is profit.


Selling wholesale, you get half the money that’s on the price tag and the rest goes to the boutique. 


Before you start approaching retailers, be sure you’re happy with your pricing. Not too many of them will reorder if you realize after their first order, you need to double your prices.


Be sure you stick to your prices as well. It would be unfair to sell your products at a much lower price on your website, than boutiques are selling them at. If you decide to raise your prices in order to make a profit through wholesale orders, your prices should be the same at craft shows and through your website or online shop. You can still have sales or offer promotions when customers purchase through you (just as stores may do if they buy your items upfront).



2) Ensure your products are ready for retailers

Have you created thoughtful collections? Do you offer products that make great add-ons or up-sells? Is your packaging branded and does it make it easy for retailers to display your products in their store?


Store owners are looking for professional looking products that have a handmade vibe; nothing too homemade looking. 


Download the free chapter, MAKING PRODUCTS THAT PROFIT, from MAKE MORE MONEY AT CRAFT SHOWS. It covers collections, add-ons, up-sells, packaging and much more in over 40 pages of information…and it’s FREE!



3) Know why boutiques should buy from you

Store owners have a lot of options when it comes to products they could carry in their store. And if you don’t know why your products should be in a specific boutique, the storeowner will have a hard time figuring it out.


You must know, before you pitch your products to a store; why they’re the right fit for their customers.


Do you know what your USP is? (unique selling position). It’s crucial to communicate when pitching and to be sure it’s inline with the store’s purpose. 


Check out: 



4) Have your legal ducks in a row

Most retailers won’t touch you if you don’t have your business set up properly. Especially if you’re selling higher risk products such as children’s products or bath and body products.


Not only is it good for your business to be following all the laws, it shows retailers you’re a professional business that dots all your i’s and crosses all your t’s.


Check out:





5) Wholesale or Consignment?

Decide what type of a contract you would like to have with storeowners, given the option. Wholesale means the retailer will purchase your products and pay for them upfront. Consignment means you will give your stock and they will pay you the wholesale price (or a decided percentage) when/if they sell. If they don’t sell after an allotted amount of time, you take the stock back.


If you’re the new kid on the block, consignment may be a good way to get your foot in the door as it’s less risk for the retailer. 


Check out this article for pros and cons of each:


Retailers will likely have their own contracts for you to sign but you should still consider policies you would like to follow to be sure partnerships with boutiques will benefit your business.


Think about how far in advance you would like orders to be placed, who takes care of shipping costs, when you get paid and if it’s a consignment deal: how frequent the cheques will be and how long your items will stay in their store (in the case they don’t sell).


These don’t have to be written in stone as it’s always good to be flexible when negotiating, but if paying for shipping is going to cut into your profits big time, you’ll want to be aware of that before you make any deals.


Check out:



6) Get ahead of schedule

Once you get into boutiques, you have to work with their schedule. Buyers will often do all their purchasing months ahead of a season. Bigger retailers typically buy 3 – 6 months in advance; smaller boutiques may have less of a lead time. So even though you’re still in flip-flops and shorts, they’re thinking about scarves and hoodies.


You must think ahead and be organized so you can approach retailers at the right time and fulfill orders by their deadlines.


For a checklist of monthly to-do’s when selling to retailers, tips to stay organized and a printable monthly planner, check out:



7) Research retailers

Find out which retailers support local vendors and handmade goods. Smaller boutiques tend to be a little more flexible with handmade businesses and understand you’re running a one-man operation. Bigger retailers will assume you can fill big orders if you’re pitching to them.


If you can, visit a store to get a feel for it and make sure it’s a fit for your products. It won’t benefit either of you if your products aren’t a fit their customers’ demographics. It’s also helpful for getting your foot in the door when you’re able to say you’ve shopped in the store and are familiar with their brand.


Create a master list of boutiques you could work with in the future. Then choose your A-team. Which retailers would you love to see your handmade products in? Create a smaller list of boutiques you would like to approach first and be sure they’re not competitors on the same street. Just as you like to be different from other vendors at a craft show, boutiques want to carry unique products that customers specifically visit their store for.


Make sure your list isn’t too big either; you need to be able to fill each order in a timely manner.



8) Create a lookbook

Retailers may want to see a sample of your work but you should also have a lookbook and line sheet so buyers can see all the products you have to offer, the options you offer them in, prices, etc. 


Check out:


THE SUCCESSFUL INTROVERT covers in detail what must be included in a line sheet, as well as more information on selling your products through boutiques.



9) Set up a meeting

Call and ask whom you should speak to in regards to your products being carried in their store. Generally the owner takes care of buying in smaller boutiques so alternatively, you could ask to speak to them.


See if you can set up a meeting to stop by and show them some of your items. If you’re not in the same city as the retailer, try to get the buyer/owner on the phone and ask if you can email your lookbook/line sheet. Always try to talk to someone in person or on the phone first as opposed to email being your first contact (emails are too easy to miss and dismiss).


Follow up after you’ve had your meeting or sent your lookbook/line sheet. Storeowners are busy people and their first priority is taking care of customers in their store and selling the stock they have. It does not mean they’re not interested if you don’t hear back right away; it may just mean they’re busy. Allow enough time for them to review your work (don’t follow up an hour or day after sending a lookbook) and then follow up to be sure they received your lookbook (if sending my mail or email) and ask if they have any questions.



10) Stay in touch & on the lookout

Once your products are in a retailer, become familiar with their buying schedule so you know when to follow up and send an upcoming season’s lookbook. If the store is less seasonal, you must still follow up to check if they’re ready to re-stock your products. Don’t expect storeowners to follow up with you.


When on vacation or traveling, keep an eye out for retailers that might be a fit for your products. It’s hard to know which areas and stores are trendy when you don’t know the city but you can find out first hand when you’re exploring. Keep the same points in mind; ask if the owner or manager is in, introduce yourself and ask if you can email them about your products once you’re home from your trip. Bonus points if you have a lookbook or business card you can hand out right then and there.



Are you ready to get your products into retailers? Which step do you need to work on?



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