So You Want To Acquire Stockists? – Do’s and Don’ts
There’s a serious thrill that comes with seeing the designs you poured your heart and soul (and sweat and tears and midnight oil) into finally being displayed and sold by a retailer. It’s a huge step forward in any fashion designer’s career, and is sure to fuel the fire that keeps you up at night, creating, designing and dreaming.
That initial high that comes with seeing your collection displayed in-store is sure to leave you wanting more. Whether you’ve previously sold out collections in multiple boutiques and are chasing that buzz, or this is your first run at approaching a stockist, the same rules apply when it comes to acquiring stockists. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts.
Do: Your homework
A shrapnel approach (spray out meeting requests at random and you’re sure to hit a yes at some point) is a great way to annoy stockists and end up in their Deleted Items.
A targeted approach when reaching out to stockists will be much more appreciated and much more likely to result in a meeting invitation. Showing you understand the retailer’s customers, brand and vision is a must.
You’ll need to show them how your line is going to benefit them. Emphasise how your designs fit with what their current customers want and need, or how it’s going to attract new customers to their store.
Do: Get ready for meetings
Before you even start approaching stockists, make sure you’re ready for what will hopefully come next. The Holy Grail: The Initial Meeting. If you get an immediate response to your emailed approach inviting you in for a chat, it’s unprofessional to respond saying you need a week to pull your material together.
Be organised, be professional and be ready!
Prepare a line sheet, look book or high-quality samples that you can take in to that first meeting. If you’re presenting samples, there’s no need to have prototypes of everything you ever designed. A selection of up to six of your best pieces is more than enough. Unless they request to view your sales sample. Select carefully, and make sure they show the quality of your work and reflect your design expertise and unique selling point.
Be trade ready. Draft up your trading terms and payment conditions so that you both have an understanding of how you’ll be paid according to their orders.
Do: Be persistent and follow up
After your initial meeting with a potential stockist, you’re going to feel strongly one way or another. Either you’re waiting for the phone to ring because you feel you nailed it, or you’re assuming you bombed and won’t hear anything.
Regardless, be persistent and follow up. A short email thanking the designer for their time and offering to send over any extra material they might need is a good way to maintain contact after that initial rendezvous. Leave it a week, and if they haven’t come back to you, follow up again.
While you don’t want to pester, you do want to let them know you’re keen so if you still aren’t engaging, let them know you will periodically update them with new designs and developments and then make sure you do.
Do: Start small
It’s recommended that you dip your toe into the retail world rather than cannonballing straight in, expecting to make a splash. Selling to a small boutique or consignment store is a great way to learn valuable lessons and make inevitable mistakes when you’re starting out. It will also help you to get a realistic idea of how to fill orders on time.
If you dive in too deep and go large with a department store or similar before you’re confident in filling large orders on time, you’re risking making big mistakes, and that comes with a price.
Miss a deadline with a national chain or department store, and you are flirting with losing your reputation and being blacklisted by the retailer. Make sure you’re running a well-oiled machine before you approach stockists of this magnitude.
Do: Attend trade shows
A great way to increase your list of stockists and network is to register at one of the many fashion trade shows. Generally, these are held annually and attract emerging designers, fashion students and graduates, bloggers, stylists, and industry personalities.
It’s a great platform for wholesalers, buyers and designers to connect, and for you to showcase your latest designs. Making an effort to put a trade show in your calendar at least once a year is a solid investment in your career.
Don’t: Over promise
You may be approached with what seems like a golden opportunity for a huge order. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. While the order is legit, your ability to fill it might not be.
Whatever you do, don’t say yes to a large order if you cannot guarantee the stock on time.
Be realistic about how much product you can actually supply, and furnish the stockist with an accurate timeline. We always assume the best possible scenario is that your designs will be a hit and sell out immediately. But if you promised you could keep up with the demand and then can’t, it’s going to be your worst nightmare.
Do: Dust yourself off and keep trying
No one said achieving cut through in the fashion world would be easy – it isn’t! Unless you’re extremely fortunate, you’re going to face a few knock backs (or even just blatantly ignored emails) before you start racking up stockists and have retailers calling YOU.
Have confidence in yourself and your designs and your pricing, and keep revisiting what sets you apart. Focus on your unique selling point, your target market and their mindset. That, combined with a steel will, is going to pave your way to success with stockists.
If you’re wanting more 1:1 help to get your wholesale strategy off the ground? Book in for a free 30 minute consult via firstname.lastname@example.org – Ready to go further abroad? We’re also based in the US where we help Aussie label launch into wholesale – you can register your interest here.