Selling to Large Retailers is a completely different sales model than selling to gift shops or smaller mom and pop stores. Although I don’t suggest you start out your wholesale efforts directed at selling to large retailers, this is a lucrative market to consider when you are ready.
While I (or you) can walk out of a small smaller retail shop with an order, this is not the case with larger retailer who often have regional buyers in the corporate office across the state or the country. Often, there are several layers of corporate folks before you reach the appropriate buyers. And you may end up working with the buyers assistant rather than the buyer themselves.
The Arts Business Institute recently published a two-part article on the subject. Here are some of their tips:
How to reach them
Trade shows. Buyers for major retailers often attend trade shows to see new products and connect with their regular suppliers….
Direct contact. Identify chain stores that you feel would mesh well with your brand and your collection, and find out names of buyers you can reach out to….
Pursue trunk show opportunities. Occasionally, department stores and other chains will invite artists and other entrepreneurs to apply to participate in trunk shows….
Use sales reps. Reps make it their business to land store accounts….
In part two of this excellent article, The Arts Business Institute explains some of the expectations of dealing with larger retail outlets:
TAKING THE ORDER…Be honest with the buyer about your production capabilities. Don’t overpromise, and put yourself in the position of scrambling like mad to fill a huge order that just doesn’t make sense for your business…
THE PURCHASE ORDER…When buyers for national chains place an order with you, they will create a Purchase Order, with details and with a reference number. This P.O. number is crucial – if you don’t have a Purchase Order, you don’t have an order…
TERMS…Chains don’t always demand discounts on their orders, but often do request price breaks due to volume….
…You may put a chain store on a Net 30 basis (which they will probably require) but in today’s world it’s not uncommon that these retailers take longer to pay. Be prepared for this.
It is also very common for chains to return items to vendors (this is across the board, it’s not just you!)…
The best advice in working with large retail outlets is to DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you approach the store personnel. I have seen too many producers hurt their business or even go bankrupt over poor planning when dealing with large retailers.