Last post we talked about Selling through Independent Retailers. Working with smaller retailers is the best place to start wholesaling your products for many different reasons listed in the article.
When I was an active road rep, I worked exclusively with small and/or independent retailers. The orders were, of course, smaller than big box stores, but I found independent shops to be open to talking with me on the spot, eager to see my products, and easier to work with.
I also discovered that working with smaller shops, I could not also market to larger retailers. Why? Because once a product is seen in a large chain or big box store (Walmart, Costco and such), the smaller retailers would drop the line.
On the other hand, large big box stores are looking for a proven product. They don’t necessarily want some unique or unproven item. Since they sell more volume, their prices or often lower than smaller retailers, and their orders to the producer will be larger.
If you are particularly interested in working with both markets, let me give you some tips:
- Create two lines: One unique line for the independent retailers and one proven line for the big box stores.
- Make sure you have plenty of product on hand (or you can create it quickly) when you approach chain store buyers.
- Be prepared for large cash outlays for these large orders and the financial means to wait 90-180 days before receiving payment.
- Do not be surprised if you are required to meet with numerous people and buyers over a long period of time and sign a load of confusing paperwork before you get your first order.
- Expect to (possibly) be required to pay a stocking or shelving fee to get your products into a big box outlet.
- Also, expect the larger stores to ask for a discounted wholesale price.
- Last, but not least, be prepared to pay for damaged goods (even if the store damaged them), to have items returned to you, or even have the complete order canceled at the last minute.
Of course, there are exceptions to all the above. The list is based on some of the (horror) stories I have heard from new producers when selling to big box stores.
My best advice: NEVER put all your eggs in one basket (okay, a good Easter pun!). Should you decide to grow your business to include big box stores, make sure to do your homework first. And don’t forget the independent stores that made your business what it is!