After going through the responses I received from my survey, the area you wanted more information about is selling wholesale! So to accommodate those requests, I am starting a series of article I am calling ‘A Primer for Selling Wholesale’. (Excerpts from The Complete eGuide for Selling to Gift Shops) Here is the first article:
Independent shops, unlike big box stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, or grocery chain stores, prefer new and unique products. Gift retailers still rely on a proportion of steady sellers, of course. But since small stores are the easiest doorway into the retailing trades, they represent the best category for taking your first steps into wholesaling.
People come to gift departments most often for some nice thing, maybe a little different or with a local flavor. As a result, most small retailers/gift shops are always on the lookout for locally-made items, the newest item on the market, or something customers will not find in every store in town! This makes gift shops a great venue for new or smaller gift producers ready to increase their production (and income!)…but who cannot afford, or do not wish, to “mass produce” their fine, and unique products!
These unique products I am referring to, however, are not quite the same as products typically sold in consignment stores or craft fairs (although you sometimes find good gift lines offered in those locations). Most crocheted or knitted products, for example, would not be an item gift or independent shops would purchase. Whereas consignment and craft stores ARE interested in these types of handicrafts, gift shops are looking for wholesale products that offer a bit more professional appeal.
In particular, the ideal gift item will offer upscale packaging. If you are in doubt about your product’s presentation, drop by some smaller retailers and solicit their opinions. You might also ask “friends” (ones you know won’t worry about your feelings!) to take a hard look at your packaging to see if they think it would fit into a gift shop’s inventory.
Somewhere between the mass-produced, generic look and feel of big-box store products, and the homemade look of craft fair items, falls the types of products small retail buyers expect. And it does not matter whether the items are candles, specialty foods, personal care products, regional books, jewelry, housewares, or you name it! Packaging and presentation are KING! (or QUEEN, to avoid gender bias here;-).
Although gift/independent stores ARE interested in unique products, you will still want a level of look and feel that is generally the same! This is called a “line” of products. Buyers typically purchase six, twelve, or 24 of an item at a time, and expect products to look reasonably similar. There may be exceptions, of course. But generally, if you want to make a living in this business, some level of uniformity (e.g. a case of your jams all in the same style jar and lid!) is expected.
Another example…if you are selling handcrafted jewelry, one design you show the buyer might be available in blue, pink or purple, but otherwise identical. Great!
Another example of something TOO unique to be a typical gift store item, might be a wooden bowl made from a rare burl (imperfection in a tree with interesting grain patterns). A gallery, or maybe a log home furniture outlet, would offer a better fit for this type of product. There are opportunities to call on both of those types of venues, to sell appropriate.
To sum up: If your product looks like your grandma made it, few retail shops will be interested, however warm and fuzzy. Or if your handcrafted item is a one-of-a-kind, it might not fit, or it might better fit a different or specific type of store. Products that look like something manufactured thousands at a time by large machines or sweat shops, are also inappropriate.
Products between these extremes might just be the newest hot item in the market, and they might enjoy YOUR NAME on them!
This article, along with future articles listed in the Primer to Selling Wholesale, is an excerpt from my first eguide: