How to get into a local store
Ever wonder how to get your local/handmade/unique product into a local store? It can seem really intimidating, but if you have a great product and the store is the right fit than it shouldn’t be too hard. If your product is really over saturated (like jewelry), than it’s a bit harder, but having a clear mission, style and goal will help you stand out. I am not the best at any of these things, so here are some tips even if you are still figuring out those really important factors!
1 | explore and hang out
I would never walk into a store I’ve never been to and ask to talk to their buyer. It takes a few visits to get to know the store, the foot traffic, the customers, the types of products the store carries and the types of products on the sale rack. I usually ask the salespeople lots of questions about the store, their style, what they look for, really anything they will tell me that comes out naturally in a conversation. If you are genuinely interested in the store and the products, than it will be really easy and you’ll probably get along with the salespeople. If you don’t or it feels forced, then it’s probably not a good fit and you should move on. If you aren’t local you can use social media to get a sense of the store and its community before you plan a visit.
2 | ask for the buyer or store owner
Once you feel like you’ve spent enough time in the store and you know your product would be a great fit, then you can ask for the buyer or store owner. Hopefully, after talking to the salespeople, you’ll already know what this person’s title is and it will be a natural ask. Like, I just finished these pillow cases and I know you’ve been looking for more unique home accessories, do you think so-and-so would be interested in seeing some samples? The worst thing that will happen is that they will say no. If you think this person might be in the store, then bring your product in the off-chance that she/he can take a look right then and there.
3 | share your story
As I mentioned earlier, you have to know what you’re making, who you are and why! And be able to tell a concise story about yourself and your product. I don’t think it’s just about having an elevator pitch, it’s about having a mission. What makes you and your product stand out and why would that store want to represent you by carrying your product? If you are just another designer that could be confused with a bunch of other designers, than a store won’t want to risk taking on your product, even on consignment. It really helps to be local, which is why starting close to home is a good tactic if you have stores that fit your style nearby.
4 | ask questions
The store loves your product and wants to carry it? Great! Now you have to ask a lot of questions. Just because your dream store wants to carry your product doesn’t mean you should immediately hand over everything you have and tell all your friends. Most small stores will want to start selling a new product on consignment to see how it sells. While many designers will tell you say no to consignment, the truth is it’s hard to get into a new store without doing consignment first, especially if you’ve never sold wholesale (or at all) at other stores. Each store will have its own policies, so ask about all the details, like what’s the split? who pays sales tax? how often do they cut checks? how often should you check in? how long will they hold inventory? who pays for shipping? do they have their own consignment or wholesale form or should you provide one? what is their buying schedule and do you fit into it or not? do they host trunk shows? Figure out the situation for that specific store and set up accordingly. Make sure to keep current records of sales and check-ins.
5 | promote and spread the love
Congrats! You have your first handmade good in a local boutique! You are now a part of a relationship with the store, buyer and their customers. Share with your network that you are in the store and make sure to support and promote their events. The more exposure the store has, the more exposure you will have. Hopefully, the store will do the same for you and together you’ll help each other find customers and build a business.
What tips do you have for getting into a local store? Share in the comments below and include a link back so we can see your product!