The Do’s and Don’ts of Bricks & Mortar Retail. Part 1: Getting in to a Shop
This is a guest post by Simmone Spring. I’ve known Simmone for a few years – we’ve bumped into each other at markets here in Brissie on numerous occasions! She’s uniquely qualified to write this – the first of a short series of articles on getting your work into a B&M shop – because she is both a crafter AND a retail coordinator, so she knows the score from both sides of the fence. You can read Part 2 here.
Getting your beautiful handmade creations into a retail space is the dream of many handmade artisans.
As a retail coordinator and hand maker I am often taken aback by just how many handmade artisans are not making the most of the chance to be in a retail space. They are not thriving in a shop setting.
Today, in Part 1, I’d love to share some tips with you so you can make the most of your retail experience.
Approaching a Shop
I love going into work and seeing an email with a concise description of a product or label and clear, well-lit photo’s attached (3-5 photos is plenty). You don’t have to be a super star photographer, just make sure they are the best you can do. A link to a well constructed web site or an Etsy store is also welcome, this way I can see your range and think abut what will work in my retail space.
An email is definitely my preferred first contact. I can spend time with your label, browsing and thinking about how I can work with it. A reply may not be immediate, but I will always flag and get back to you when I can. If you don’t hear anything within a week a follow up call is a great idea.
Don’t send en email with blurry photos or a website that doesn’t work. This happens a lot and really drives me crazy! I cannot see your beautiful products in a blurry shot and if your link is broken you are just wasting my time.
After I get your email I usually set up an appointment to see your pieces in person and chat about what I expect from you if you come on as a vendor. If you are interstate I outline everything in an email and start with a really small order, just to make sure your work will sell in my shop.
Before the appointment think about questions you want to ask and absorb the shop. Think about the layout, current products, and ask about the clientele.
Don’t walk into a store with a bag full of stock before you have been in contact by email. I always found this quite uncomfortable if a vendor did this. If you want to touch base with who to contact and see the shop for yourself, go in as a customer, mention what you do and ask who to email.
You’re in! How to Get Started
Hurray! You found a wonderful shop to stock, so what happens from here?
First, double check your product is ready for retail (I’m sure you wouldn’t have contact the shop if it wasn’t, but it is a surprise what people forget). This means price tags (with space on the tag for a code that the shop will assign) and having your product in tip top condition. Don’t try to sell products that are not up to scratch. Visit the shop a couple of times to make sure your product presentation is equal (or better!) with the other products on display.
The shop should have a contract for you read and sign. If they don’t you should create your own contract. This should cover pricing, display, dealing with returns, consignment agreements (if you are working on a consignment basis), payments, delivery details, and any other terms you think are important. I often hash this out with vendors, and the shops I stock, in a series of emails. I use email as it is all there in black and white, no misunderstandings, and that is exactly why you need a contract!
You will also need to set up stock lists. Every shop does this differently so make sure you work closely with them so things go smoothly. Some like them on paper and enter them in to their own systems, others like a spreadsheet.
Post or deliver your stock. So exciting! It is finally in store and looking AMAZING! You have done everything right and the shop manager already loves you. Now, to make sure you keep it up.
In Part 2, I will cover what you should be doing once you are in the shop to make the most of the experience.
Simmone Spring coordinated the retail space at Bleeding Heart until it sadly closed due to renovations. She has been making Anatomy for 6 years as Your Organ Grinder and coordinates Hands On Brisbane.
Image sourcs: Martin Wessely + Kath Chownston (This site/resource is no longer available)