I suspect many of us find the very thought of selling to retail outlets challenging and intimidating, but it can be successful. I mustered up the courage many years ago to step inside a shop and pitch my cards and was pleasantly surprised that the retailer thought my handmade cards worth selling, was prepared to give them a trial and that customers bought them!
Do, however, keep a few points in mind:
Before you start, research the legalities and regulations surrounding your proposed venture.
Retailers are looking to make a profit too and will typically mark up the cards by around 50% plus VAT. You need to be able to produce and sell to them at a price that makes financial sense for you, but still allows them to add their profit margin.
Everyone has their good days and their bad days – so don’t let a bad day put you off trying others – you will get rebuffs for a variety of reasons and you will not get your fabulous designs into every outlet you approach.
It’s not unusual for retailers to request greeting cards be supplied on a consignment basis. This involves supplying cards, and often a suitable display stand, at no set up cost to the retailer who will sign a contractual agreement with you. The cards and display stand remain your property and you return at agreed intervals to do an inventory check, re-stock and charge for cards sold. This is often an easier way to obtain space in outlets as it is financially attractive to the retailer, but it is time consuming and involves more risk. Most of our consignment outlets worked well, but you need to be prepared to pull out of outlets if they don’t perform and one of the biggest risks is shops closing without notice and losing your stock.
Retailers are the best judge of what sells well in their outlet and if they are impressed with your cards and pitch they may purchase outright. However, they will often still expect a display stand to be supplied and normally this will be on the basis of "buy this value of cards and receive a free stand”. This is good for your cash flow and if they sell well this could generate repeat orders.
Lack of retail space is the most common reason for rejection, so be prepared and look around as you go in. Look for space and have a number of display solutions ready for floor, wall or counter space.
Try to position your stands in well lit, high traffic areas to promote the cards and increase the potential for sales. I discovered that "eye level is buy level” and often customers are put off if they have to bend down or stretch up to reach products – place your "best sellers” and promotions at eye level.
Corner shops, gift shops, farm shops and local independent card shops all have the potential to do well. Practice your sales pitch, give a brief summary about yourself and take a selection of designs with you to demonstrate style, range and quality. If you have room in your vehicle, take display stands with you so that you are ready to strike whilst the iron is hot should they delight you with a YES!