So what the hell is a linesheet, anyway?

What's-a-linesheet-anywayIt’s the question that echoes down the ages.

The question that early man carved into rocks using bits of other rocks.

The question that makes babies to learn to speak, just so they can ask it.

What the hell is a linesheet?

Before you read on: Download my FREE guide to five common line sheet questions that stump newcomers. I'll give you a straight answer to each one.

Lay down your burden, weary traveller. Your quest for knowledge is over. Let me drip the sweet nectar of enlightenment into your ears.

A linesheet is a bit of paper with lots of information about your product and company on it

I’m pausing now so you have time to collect your scattered wits. Don’t worry, I’ve got a book. Take as long as you need.

Ah, nice to see you again.

So let’s talk linesheets. That’s something we do a lot round here.

One of the scary things about starting out in wholesale is not knowing the lingo. Like all industries, retail has its own words that you probably haven’t come across before, and the term linesheet might be one of them.

The thing itself is pretty straightforward, though. Let’s have a look at one I just made up using an embarrassing amount of clip art.

There are lots of different ways to lay out your linesheet, but let’s talk about the fundamentals.

A linesheet is simply a page or two that tells me everything I need to know about making an order from your company.

That includes:

  • Your contact details. That’s your company name and your email address, phone number, website address and street address.
  • The lowdown on your items. For starters, I need to know the wholesale price for each one. I also need to know if different sizes or colours are available, and those wholesale prices too.
  • Do you have minimum quantities of each item or pack of items? That is, do I have to order them in groups of 2, 4, 6 or have I got a free hand?
  • What’s the recommended retail price or RRP for each item?
  • Are any of these items bestsellers? Are you offering them in a new pocket size or are they back by popular demand? That’s the kind of thing shopkeepers love to know.

A little photo or sketch of each item is a good idea here. If you have hundreds of different items feel free to ditch the pictures and lay out the details in a table, but otherwise it’s a smart move to include them.

In the next section, retailers want to see:

  • General information about your product. This is anything I need to know that you haven’t said already – that might be what it’s made from, whether it uses recycled or eco-friendly materials, what the packaging’s made from, the dimensions of each item and who it’s made by.
  • Are you registered for VAT? If so, that’s got a knock-on effect on the price I’m paying for each item and I need to know about it. Include your VAT number for good measure.
  • Your minimum order. That’s how much I have to spend, not including VAT, if I want to make an order with you. You might decide it’s going to be higher the first time round then drop for subsequent orders – so perhaps your first order minimum is £300, but from then on it comes down to £150. Or you might not have a minimum order at all.
  • Your payment terms. Does the retailer have to pay upfront, before you dispatch the goods? This payment arrangement is called pro-forma.  Or you might offer net 30 days, which means the shops has 30 days from the date they receive their order to pay for the goods. Or maybe you’re offering consignment (which is also called sale or return.) Choosing your payment terms requires careful consideration.
  • Your carriage-paid level. This means that if a shop orders over a certain amount of your choosing, you’ll pay for the shipping.
  • How your goods are shipped and, if an order isn’t above the carriage paid level, how much it costs.
  • The lead time on orders. How long will the retailer have to wait for their stuff?
  • Whether it’s okay to sell your work online as well as in a bricks and mortar shop. (It’s a good idea to say yes to this unless you have a very good reason not to.)
  • Your cancellation, damages and returns policies. What happens if the goods arrive broken or the retailer changes her mind once the goods are made?

And if you really want to blow my mind, include some incentives. Let me explain.

Putting together a wholesale linesheet is a balancing act

On one side are things which are good for you, the supplier. That’s stuff like a high minimum order and quantities, a pro-forma policy and your returns policies.

On the other side there are terms that are good for the retailer – that’s things like a low carriage-paid level, 30 days to pay, and a low (or no) minimum order. These all mitigate my risk and encourage me to buy from you.

When you’re putting all this together, try to extract the maximum benefit and protection for you while at the same time sweetening the deal for the retailer.

See what I mean about balance?

Your priority is always your own business, but you also don’t want to scare a potential stockist off by making your terms too tough on them.

There are probably a couple of extra things you can do to tip the scales in the shop-keeper’s favour, without it affecting you too badly.

Your linesheet is the place to mention them because it shows a retailer that you’re keen to help them out.

We know you don’t have to offer anything extra, so by doing so you stand out from your competitors in a very good way.

I’m talking about things like:

  • Exclusivity. If I order will you agree not to supply my competitors within a certain geographical area?
  • Stock Amnesty. If something doesn’t sell within a certain period, will you take it back and swap it for something else?
  • Photos. Can you supply high-res photos of your product so I don’t have to take them myself?

Only you know whether this kind of thing is possible for your business, but do consider it carefully.

In the final section, tell the retailer what they have to do to get your stuff on their shelves. Should they ring or email you? Make their next step as easy and obvious as you can.

Once that’s all taken care of, there’s nothing to do but stand back and bask in the soaring majesty of your own personal linesheet.

Just drink it in.

Free Bonus: Download my guide to five common line sheet questions that stump newcomers. I'll give you a straight answer to each one.