guide to line sheets

The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Line Sheets

The straight answers you've been searching for.

Let’s start our beginner’s guide to line sheets by looking at four line sheet dilemmas often faced by makers. I’m going to give you a straight answer to each one.

Before we dive in, please take a moment to look at this example of a line sheet. It’s a page, or several pages, displaying your products and the facts a shopkeeper needs to know in order to buy them. It can be a PDF or on paper.

Line sheet example

1. What’s the difference between a line sheet and a catalogue?”

Your line sheet tells a retailer HOW to buy your stuff. Your catalogue tells them WHY THEY SHOULD.

Or to put it another way, your catalogue is Wuthering Heights. Your line sheet is the Cliffs Notes.

If you want to sell your work to a store, two things must happen.

First, you have to convince the retailer that they’d be better off giving you money than not giving you money. They have to feel that stocking your work is a sound investment of their hard-earned cash, and that they’ll see a return on that investment when their customers buy it.

Second, the retailer needs to know how to get the lovely thing you make onto their shelves. They need to understand the mechanics of the transaction – how much your products cost, your minimum order,  any minimum quantities and so on.

You have to equip them with all the details they need to make a decision.

Your line sheet is very good at the second part.

But it sucks at the first.

Take a look at my example again. All the items are laid out in a clear, logical way. Information about price and quantity is provided. The minimum order, carriage paid (or free shipping) level and contact details are on the page. All the details a retailer could ask for are right there.

But there’s no information at all about why this shopkeeper should stock your work. Who is your product for? How are customers going to use or enjoy it? How is it made? Why should the retailer trust you with their money?

Your line sheet has nothing to say.

That’s because it’s only designed to cover the how part.

For the why, you need a way to tell a richer, more seductive story.

But if you’re just starting out in wholesale, that might be above your paygrade for now. And that’s fine – a simple line sheet can still get your business off the ground.

Extra complication:
Sometimes, “line sheet” and “catalogue” are used interchangeably, especially in the US.

If you have both, send both out to stores – or incorporate them into the same digital document as I have in my Canva template.

2. Why should I have a separate line sheet if I have a printed catalogue?

Because it saves you money.

In the far-off days before the internet, when all catalogues were paper booklets, suppliers had a big problem.

They knew they needed a catalogue to sell their work to shops. They knew that catalogue had to tell the retailer why they should place an order and exactly how to do that.

But they also knew that sometimes things change. It might occasionally be necessary, for example, to adjust the price of an item or tweak their terms and conditions.

And if those details were printed directly into their catalogues, they’d either have to send out-of-date information to stores or shell out for an entirely new print run.

Those suppliers were not happy bunnies.

So they came up with a solution.

They decided to put any details that might change onto a loose sheet of paper and insert it into their catalogues. That way, if an adjustment was required, all they had to do was reprint a single page.

That idea still works today.

If your catalogue is printed, it’s almost always a good idea to put your prices on a separate line sheet. Unless you’re incredibly sure nothing will change, it’s the safest option.

Extra complication:
Making changes to a PDF is free and easy, so do you still need a separate line sheet if your catalogue is digital?

Yeah, it can come in handy.

If you’re exhibiting at a trade show, for example and don’t want to shell out for a large print run of your full catalogue (which is most likely not a sustainable practice,) you can give a line sheet to visitors instead.

That way we have something lightweight to take away which reminds us of your work, and you can email us your full catalogue later that day.

This is handy for retailers because we don’t have to lug so much stuff around Olympia, and it’s handy for you because you have another chance to grab our attention.

3. How long should my line sheet be?

As short as possible.

Your line sheet is the cheat sheet version of your catalogue. It’s where you summarise all the stuff the shopkeeper needs to know so they can move on to actually placing an order.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to crush everything on to a single page, or that you should leave out important details. You shouldn’t, and if you have a large collection it’s fine to use more than one page.

But brevity is the goal. The point of your line sheet is to make buying your stuff stupendously easy.

Ditch anything that gets in the way.

4. How do I stop my line sheet looking boring?

Retailers like boring line sheets.

That’s because boring usually means simple.

Retailers receive a ton of catalogues and line sheets. Most of us will read through at least a couple on a daily basis. Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of Christmas ordering, for example, we might look through twenty in a single day, or even more.

So you know what? A boring line sheet is fine by us.

Your line sheet isn’t the place to be clever, cool, interesting or ground-breakingly creative. It doesn’t have to make us laugh or express the personality of your brand.

Save all of that for your collection and your catalogue.

On your line sheet, just tell us what we need to know – without any distraction, prevarication or bells and whistles.

You can certainly make it look nice – a clean, airy, well-organised line sheet is always better than a cluttered one – but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

When you need to get your work in front of retailers fast, a line sheet is your best friend. Have a look at my done-for-you pack of Canva templates here.

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