How To Get Stores Placing Orders This Christmas
The answers to your biggest Christmas questions.
If you want this Christmas to be profitable, it’s time to get your product, and your business, in the best possible shape. Here’s how to do that, lickety-split.
“What’s the first thing I should do when getting my products ready for retailers this Christmas?”
Remove the dead wood from your collection.
This can be hard to do. Creative people care about the things they make. Ditching something you’re proud of can be painful.
But the fact is that some items sell better than others. A product you knocked up in a couple of days can be a huge hit, while the lovely thing you slaved over for months barely gets a second look.
You might not even like the stuff that’s selling well, and that can be incredibly frustrating. But part of being a successful entrepreneur is seeing what’s actually happening in your business, instead of what you wish was happening.
If something you make isn’t attracting much interest from retailers or customers, consider taking it out of your wholesale collection for now.
If your goal is to maximise income, you need your A-team of products.
Retailers want to see a tight, cohesive collection that’s got a clear point of view. Throwing everything you’ve ever made into your wholesale catalogue – in the hope that something (or anything) will grab their attention – reduces your impact. As a buyer, my sense of what you’re offering gets fuzzy.
And when that happens, it’s very easy for me to forget about your submission and go watch baby sloth videos instead.
So be ruthless. Get your best players up front and leave the rest on the bench – for now, at least.
“What are buyers looking for at Christmas?”
The solution to all our problems.
I’m not even kidding. This is one of the reasons why it’s crucial to see things from the retailer’s perspective. You see, most of the time shopkeepers aren’t buying what you think we’re buying.
You think we’re shelling out for ear muffs, decorative spoon holders or whatever lovely thing you make.
But what we’re actually buying is a feeling of relief. When we make an order, we’ve temporarily answered the biggest, most pressing question in our working lives, which is “What do we put on the shelves?”
Our overall goal is for the till to ring and our customers to be delighted. So when we buy your work, it’s because we think selling your lovely thing is likely to make those two things happen. Retailers are looking for products that make the AAAARGH-I-DON’T-KNOW-WHAT-TO-SELL feeling disappear.
The clearer you can be about how your work will help my store thrive, the easier it is for me to drop several hundred quid on my first (or fifteenth) order.
“Do I have to slap robins and snowmen all over my work if I want to sell to shops at Christmas?”
If putting together a collection of Christmas-themed products makes sense for you, great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.
You don’t have to huff egg-nog in a desperate attempt to come up with a Christmas range. If it’s not a natural step for you, that’s okay. Having said that, don’t ignore the season altogether. This a huge, stressful, crazy time of year for your stockists, and you want them to feel like you understand that.
So even if you don’t produce specific items, let a little Christmas spirit into your wholesale business. Put some festive flourishes into your catalogue, or add a seasonal nod to your packaging.
Have fun showing us how you do Christmas.
“I haven’t got time to make new products. Is there anything I can do with what I’ve got?”
Yes! Here are two big things you can do right now.
First, think about what your customers and stockists have been asking you for. Maybe they’d like your lovely thing in a different size or colour. for example.
Christmas is a great time to bring out new twists on your best selling items. You might even produce a limited edition line to create a buzz among your fans and add a bit of urgency to their gift-buying. If you have ideas for products that you know will sell, and that you can make without too much effort, now’s the time to do so.
Second, group your items into ready-made packages. This is something we talk about a lot in Create Your Own Catalogue, but here’s the short version. Shopkeepers are very, very busy people and making up an order from scratch can be time-consuming.
Help us out by creating packages or collections within your wider range. You could have a starter package, for example, which contains a selection of your best-selling items. Or a Christmas collection which contains all your festive stuff in sufficient quantities to make an attractive display.
By offering this, you’re taking some of the hard work out of the ordering process. It’s thoughtful, considerate, and may result in retailers spending more than they would have done otherwise.
“I feel like all the best Christmas products have already been done. How do I compete?”
Everything’s been done before. Everything.
But not by you.
Shopkeepers aren’t expecting you to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to come up with a scintillatingly original new item if you want to sell to shops this Christmas. We simply want to see your take on things. Your kind of Christmas cards. Your kind of wrapping paper. Your kind of tree decorations.
So forget about the competition and concentrate on serving your target customer.
How can you make her feel more like the person she aspires to be? What kind of paper would make her feel good when she’s wrapping up her friends’ presents? What kind of card would she love to send?
Make those lovely things. If your Christmas products surprise and delight your target customer, your stockists will feel that way too.
“I’m worried too many shops will place orders. How do I stop that happening?”
By being meticulous and organised. You can’t wing this one. Before approaching a single store, you have to know what your capacity is – both in terms of your time and energy, and the resources you need to make your products.
Decide how much money you want to make this Christmas, then work out how many items you’ll have to sell to hit that figure. How much will it cost you in materials, overheads and time?
When you know that, you’ll be able to see where your limit is.
If you’re going to need an army of elves working 24/7 to make that many products, it’s probably time to think again.
No matter how carefully you work things out, there will still be an element of guesswork. At the very least, however, you’ll have thought your way through your entire production process and have a clear picture of what is and isn’t possible. When you know that, it’s a case of managing your time, energy and resources in the best way you can.
But all this hard work you’re doing?
If you stick with it, it’s totally going to pay off.
Hello, I'm Clare Holliday. I'm a shopkeeper who's helped thousands of creative people sell their work to stores, galleries and regular customers all over the world. Now it's your turn.