Here’s something lovely. Sometimes shopkeepers ask you if they can stock your work. I hope you’ll enjoy it when this happens because it’s a sign that your hard work is paying off.
But thrilling though it may be, don’t let it switch off your instincts.
When you approach a store you should have already done lots of research and thinking. You have reasons to believe that teaming up with them is a good idea. You’ve researched their shop. You know that what you do and what they do overlaps. You feel good about the prospect of a partnership.
When the retailer does the approaching, however, you may never have heard of them till right this second. They’ve just turned up in your inbox with an order or a request for your line sheet or catalogue.
Chances are it’s going to work out just fine, but before you go ahead take the time to properly check them out. Here’s what to do:
1.Research their shop
If you can visit in person, do that, either openly (by introducing yourself) or undercover (if you think they won’t recognise you.) A quick look around on a quiet Tuesday morning can tell you everything you need to know.
Can’t visit? take a very close look at their website and social media channels.
If they don’t have a website or internet presence and you can’t go to the shop, decide whether that’s something you can live with. You can always decide to politely decline the sale (there’s a script for that here.)
2. Check out their other suppliers
Find out which makers they currently stock and get a handle on how established they are. The more well-known the maker, the more likely it is that the shop is a good bet.
If you wish, you can even get in touch with one or two of them to ask what it’s like to work with the store.
3. Listen to your instincts
If we put the prospect of making some money to the side for a moment, how does the thought of working with this retailer make you feel?
Did they approach you in a warm, friendly, professional manner? Have they said why they want to stock your work? Did they freely offer you their contact details and a link to their site so you could check them out?
You deserve to be treated with respect. If anything about them feels a little off, listen to your instincts. You might be saving yourself from months of wrangling and stress.
Of course, there’s no perfect way to separate legitimate prospective retail partners from the dodgy ones – and that’s true whether you approach them or the other way around. Even award-winning retailers who seem beyond reproach can turn out to be rotters when you actually start working with them.
Keeping an eye on how you feel and what you think, rather than getting swept away by the excitement of landing a new stockist, will help you on this score.
If you’re happy to go ahead, make sure you’re paid in full before dispatching their order and that the funds have actually cleared into your account. Unfortunately there are people who scam small businesses and it never hurts to be careful.
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