when to pitch to stores

“When Should I Pitch To Stores?”

Are there good or bad times to get in touch?

Leticia has a question:

I’m putting my catalogue together before pitching to a couple of boutiques in London. I’m wondering when to pitch to stores. What’s the optimum time of year to catch them before their buying budget is closed?

There’s a long and a short answer to this one, but since there are trees to decorate, orders to pack and bread sauce to eat, I’ll keep them both brief.

The short answer is this:

If a retailer likes your work enough, she’ll be prepared to buy it on almost any day of the year.

Seriously. It’s that simple.

What does “liking it enough” look like?

First, the retailer is fairly certain that her customers will buy it. Second, she knows that she can make money by selling your stuff. Third, she wants to do business with you.

People don’t buy from people they don’t like. Regardless of how amazing your lovely thing is, for a retailer to feel comfortable about spending money, there has to be some kind of positive relationship between you.

You don’t have to be skipping off to get tattoos together, but she does have to feel that your work is right for her store and you understand her a little bit. You know something about her specific shop. Your catalogue or line sheet is professional and easy to use. You talk to her like a human being with needs, goals and fears instead of a dim-witted cash dispenser.

When these boxes are ticked, retailers feel confident. We get a YES feeling about you.

We want your stuff on our shelves, either right now or as soon as we can make it happen. So if the boutique owner likes you enough there is no best time to pitch, and it actually doesn’t matter if your submission arrives the day after their budget closed.

They’ll find a way to stock your work anyway.

That’s why the time you spend learning how to sell your work to shops is never wasted.

A great pitch may not conquer all….

But it can get you pretty close.

So that’s the short answer. If you’ve got reason to believe that a particular store will be strongly interested in your work, just get in touch.

The slightly longer answer is that there are particular buying seasons and you should be aware of them. Every store is different, of course, and the fashion industry in particular has its own patterns, but the general trends go something like this.

In January and February we’re recovering from Christmas and hopefully enjoying the feeling of having some money in the bank. We might be running a sale on current stock but we’re also thinking about the incoming season.

We need new things to entice our customers, especially since it’s a time of year when people aren’t particularly motivated to buy.

We’ll be restocking products that we know always sell well, but will also be on the look-out for new items to spice up our ranges. Plus, there’s Valentine’s Day. This is a bigger deal for some retailers than others, but if you make anything remotely Valentiney, indie retailers are going to want to know about it in early January at the latest.

The same goes for annual events like Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, Easter and Back-to-School. If your work ties in with a particular time of year, aim to get in touch with retailers 6-8 weeks in advance.

Keep track of buying seasons by paying attention to trade shows.

In the UK, for example, we have Top Drawer in January followed by Spring Fair in early February.

When £3.2bn is being spent by retailers in your industry, it’s a safe bet that potential stockists might be willing to flash some cash.

The early part of the year, from January to April, is generally a good time to launch new products. It chimes with retailers’ desire for newness and gives your items the chance to get established before the Christmas buying season opens.

This begins around May and ends in about October. Larger shops or those with multiple branches will start earlier. Smaller shops are lighter on their feet and may leave it later. Trade shows happening in Britain around this time include the September edition of Top Drawer and Autumn Fair.

May and June is also peak press-day season. Major companies show their Autumn/Winter collections and magazines start designing their Christmas issues. A lot of money is spent and decisions are made around this time.

So if you want to sell your work to shops at Christmas, get in touch in June.

Or early September at the latest.

In October and November there’s still some money up for grabs if you’re clever about it. Retailers will have done the majority of their buying and ordering, but may still be looking for small quantities of characterful products which compliment their larger collection.

A well-crafted submission around this time can be a very good idea.

In December, it’s pretty much all over. Retailers are fully occupied with selling the stuff they’ve got, and are probably too stressed, busy or high on adrenaline to give your pitch the attention it deserves.

But don’t forget the short answer. If your work is a good fit for the store, and you write a great pitch, wonderful things can happen on practically any day of the year.

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