When Should You Pitch Your Work To Stores?

Are there good or bad times to get in touch?

Written by Clare

Leticia has a question:

“I’m putting together my buyer’s pack before pitching to a couple of boutiques in London. I’m unclear when I should be pitching to shops. 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. Since there are trees to decorate, orders to pack and bread sauce to eat straight out of the pan, 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 your stuff. Second, she knows that she can make money by selling your stuff. Third, she wants to do business with you.

[Read: Pricing for wholesale and retail]

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 you understand her a little bit. You know something about her shop. Your buyers’ pack 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 three 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 likea 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 combined with a great product 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 in retail and it never hurts to be aware of those periods. 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 – unless stuff is on sale.

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 to consider. 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.

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 at least 2 months in advance.

A good way to keep track of buying seasons is to pay attention to the dates of major 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. This 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 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 Pulse and Autumn Fair.

[Read: How to create a line sheet that makes selling easy]

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.

It may seem hideously early, but 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.

Clare Yuille Bio Picture

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.

Worry less. Sell more.