Selling a product wholesale – How do you do it?
January 9, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Know anything about selling a product wholesale? To local shops? Looking for some hivemind retail knowledge!

I've got a poster that I'm selling through an online shop and through Etsy. I launched it just before the holidays and did pretty well! My next task is to see if local shops would be interested in purchasing some number of posters at a wholesale price. Cock-a-doodle profit, right?

Well, first off, I'm totally nervous about approaching anyone but I'm hoping if I get my ducks in a row, I won't feel so nervous. Here's some questions I'm trying to answer –

The biggie: how much should my wholesale price be? It should be somewhere between my break even costs and my regular online purchase price. Is it a negotiation? Some of these shops will be small businesses whereas others could take bigger volumes. So, someone might buy, say, 5 posters to see if they do well and someone else might go for 50! Volume gets a discount, right?

Another thing: packaging. These posters are fairly large, roughly 12x24. Some shops might not have any kind of standard poster display and, ideally, this poster wouldn't just go in some rack with dozens of other posters. But, offering a display system gets costly. Who bears the cost of that? I think a small biz might love a display that they get for free but a larger biz might not be interested in whatever I could monkey together.

Lastly, I kind of think this is like a job interview, it would be best to get introduced by someone ("You should check out my friend's posters for your shop!") but that won't be possible in most instances. However, is it best to just walk into a shop or better to call and try to get the owner even if it's "cold."

Would love any experiences/insights anyone can share – no matter which side of the transaction you have been on.
posted by amanda to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You still have to make a profit, so don't price yourself too low. Keystone markup is 20%, so bear that in mind.

You could email the places with links to your shop, blogs that have featured you, and so on, but salesmanship is usually better in person. Go in with your best smile, your great posters and sell 'em. Practice on a pal.

It's not like a job interview--you have something these shops (and their customers) want and need. You're in charge.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:36 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider calling around to the shops to find out the name of their buyers (sometimes this information is on websites too, if a store routinely does consignment or works with local products). Knowing who you're looking for when you walk in can make you appear very professional.

In my city, there are a couple of shops that deal exclusively in locally made items, including some of the local museum shops.

And when you do speak to someone, even if they can't help you, ask them if they have any ideas for you. People who run stores know all the other people who run stores.

Many artists and designers work with manufacturer's representatives, who act as a sales force to bring products into shops. This is something you might consider when you're ready to work on a larger scale, but when I worked for a manufacturer's rep in San Francisco, we frequently got calls from small-scale artists looking to get their products into stores, and while we couldn't always be helpful, we could sometimes give some useful advice and on occasion my boss would even be willing to take a look at someone's merchandise and give them some constructive feedback and maybe a little sense of where to go from there. If you can find out who the manufacturer's reps are in your area, it can't hurt to call, use a little flattery and see if you can't get some information you can use.
posted by padraigin at 6:06 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rena Tom has a lot of good advice on her site about pricing your products and approaching buyers. You might read through the archives and/or sign up for her open office hours, where she answers questions like this.
posted by judith at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

As the owner of a small business which specialized in unique merchandise, I actively sought out and welcomed local artists / growers / etc. However! my time was extremely limited during certain periods, and nothing raised my hackles more than to have someone (no matter how talented or well-intentioned) wander in during our busy times to talk about their great product. Grrrrrr. So please, do a mite of research, and find out when your target shops will likely be less busy, then call first to ask if you might set up an appointment.
posted by PlantGoddess at 6:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all -- you've helped me focus on a few areas. I tried to figure out manufacturer's reps but had no luck as of yet -- I think I'll ask at the stores I go to and see what they say. I'm really not familiar with that area.
posted by amanda at 4:17 PM on January 10, 2012

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