Have you ever thought about selling a product in stores?
Perhaps you are also selling your product online via Etsy, eBay, or one of the many e-commerce sites for artisans.
Or maybe not even, perhaps you make a mean cheesecake, which everyone raves about at dinner parties.
Did you ever think whether or not a store might be interested in selling it?
It’s natural, especially among those of us who are a bit more “small time" or humble to think, "No one would want to sell my stuff?"
But let me ask you this, have you ever asked?
The mistake that we are making here (aside from not being confident) is assuming that we know best about another person’s business.
Why are we deciding who would be interested in showcasing our work, why don’t we just ask them and let them decide for themselves?
After all, they know their customers.
Ah I see, you’re worried about rejection. Let me tell you, rejection is for high school boys worried about asking a girl to the prom.
It has no place in the adult world, and neither does “what if”, which is exactly what you are going to be dealing with if you don’t take the leap of faith to give it a try.
In this article we’re going to discuss
- Why stores are interested in what you make
- How stores can benefit your business
- How you can get their contact information
- How to write a proper pitch
- A case study on how I got an Etsy seller featured in 4 stores within 2 months
Why Stores Are Interested In You
Next time you walk into a store I want you to ask yourself, where did all this stuff come from?
Now, it may be that some large factory produced most of the stuff. Or, it may be that the store is selling items they personally make.
However, I’m willing to bet that if you head to a handful of places, you’ll run into a store that isn’t selling purely factory items, or their own brand, but are selling products from artisans around the world. They are known as a reseller.
Naturally, it makes sense.
Take a gift shop for example. In order to feature a variety of items, they can’t purely showcase the items they make.
Moreover, they rarely carry enough of any one thing to be able to buy it in large quantity from a factory.
They very well might be working with various artisans to fill their stock. Sometimes, this is revealed on the website.
Other times, you just have to contact them and ask. Either way, they are interested in hearing from you.
The Benefits Of Selling In Stores Over Selling Online
It may be the case that you already sell online, and therefore are thinking - how would this benefit me?
Well, there are a lot of reasons why selling in stores can benefit your business over just selling online. Consider the following:
Less Competition – Depending on the store you might be working with less competition.
Online, if someone is looking for a particular type of jewelry, they will do a search, and everyone making that jewelry will show up as a seller.
While there may be some competition in stores, it is very likely that they will be exhibiting a range of different styles and products, thus yours might stand out more in your field.
Imagine being the only person in the gift shop selling seaglass jewelry.
Reach More Customers – Some people, many people, in fact, still don’t shop online.
Especially for certain items (particular items that you wear i.e clothing, shoes, jewelry, which many people feel you need to see and try on in person).
If you are selling your items in stores you are likely reaching an entirely new set of customers, as well as the usual people who also shop online.
No Listing Fees – Many online retailers charge you to put up an item, even if it doesn’t sell.
If you are wholesaling to store or working with them on consignment, there is no listing fee.
If the item does not sell, then it can be shipped back to you.
Scalability - There are a limited number of websites that sell artisan's work.
There are an innumberable amount of stores, especially if you include international.
This means that if you come up with a proper strategy and pitch, the sky is the limit.
You can hire an assistant for relatively cheap and chug away at contacting stores!
Bulk Sales – Again, if you are wholesaling to stores, it is like a customer who is buying in bulk (everyone’s favorite customer).
Stores tend to not buy just one item, they buy in large quantities, so just a few can potentially increase sales substantially.
Moreover, if a store is stocking up for the month or season, it can give you a good idea as to how the business environment is, as opposed to waiting for everyday online.
Networking – Selling in someone’s store can be a very personal experience.
It’s about building a relationship with another individual, and one who might very well share a similar passion for the products you are making.
They may become a good friend and even refer you to other store owners in different locations.
You might talk on the phone, or at least correspond frequently over email.
This could open new stores, craft fairs, and other opportunities that previously would have passed you by.
How To Market To Stores
Now that you have seen the benefits of selling in stores, you are probably wondering how to get in touch.
Meet With Stores In Your Area – The lowest hanging fruit is simply to approach the stores in your area.
Think about stores that might be interested in carrying your line.
Personally, I think it is easier to approach smaller, individually owned stores, as these stores have the power to make executive decisions in a much shorter amount of time.
Who wants to deal with all the red tape of trying to get your stuff featured at Tiffany’s?
Head over to Al’s Jewelry and see if he’s interested. You can probably talk with the boss right then and there.
Note – if you are going to approach stores directly, consider placing a call first. This is a simple way to litmus test the situation and see if they are even remotely interested. It might just be the case that they aren’t buying at the moment – save yourself the trouble, call ahead.
Approach Them Online – The problem with meeting with stores in your area is that it isn’t very scalable.
Unless you live on 5th avenue you’re probably going to run out of viable options quickly, and who wants to spend 3 hours driving to a store that might not be interested?
Luckily, most stores nowadays have an online presence and it is relatively easy to get contact information.
There are tons of google search operators that can help you refine your search, for example, if you want to find links to handmade seaglass jewelry you can put
intitle:handmade seaglass jewelry
and you are guaranteed to return results that ONLY have all of those terms in the search.
However, even that is a bit off the mark, since you are likely to get a lot of other artisans and not necessarily stores.
To help with that, there are a lot of online directories, which list store information. A few of my favorites are
Yellow Pages – This is my favorite because you can get the email address right off the website.
For example, a search for jewelry stores in Boston returns over 400 results.
Many of those results include a phone number, email, and website.
Yelp – Also pretty good is Yelp. The same search in yelp returned 325 results.
The only problem with yelp is that they don’t list the email address directly, you have to go to the website if there is one.
Organizations – There are a lot of organizations who list their members.
Again, a search in Google for jewelry stores in Boston returned American Gem Society, which lists several places that could be contacted.
City Pages – Some cities have pages dedicated to showcasing the city and all the fun and interesting activities you can do there.
Check out this page for Newport, Rhode Island – goldmine!
How To Write A Proper Pitch
Now that you have identified your target market you are going to need to pitch them.
Think hard about this one because you are likely going to be sending this out to 10’s and 100’s of stores.
Most people, nowadays, have the attention span of a small mammal, so you are going to want to grab it without sounding too spammy.
It is a fine line to walk, trust me.
Introduction – You are going to want to start with an introduction, something to humanize you so you don’t sound like a spambot from Mars.
Don’t go overboard because at the end of the day the person isn’t interested in you, but it’s important to break the ice casually.
Value Proposition – What is your value proposition? What are you offering and why is this helpful to the reader?
Remember that even though you are pitching your product it isn’t about you, it’s about them, and how you can help them achieve their goals (increase revenue).
Think about the angle that makes for a mutually beneficial relationship.
For example, maybe your items will appeal to a different clientele that the store is currently not reaching.
Maybe your stuff just sells really well and you get great customer reviews.
All of these things flatter your business but above all prove to the business owner why he should work with you.
Terms – If you’re flexible it’s probably best to leave the exact terms to a follow up conversation so as not to turn anyone off immediately, however, if there are things you know for sure, especially “deal sweetners” (for example, you’ll pay for shipping) it’s good to mention them upfront. Some things you are going to want to consider are:
- Are you selling consignment or wholesale?
- Who pays for shipping?
- Where will the items be featured in the store?
- How many items can you ship? What Kind?
- How long will they be showcased until they are sent back?
Features – If you’ve been featured anywhere such as a magazine or blog, consider including this in the pitch.
No need to go overboard, select your best and show it.
Testimonials – Human beings are, for the most part, sheep.
If they see other people doing something (selling your items in their store and being successful) then it is going to make them want to do it too.
It also builds credibility. If you’re already selling in a few stores, then ask if you can get a testimonial from them.
If you are selling online, why not grab a few of your 5 star reviews and add them on to the end, to show how much customers love your products?
Contact information – Obviously the person has your email, but go ahead and leave your phone number and relevant website(s) to show that you are a real person and you are interested in connecting.
A Case Study – How I Got An Etsy Seller Featured In Four Stores In Two Months
Let’s wrap all of this into a nice case study, shall we?
In September 2013 I worked with an etsy seller who was making seaglass jewelry and primarily selling on Etsy.
They were also working with four stores and seeing a good amount of sales through them.
We thought there was room for growth by adding more stores.
This would add additional revenue streams, and diversify the income in case anything went sour with one of the stores (as it turns out a few months down the line, one actually went out of business).
The first thing I did was to hire a VA for the project.
If you’ve read my ultimate guide for working with VAs, you’ll see that this is a perfect project to outsource as it mainly involves online research and emailing in bulk.
Next, I identified the geography I wanted to target.
As the seller lives in Massachusetts I made Boston the top of my list. On top of that, I wanted to target other coastal states, since the product is “beachy” in nature.
I asked several VAs, who was working at $3.30 an hour, to collect the email addresses from sources I had found (yellow pages, yelp, etc).
In general, they were collecting about 80 email addresses/contact pages an hour, so each email was costing approximately $0.05.
Simultaneously, I created a pitch to send out. Here it is:
My name is Jean and I sell sea glass jewelry of all types (sterling and silver plated pendants, earrings, lockets, animal lockets, bracelets, etc) in my online shops, which are on both Ebay and Etsy. The seaglass is collected by me and my children from all over the world and I hand-make the jewelry. Since I started a few years ago I have sold over 4000 pieces. I pride myself on high quality jewelry and excellent customer service (over 1000 reviews and 100% positive).
Recently, I have been looking into selling my jewelry in boutique stores. Presently my jewelry is sold at several stores, including:
1.) Chris Bell's Handcraft in Newnan, Georgia.
2.) WildRuby Gallaria in Framingham, Mass.
3.) Amore-Artisan-Boutique, Tacoma, WA
4.) The Sparrow gift Shop, Orleans, Mass.
I have added a few testimonials below. I am happy to provide contact information on request.
The sales there have been excellent and the establishments have been a pleasure to work with. Most of the items provided to them, on consignment or as some prefer to just buy outright and are offered in the $12-$24 range where they in turn add on whatever percentage they decide to. I pay for all shipping costs and am just looking for some shelf space to see how they sell on consignment.
I came across your website and are wondering if you might be interested in selling my jewelry. I encourage you to visit our etsy shop in order to see the jewelry we offer.
I'm looking forward to building a business relationship and wish you a wonderful day!
Warm regards Jean and Alan
“We have had Samiseaglass in our store since March of 2012. We are very proud to have Jean’s work. Everything she sends us is amazing. She really has an eye for adding the right trinkets to each piece of glass to make them look as if they belong together. We have many different styles of jewelry in our store, but none of it sells like this does. It honestly sells itself.
It is popular with everyone from younger girls to older women. Many come back to buy more.
We have enjoyed working with Jean, Alan and even Max. J They are very good people and have pretty much become a part of our family. They will always have a spot in our store.
If you have a chance to display Jean’s treasures in your store, take it. You will not regret it.
"We love Sami Sea Glass! Jean and Alan are a delight to work with and Jean's designs are simply beautiful! Delicate and charming, refreshingly different. Each shipment is a joy to open. She stays ahead of our demand, which is considerable. I highlight her work to customers and they always recognize the beauty and value of what they are looking at. We love it!"
Nancy & Tim
The Sparrow Store
Orleans, Cape Cod
As you can see this checks all the boxes on what a pitch should have.
In total, about 1k email address were collected ($50) and sent ($30).
A follow up was sent a week later, just to keep the pressure on.
As you can imagine, cold emailing does not lead to particularly high conversion rates, and the majority of people did not answer.
Some other commons responses were
- We’re not buying right now
- This doesn’t fit with our style
- I only sell my own stuff
In short, 99% of people turned us down. But 10 people expressed serious interest.
Half of them asked to be contacted in a few months time as they were primarily a summer business and were closing up shop for the winter.
In the end, jewelry was sent to 4 places. One of which, I know, sent a check for $80 in December, which covered the costs of the project.
In January, several of the other stores followed suit and in total a few hundred dollars was sent.
On top of that, consider the following
- This is completely scalable. There are thousands more email addresses out there, and we could take this 4 to 10, 20+ without much more effort.
- More stores can lead to more references, which in turn leads to more stores. The whole thing snowballs. It's just about getting "out there"
- We’re potentially creating a life long connection. If these stores send consistent monthly/yearly sales, it will pay off in spades over the next few years.
- Pretty much everything was outsourced, especially once you have the pitch written. You only need to handle conversations as they come back.
So what are you waiting for? Identify your target market and come up with your strategy!