From my mail:
We currently have an online shopping cart type store which has been probably a little too successful, hence the push to change our method of manufacture and go to the retail market – we have just been maxed out. My concern is, do I put a lot of energy into developing a nice new redesigned shopping cart website to coincide with the collection relaunch next year, or should I put my energy into creating a non-selling website whose aim is to support the product/image, list retailers and support sales that way?
Regarding whether you should or should not retail and the conflicts you may have with retailers, I defer to Miracle’s advice in Hangtags, labels & domain names- competing with your customers? and The battle of retailers vs manufacturers. Personally, if you’re asking what I would do, if I were to sell consumer direct with some wholesale accounts, I wouldn’t put my web address on my hang tags that I sent to stores. Under no circumstances (if I had retail accounts) would I sell less than MSRP. I wouldn’t want to compete with my stores, I don’t think it’s fair. A lot of stores don’t want to carry you if they know you sell on the internet. But again, read Miracle’s posts.
Speaking of shopping carts, other people have asked about it but I don’t know anything about it. Miracle is a better choice but because the question is so complex, she hasn’t written about it in part because she’s hung up on describing the closely related topic of help desk software for customer service and support (she’s using Kayako). Miracle also says she’s not sure if she understands your question because her impression is that you’re putting the cart before the horse and you don’t need to. She’s seen other situations in which people have completely redone their sites for no good reason other than that they can. In general, she says shopping cart software is often a problem because it isn’t set up to manage inventory by size. Mike C -a regular visitor here- is someone who will also know a lot about shopping carts because he sells a line on the web and he’s also quite technically astute. In the absence of in house experts, I found reference to Tom Antion who’s written a free ebook (pdf) on selecting a shopping cart. Or maybe you’d prefer to read his series (pt.1 pt.2 pt.3) describing the “22 questions to ask when buying a shopping cart system. Tom recommends 1ShoppingCart software.