Wholesale vs consumer marketing

From my mail:

I am a new designer and I don’t have $ or man power to man a trade show at this point, but heard that designers sometimes will send out mailers with a line sheet/ photos. Do buyers really buy products from just these line sheets and photos? Should I call each and every store before I send one out? Just wondering. I need sales! I;ve been selling to friends and friends of friends but getting a boutique is so scary to me.

Buyers don’t usually buy from just line sheets and photos unless they have some familiarity with the brand. Maybe they saw it in a showroom, at a trade show, in another retailer’s store, a magazine article, someplace. It’s hard to judge certain qualities from photos and line sheets, so usually that’s not enough to get your line picked up.

But it is enough to get you noticed.

The biggest mistake that I have seen DEs make is a failure to understand the retailer’s decision making process. DEs expect the same type of standard response to mailers that consumer marketers have published as being normal, yet retailers are motivated by different criteria than consumers. I have seen DEs saddened by a lack of response to a mailing, as though they expect retailers to magically have open to buy dollars just because they came calling.

And then designers call. And call. And call. And call. Because standard sales 101 teaches you to follow up if you want the sale. But that doesn’t always work. Why? Because retailers don’t always have open to buy dollars and even when they do, they usually have already compiled a list of brands they want to consider when they have the ability to pick up a new line.

I’m not sure how what type of direction to provide. Person to person contact is good, but retailers get a lot of calls and sometimes they do nothing more than interrupt whatever you’re working on. They can be distracting. I’m sure every designer wants to make contact, but to think about it from the other side of the fence, you’re not the only one who is calling.

I don’t think there are many retailers opposed to mailings because it’s normal. They come from lines, trade show participants (or those who buy the mailing lists), sales reps, etc.. Normally, if something sparks the interest of the buyer, they keep it. For that reason, I think postcard mailers are more effective if the buyer has no familiarity with your brand because it’s a quick read, it’s noticeable and it doesn’t require the opening of an envelope. You could waste more money sending out unsolicited line sheets, not to mention they usually are quickly dated. I wrote a post called Budget Marketing Materials: Large Format Postcards which I recommend you read.

As I said before, if it were me, I would create a very compelling, eye catching, graphically appealing postcard. I would make it larger than a 4 x 6, because in my opinion, those small postcards are difficult to notice when filed (they get lost in the shuffle). On one side, I would have my photos, on the reverse, I would have brief information and the contact for the sales reps, showrooms, trade shows, or you, if you’re representing your own line. Encourage a visit to a website, an email or a phone call to request a line sheet or make an appointment to view the line. You may even want to assign a numerical code to each retailer’s address, print it on the address label (see below), this way the retailer can just give you the numerical code instead of repeating or spelling out their address.

Buyer’s Name
Store Name — 12345 (numerical code)
Store Address
Store City State Zip

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  1. CF says:

    Thanks for this post. I am new to this business — it’s a whole new career. Would you say that most boutique owners prefer to shop markets?

  2. Amber Star says:

    This is really timely for me. I just went to my first boutiques yesterday. I did the cold calling thing. I know that I should do mailers and call first, but I really just had to get over being a big chicken and go for it. I’m so happy to have that over with. And it went well.

    We also sell other manufacturer’s products, so I can attest to keeping those mailers which spark my interest, and I can also attest to “I’ll check them out when I have the $$$$” thought process. I’ve had some mailers tucked away for months, and it will probably be months before they really hear from me. But they would never hear from me if they hadn’t sent the mailer. Less likely I would actually write notes if they only called…

    I found the post on the oversize postcards really helpful. Thank you.

  3. Glendaly Macci says:

    Hi, I just read your post as I am ready for any information as I am staring a Boutique. I’m not an expert in the business as I am having a challenge getting good start-up with my stock for my boutique. I can say that I have been to many web sites and there are many individuals who are looking for unique fashion lines. It seems starting with a small boutique has been a challenge in starting small inventory as online services are well not appealing. I think that if you market yourself within a few start-up chat boards, you may be amazingly surprised at small newbie Boutique owners. Hope this helps and wish you success.

  4. barbe says:

    This is great. I am trying to figure out how to market my art yarns, and I think this is the best way right now.

    What about emailing retailers??? is there any kind of protocol you can recommend for that?

  5. carol says:

    I too am a new designer and was wondering where bridal salons go to purchase items for their salons? I have a new item in the bridal industry to market. It’s easy to find tradeshows for brides, but not as easy to find out where the salons go to place orders.

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