Hi makers! Kelly here, back to continue where we left off on last week's Tip Tuesday. We have lots more information coming your way on getting our knitwear into local stores, but first a quick recap:
Wholesale? Consignment? Renting a space? Just thinking about it is enough to get your head spinning. But never fear, ambitious makers - we have some special guests lined up to help us out over the course of a few information-rich blog posts. Sarah, owner of Mama Knows Clips and Crochet / Mama Knows Luxury, is going to tell us all a little bit about how to get your fabulous items carried in small boutiques.
First and foremost on the agenda is understanding the difference between wholesale and consignment.
Wholesale is when a store or company buys your products in advance to sell through their own venue. Selling wholesale is a special beast all on it’s own, and we'll get more into that later.
Consignment Selling is when you make an agreement with a store to sell your items. You assume all of the risk, as they do not pay you anything in advance.
There are many things to consider when making a consignment deal with a store, and Sarah is addressing a variety of them in this two part blog post. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. Ready for Part 2? Let's go!
Hi everyone, I'm Sarah! I run Mama Knows Clips and Crochet, making knit and crochet accessories for my clients and their families. I also own Mama Knows Luxury, bringing big stitch merino yarn and locally handmade giant yarn tools to the market. I've been selling handmade items online since 2013, and recently branched out to selling in local stores. My products are currently available at Heavens to Betsy in Devon, AB, and The Maker's Keep in Edmonton, AB. I'm so happy to share some tips and insight I think would be helpful to those intimidated or confused when it comes to getting their knits on store shelves.
3. Setting up a Contract
There are some important things to have a solid understanding of when you setup your contract. Many stores will have a very casual approach; you should ask all the important questions from the beginning so that you are clear on your rights and responsibilities. Consider these points:
Most stores will provide you with a unique Vendor ID and will require you to label each of your items with your ID and pricing. Some stores will allow you to have set pricing for certain items that they can find at point of sale, while others will require you to have each and every item labeled. How does a store want you to label your items? How would you price products if you wanted a sale?
Payments and Sales Payouts
Some stores will use a sophisticated computer program to track all of their vendor sales, and may be willing to let you know how you are doing mid month. Other stores will track sales based on handwritten notes or collecting vendor tags off of items; these shops may be more unlikely or unable to tell you how your sales are doing mid month.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself: What day of the month are rent payments due? Will rent be automatically deducted from sales? What day of the month will your payout be ready? How are they paid to you (cheque picked up, cheque mailed, email transfer, paypal, etc.)? How will you be notified if you have had sales? What financial breakdown will they provide so that you can track your gross income and the commissions you paid?
Loss and Theft
Some stores will have a blanket insurance policy to cover theft, damage, etc. Some may only cover physical damage while loss due to theft is your responsibility. It is really important to know who is responsible and protect yourself accordingly. Ask yourself: Who is responsible if an item is stolen or damaged? Are you expected to have your own insurance for loss, damage, etc.?
Recently I have seen stores add clauses that allow them swap out your products for other products at their discretion. Be very wary and careful if you see a clause like this. If you are going to have your products in a store, you want to ensure that they are on display and accessible to potential customers at all times.
It's common for stores to have multiple vendors of the same type, and this is especially true for Jewelry, Knit/Crochet and Hair Accessory vendors. You should have a discussion with the store about protecting your niche within their shop. For example, if you make crocheted slippers, will they allow another crochet slipper vendor to join? If they will, will they require that vendor to have a similar price point to you? You should never assume that a store will protect your interests. Always have these conversations.
How much notice must be given by the vendor or by the store to cancel the contract? In the event that a vendor abandons their contract, what happens to their items?
When all is said and done, trust your instincts. Go with the vibe you are getting. If you “just click” with the store owner, if they follow through on what they promise, respond to your inquiries and are generally positive and helpful, you can likely expect an easy relationship in the future. If they are easy to deal with, willing to chat by text, eager to answer questions, are open to suggestions and willing to offer advice on how you can be successful, you have found the holy grail and you should be excited!
On the other hand, watch out for those red flags. If you have trouble getting a response to emails or texts within a reasonable time frame, find the person to be overly defensive or unwilling to answer questions, think their cost is too high, or if there are already several vendors selling items very similar to yours, then you should likely put extra thought into whether this is the right place for you.
4. Your Display and Merchandising
Some stores will do the merchandising themselves, and will decide how to place your items. You may be able to give some feedback and negotiate where you are located in the store, but most of the decisions will be up to the store owner. If this is the case, be sure to discuss your product placement prior to starting the agreement to ensure you are happy with how your items are displayed.
If you decide to go with a store that provides you with your own space to merchandise, be sure to think about how you can catch your potential customer’s eye in a split second, while still maximizing your square footage. Be aware that in most cases customers are attracted on impulse, and an eye-catching display will entice them to step closer to your booth and start looking deeper at what you have to offer. It has to be really easy for them, and they need to be able to imagine themselves wearing or using your item and assess the price in seconds, otherwise they will likely lose interest.
Here are some helpful tips on setting up your space:
Merchandising your display is one of the most important parts of having your items in stores. You need to be a sponge, soaking up all of the best ideas from the best displays you have seen. You need to be flexible and willing to adjust your display. You need to be involved, go see your display often, keep it well stocked, ensure it stays tidy. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the store expects of you, and be respectful of their furniture and of the vendors around you.
Talk to the owners and staff when you are there. Tell them about your products, tell them about what’s new and exciting in your world. I promise, if you have a good relationship with your store they will keep you at the front of their minds, direct customers to your space, and talk about you on social media. Be the positive vendor they love to see. Be respectful, fulfill your obligations to the letter, remain professional at all times and be open to their suggestions regarding your space and your products. Always remember: they know their customers. You should be grateful for their advice and support, and be willing to adapt as needed.
Selling in stores can be exhilarating and rewarding, if you think it's the next step for your business than I hope I have provided some helpful insight as you start your journey. Good luck in your search, I've got my fingers crossed for you!
Happy making, happy selling!
Sarah, Mama Knows Clips and Crochet
Kelly, OML Dream Team
Sarah is the maker behind @mamaknowsclipsandcrochet and the force behind Mama Knows Luxury, bringing big stitch merino yarn to the masses and to Canadians in particular. Sarah loves to share her knowledge, and and often finds herself explaining how she "did it" or demonstrating a stitch to her friends. She believes that being a part of the creative community is both an honour and a privilege, and takes at least a little time each day to immerse herself in the creative process.
Kelly is the mind, body and soul behind @knitbrooks: handmade modern knitwear inspired by nature’s endless beauty. After completing a photojournalism program, Kelly used both knitting and crocheting as a way to relax after a long day working as a reporter/photographer. This hobby has since transformed into a way to combine her love of creating fashionable knitwear, with her passion for photography, a cozy lifestyle, and her awe and admiration of the untouched wilderness.