Want to expand your wholesale business? Sales reps may be your next step.
Towards the end of the calendar year, retailers are busy selling down their inventories in the all-important holiday season. But other businesses reach a lull, and this is when important planning can be started for the new year to come.
Most sales reps who call on gift shops, boutiques, museum stores, specialty stores and others don’t make many in-person sales calls during the month of December (unless their territory is in a resort area). Their accounts have already received the merchandise they need for the holiday season. These reps may take some well-deserved time off, but they are also planning and getting ready to hit the ground running in the first couple weeks of January. Trade shows will be coming up, and appointments will need to be made with buyers for placing orders to refill their stores with new product for spring.
As an artist wholesaling your collection, this could be a great time to speak with reps about representing your line. Many independent reps and rep group managers will be evaluating the success of the products they represent and consider bringing on new lines. After all, every one of their store customers has the same question: “What’s new?”
If you already have representation, take this time to make a call to your reps and go over results from this past year. What went well, and what didn’t work? Did they have the samples and marketing materials they needed to represent you effectively? Were you responsive to their needs and able to provide excellent customer service? Plan changes to be more successful next year.
If you don’t have representation and are considering it, make contact with reps and groups who carry other lines that are compatible with yours. You may find sales reps through online search at websites such as Manufacturers-Representatives.com or GreatRep.com, or by advertising in trade journals, such as Giftware News and Gifts & Dec, or even in online forums.
Referrals are one of the best ways to get reliable, trusted sales reps, but be patient. Quite often, sales reps are deluged with requests to represent lines. It’s best to make sure you have the right match, finding reps with other lines that can cross-sell well with yours, and a suitable account base for your products.
Securing reps is a little easier when you already have wholesale accounts, so they can see that your line is proven. Any wholesale accounts you have in their territory should be given to the rep to manage (and earn commission on) except for house accounts that need to remain with you. Be upfront about these.
A few good reps can take your business into places you never dreamed, and keep repeat business flowing. Going forward, make it a priority to keep communication lines open, and support your reps in their efforts to sell your line.