Are you selling your work wholesale but not getting those important reorders from customers?
Reorders are crucial to small businesses that wholesale, because repeat business builds business. Unfortunately, many artists and craftspeople don’t write as many reorders as they could, and that means dollars are left on the table.
Has this happened to you? Are you not doing enough repeat business and aren’t sure why? Here are some common mistakes and solutions:
1. You’re not following up correctly. This is huge, and accounts for many missed opportunities. After you ship your initial order, give the retailer a call a week or two later. Did your order arrive, and has your merchandise made it to the floor? Are there any problems or questions? Has your work begun to sell? This isn’t bugging the retailer. It’s good customer service to make sure they have what they need to move your work.
Then, follow up again a few months later. Find out how sales are going, and arrange to restock their merchandise with a fill-in order. If sales are good, you may want to suggest that they increase the order or introduce another one of your collections as well.
As stock sells down, remaining items move more slowly. Your follow up will remind the retailer that they need more inventory to keep the display of your merchandise looking full and inviting.
2. You’re not offering new designs. Store owners know that to keep customers interested, they need to change displays and stock fresh merchandise. When wholesale buyers place reorders, they frequently ask, “What’s new?” In general, artists should offer about 30% new designs each year. When your line is stagnant, your sales will decline, and if you don’t have something fresh to show, you may not get that reorder.
3. You’re not approaching them at key buying times. Buyers tend to place most of their orders before their season, with staggered shipping times to keep their store inventory stocked. But different types of retailers have different seasons. If you have wholesale accounts in ski or beach resorts, for example, they may need to buy at completely different times of the year than your other accounts.
Make a spreadsheet of your accounts with these details so that you can contact buyers when they need you. If you have a retailer with huge Valentine’s Day business, you can’t approach them in mid-January to place an order, because their budget is already spent. If you don’t know their key buying times, then ask. It’s not intrusive to do this; you are providing customer service.
4. You haven’t built a relationship through staying in touch. You must keep the lines of communication open to get those reorders. Retailers often have hundreds of vendors to keep track of. Sometimes, a line sells out completely, and with no visual reminder on the floor, the retailer forgets to reorder. It’s happened!
Don’t make the assumption that retailers will contact you when they need a reorder. When artists stay in touch through emails, phone calls or even social media, they tend to stay “top of mind” and are likely to get more reorders from customers. And remember, even though you may not be contacting your buyers regularly – your competitors are.
5. The retailer is taking a break from your line. If an established account stops ordering, there may be any number of causes, but sometimes the business owner has decided to give your work a temporary rest and bring in new merchandise for a change. This is a case where “no” doesn’t mean no permanently. Taking a break and bringing in fresh work from your studio a year later can actually increase demand for your line, which will then be an exciting new addition to the store.
6. They need your help to sell. When you make your initial shipment of merchandise, you should be including sales aids, such as signage, an artist bio, merchandising suggestions and a selling tips sheet. If you did not provide this (or even if you did), ask what you can do to help their staff when sales are slow.
Can you show up for a trunk show or artist appearance? Could you do a quick Skype call to share more about your work with their staff and discuss how to sell your work? This can make a huge difference. When a salesperson is knowledgeable about the artist and their work, can talk about uses for the merchandise and answer questions, sales improve. Reorders follow.
7. Your work isn’t moving. It may happen that when you make that follow up call, you hear the dreaded news, “Your work simply isn’t selling.” All may not be lost. First, ask the reasons why, and offer your help to jump start sales (see #6). And know before you call whether you are willing to exchange the merchandise that you shipped for other items that may fit their clientele better and get restarted on better footing.
It’s often worth taking this measure to salvage an account, because it is always harder to open new accounts than to keep existing ones. Established wholesale customers who reorder on a regular basis can be a goldmine for your business.
It is not unusual for a gallery or other retailer to carry the work of a particular artist for many years. This type of mature business relationship is gained through many reorders. Take the time to analyze your own business and start working on getting those reorders today!
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