In a challenging retail climate, it can be difficult see how you can grow your business and keep up with the relevant retail news, in this article, wholesale expert Therese Oertenblad explores how you as a small business owner can use some of the retail trends of 2019 to grow your wholesale.
Brick and Mortar stores are set to become smaller but better, even big brands are opening smaller more community focused stores and with the ever-growing online retail, brick and mortar stores must be so much more than someplace to shop, stores are becoming community hubs, public spaces for multiple activities that drive footfall by the events they put on. More and more stores are relying on in-store theatre’s, workshop spaces, networking events, classes or cafes to get people through their doors.
In our digital society there are a strong need for human connection and digital detoxing and brick and mortar stores are changing to accommodate this need by putting on events where customers can connect both with others and with the store staff at wine-tasting evenings, candle making workshops, tarot readings and much more.
If you’re a small business owner, you can take advantage of this to help you get your foot through the door by helping your stockists by offering to run workshops or other events in their stores. Even if you’re not a maker there might be events that you can help put on, for example, if you sell crystals perhaps you can give a talk on crystal healing or if you make greetings cards perhaps you can host a calligraphy workshop together with a calligrapher. Think about how you can become part of your local community and the local stores around you to grow brand awareness and drive sales.
Statistics show that 2/3 Millennials eat out at least once a week, twice as many as the baby boomers. Immersive food experiences are very popular, and more and more cafes and restaurants now have dedicated retail spaces.
Think outside the box and pitch to retailers that you might never have thought about before. Remember that it’s not only the actual retail places that can be a shop window nowadays, perhaps you can put your luxury chocolates in the hotel rooms or boutique bed & breakfast or sell your hand wash to restaurant chains for their bathrooms. Remember that although wholesale is often sold to other businesses that intend to re-sell your products there are also other sales opportunities out there that could help you build your brand.
Big stores want to connect with their customer through smaller brands, to give more personality to their ranges and be seen to promote the little guys. During a recent store visit, I noticed that Paperchase, Urban Outfitters and Liberty all stocked some independent smaller brands that perhaps a few years ago wouldn’t have been featured.
Larger retailers are also creating pop-up spaces in their stores, so far, I’ve seen this in West Elm and House of Fraser. This is quite big in the US already and I’m guessing more UK high-street retailers will start offering this as a way of being seen to support local designers and makers and to offer their customers something a little bit different.
We are seeing more collaborations between with smaller makers and designers and larger retailers for exclusive designs, something that is more difficult with larger suppliers as their minimums for bespoke work is usually in the thousands so if you can offer a different colourway, unique fragrance or an exclusive print to a large retailer, even if it’s just for a limited time, this might be very attractive to the buyer.
If you can produce enough products at a consistent quality and you can make the margins work, don’t be afraid to pitch your products to the larger more well-known stores. Just as the smaller retailers they are looking for more unique and more sustainable products.
As a small independent brand, you can make an impact and make choices for your business that falls in line with what the customer wants. We all heard that sustainably sourced products are becoming more and more important. We’ve seen the large retailer embrace this in various ways. H&M launched their clothes recycling scheme last year, bring in any garment of any brand and receive a voucher to spend in store. H&M, Burberry and Stella McCartney signed the New Plastic Economy Global Commitment pact and Paperchase is trailing “naked” cards to reduce their use of single-use plastic card sleeves.
Consider your packing materials carefully, use less plastic where you can and shout about any sustainable, organic, ethical materials or practices you use. If you produce locally or in the UK, make sure your audience knows about it, use social media, your website and your packaging to tell this story.
Let your audience know how your choices benefit the environment, the consumer or the workers making your products. How do these choices impact your customer’s experience? and how does this link with the values of your brand? and how are you making a long-term commitment to being more sustainable? Make sure your customers and your stockists know and when you approach new stockists, use it as a selling point for how your brand is different to other mass-produced brands, they already stock.
Transparency is just as important as sustainability, don’t make your product out to be more ethical or sustainable than it is, make sure you are only making promises that you can back up, for example, if you say made in the UK but in fact everything is made abroad and later assembled in the UK make this clear to your customer.
By being transparent and educating your stockist about your products you are helping them sell your products and come across as experts in their field. In a day and age where it’s often easier to order something online the store experience needs to offer something extra. One of the ways retailers can get customers through their doors are to offer their expertise, a human connection with shop assistants that engage with their customers and understands their needs and can make recommendations just like a friend would.
Consider offering a “Point of Sale” (information cards) to be displayed with your products that tell your story and your brand values. Put together information that is sent out together with your wholesale orders with some fun facts about your products for the store to use for their staff training, offer to come in to train the staff if the store is local to you. The more the store staff engage and know you the more they will be able to help their customers to choose your products and therefore this is a win for both parties. More sales for them equal more sales for you!
“Buy it now” buttons and consumers feeling connected to a brand who they follow and admire and then buy into has become the norm. If you have a loyal following on social media, you could take advantage of this by connecting with potential stockists or perhaps offer to promote their store display of your range to help them build their audience and reach. If you want to read more about how you can use social media to wholesale have a look at my previous post “Five Ways Social Media Can Help your Wholesale”.
There’s no way to sugar-coat it, it is a challenging retail climate in the UK now and a lot of the larger brands are looking at export for their growth but it’s not all gloom. As a small business, you can be reactive, make changes to your packaging to make your business more sustainable and offer a point of difference to all your stockist. One of the best things that social media has done for us small business owners is to make it more important to buy from a person or brand with a clear identity and soul and this is something that the large guys are trying to emulate by collaborating or stocking smaller brands and makers.
There’s still time to make 2019 the year you start to wholesale. Therese offers a 6-month mentoring program that is completely bespoke and suitable for those just starting out or those who want to level up their wholesale. In addition, you can book smaller packages and one-off sessions to help you define your next steps and gain some clarity or an audit of your email pitch template, catalogue or line-sheet.
From April the enrolment for Therese 12-week group training program will open, this will be for those who are serious about wanting to start to wholesale but who are unsure about where to start. To find out more, get in touch with Therese here.
After a decade in the home and gift industry, Therese founded the Small Business Collaborative to help small creative businesses navigate their journey to wholesale. Therese has sold a vast range of products to both independent shops and large high street retailers.
Seeing your products in a retail store might seem like a faraway goal, Therese will guide you and share her knowledge to give you the tools and confidence you need to reach your destination.