5 Tips from a Seven-Figure Retailer for How to Get Your Brand onto Store Shelves

August 30, 2021
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Photo: Color Joy Stock

Adding a wholesale component to your business is a great way to scale your income and increase your impact as a brand. If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines thinking only larger, more established brands can get the attention of retailers, think again!

In this “post” COVID economy, shop owners are focused now more than ever on finding new and unique products that align with their customers’ values, shifting priorities, and expectations.  

And, as a seven-figure boutique owner and wholesale consultant, I can tell you there’s never been a better time for makers and indie brand owners to pitch retailers.

Here are five tips for how to get your brand onto store shelves.

1. Lower Your Opening Order Minimum

If you’ve been reaching out to retailers and have not had much success in receiving orders, I recommend lowering your opening order minimum to $150 or less (that is, unless you sell luxury products).    

Gone are the days of brands being able to require a $500 to $1,000 minimum opening order each season. In this ever-evolving and uncertain environment, consumer demands are constantly changing. Because of that, retailers are making smaller and more frequent buying decisions to minimize the risk of getting stuck with inventory that won’t sell.  

You just need to get your foot in the door with the retailer. If your product performs well, you can expect them to place reorders with you over the coming months and, hopefully, years.

2. Send a Personalized Email

Quality is more important than quantity, and that holds true for email pitches to retailers. For reference, retailers receive approximately 50 copy and paste mass emails or Instagram pitches a week. It doesn’t take much to stand out in a sea of mass pitches!

The biggest mistake I see when makers and brand owners reach out? They place the main focus on their brand and products. My rule for pitch emails is: show them you know them. Begin your email with one to two sentences that show you’ve taken the time to research their business and the types of products they sell. Be specific and authentic.  

Many makers have a mental block around pitching retailers because they feel as though they’d be bothering us, or that we will look down upon them because they’re a small brand. The opposite is true: we WANT to hear from you! If you have a product that will sell for us, please reach out. We consistently need new products our customers will love, and there’s a good chance we will want to partner with you.

If you want an easy button resource for the perfect pitch email to retailers, you can find a free word-for-word template on my website here

3. “Easy Button” the Ordering Process

A confused mind says no every single time. I have passed over many brands who make great products over the years because I wasn’t clear on how to order or I had to follow numerous steps before getting a wholesale login.

As a brand owner, you need to remove all barriers to entry that could exist for a retailer to place their first order with you. Have a straightforward ordering process, and if there’s an account or password to set up, do all of that legwork for them in advance.

We should be able to read your pitch email, click a link, use the information you have provided to us, and have our order placed all within five minutes. Yes, retailers make decisions that quickly!  

4. Send Samples in the Mail

If you’ve done your research on a retailer and are confident your product will sell well to their customers, my top recommendation to land the sale is to send them physical samples.

Place five to six products you believe would be bestsellers for that specific retailer into a box, and include a personalized handwritten note addressed to the owner.

Store email inboxes are usually managed by staff who may miss or skim over your email pitch without flagging it to the buyer or owner as important. The good news with this tip? Every box that enters a retail shop is opened, and the staff knows to put samples in front of the buyer.

In my six years of business, only five brands have ever sent me samples in the mail. Yes, only five! While I realize the cost of each retailer sample box will be $30 to $100, you have the opportunity to solidify thousands of dollars in future sales once a buyer holds your products in their hands.

Important: don’t forget to include the “how to order” details inside the package!

5. Now Is the Time to Get Started!

While the pandemic has been awful, a silver lining has been that economic reports show consumers are leaning into shopping their values and shopping small. Now is the time to jump in and ride the wave of shifting consumer demands and get your products onto store shelves. 

Getting started today could simply look like creating a 50% off code a retailer can use on your existing website.  Retailers are not looking for a fancy backend system, professionally made line sheets, or a brand with 100k+ followers on Instagram. Simply put: we are looking for products that will sell.

It may surprise you to know that ~35% of the 200+ brands we carry at my shop have just one to three employees. If wholesaling to retailers is something you thought only large brands could do, that is no longer the case. Retailers are on the hunt for new and unique products from makers and small brands. Start reaching out today; we’d love to hear from you!

About the author: Emily Grey is a seasoned speaker, wholesale consultant, and impact entrepreneur devoted to providing straightforward and tangible recommendations to independent brand owners to help them get their products onto store shelves. As a former Wall Street executive turned seven-figure boutique owner, Emily shares invaluable insight into wholesale industry trends from a retailer’s perspective. She is an overly obsessed dog mom, a mezcal cocktail aficionado, and the founder of The Wholesale Way, a monthly coaching and membership program for makers and brand owners.

Featured image: Color Joy Stock

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