If you are selling your products to retailers, there are certain questions retail buyers will always ask you. Know your answers to these questions off by heart so you look professional and well prepared.
So you’ve managed to get a meeting with a buyer – congratulations! Retail buyers are busy people, and they won’t meet you if they aren’t interested in your brand. Now you’ve got their attention, stand out and show them why they should sell your products in their shop. You need come across as professional and competent, so they know they can trust you with their money, and you will deliver the right stock on time.
Tell us about your brand.
It’s likely the person you are meeting doesn’t know very much about your brand. They may have seen your website, or you may have been suggested to them by someone else. Make sure your elevator pitch is perfect and your delivery is confident. Not only are they looking to find out about what you make/sell, they’re also trying to find out if they want to start a working relationship with you, and what you will be like if any problems arise.
REMEMBER TO SHOW YOUR PRODUCTS! Retail buyers are creative people and your physical products are what will excite them.
Who are your other stockists?
This question finds out a couple of things:
- Do you already know how to work with a retailer of their size
- Are you stocked in reputable/fashionable shops (which may improve your reputation)
- Are you stocked in shops which are likely to discount your stock (which may damage your reputation, and make your products harder to sell at full price)
- Is there any possibility of exclusive products
Whatever you do, don’t lie; a quick Google search can easily reveal fibs.
If you aren’t stocked anywhere else, turn this into a positive: you won’t have any distractions and will be able guarantee them stock, and they can sell your products exclusively (for now). This is also the time to mention if you are having conversations about selling with any other retailers.
If you have worked with similar retailers before, make this clear. Most buyers will value that you understand how the buying, ordering, and delivery process works, and it may make them more likely to trust you with a larger first order.
What is your current turnover?
When you prepare for your meeting, you need to know your figures inside out. Buyers have to to meet sales targets, and they want to know they can trust you with their money. They may fire several figures questions at you at once to test if you are making anything up. Try to answer, but if you aren’t sure or can’t remember, promise to send everything through after the meeting. It is always better to delay than guess and give incorrect information.
Can we sell your brand/range/a product exclusively?
Exclusivity is a key marketing tool for retailers, and helps them to stand out from the competition. It can be the decision maker for a buyer, so come to the meeting knowing what (if anything) you are able to offer them exclusively. If you are already stocked elsewhere, could they have UK exclusivity? A different colour? A slightly different specification? A free add-on gift with each purchase? A different range?
If you agree to an exclusive item, be very clear on the terms. Some items are only exclusive for a limited period of time (known as an Exclusive Launch), others may be exclusive for the lifetime of the product. Some retailers will be happy for you to also sell the product on your website, while others will want to be the only retail avenue.
Don’t agree to anything you’re not happy with, or that won’t work for your brand. For example, if the Buyer wants 100% exclusivity, but only wants to order 500, and your minimum order is 1000, then you will be left with 500 products you can’t sell. This might not be a problem if the wholesale price they are paying is enough to cover the full order (and you can write the rest of the stock off), but this is another reason it’s important to know your figures so you don’t get caught out.
What are your wholesale prices and recommended retail prices?
Selling prices can be complicated when working with retailers. If you aren’t familiar with the law, download this guide from the UK Government: UK Competition Law. Very simply, as a supplier you cannot dictate selling prices to a retailer, their selling prices are their decision.
You can give, and will probably be asked for, your Recommended Retail Prices. These are your suggested selling prices. The retailer will most likely use these as a guide, but they do not have to adhere to them. Buyers will want to know your RRPs for two reasons:
- Where your products will fit in their pricing hierarchy (are you low, mid or premium for their store)
- What will their profit margin be, based on your wholesale prices
The profit margin is the important part of this conversation. Buyers will have margin targets, and it is likely they won’t be able to add a supplier who doesn’t meet this. They won’t want to increase selling prices any higher than your RRP, so if the profit margin is too low, they will look to you to decrease your wholesale prices.
It’s worth trying to find out the retailer’s margin requirements before you go to the meeting. Don’t ask them directly (they will of course tell you a high figure!) but online sleuthing or speaking to your contacts might reveal something.
If you know you’re wholesale prices may be too high, you will need to have a plan to put to the buyer. Is there anything you would be willing to trade for a lower wholesale price – free marketing on their website or in store/ a discount for a bulk order over a certain amount/ a prominent position in their shop/ the retailer also stocking other products from your range?
How are your products different from other products/brands we currently stock?
If the buyer doesn’t ask you this question directly, make sure you find a way to tell them anyway. This is your chance to shine and to really sell your products. Bring examples and invite everyone there to touch them, show your passion and your knowledge about what you do, and why you are a hundred times better than the competition. Don’t forget to also talk about your company and why you are so great to work with, your customer service, ethical credentials, social media followers, endorsements, marketing campaigns, awards you’ve won, etc.
The other reason for this question is to find out your point of difference. It’s likely the retailer already sells products similar to yours, you need to show they aren’t the same. It’s your opportunity to show you have researched the retailer’s current range, which makes you look well prepared and thorough, and for you to show exactly where you fit in their assortment. Think about the sort of customer who shops with them, who you will help them to attract, and how else having your brand in their shop will help them.
Do you have a UK warehouse/How much stock do you hold?
This question will depend on the size of the retailer you are speaking to. The main thing they want to know is how quickly can they re-order if your products are successful. If something is a sell out, they don’t want to have to wait 2 months for more to be made. If you can offer backup stock then great, make sure you let them know this.
However, if you are a small business who makes to order, approach this as a conversation. Find out what stock holding would make them feel comfortable – could you manage this on your bestselling lines? Alternatively could they place a larger upfront order on certain lines and then call this in over a few months? This means if the sales are strong they can call the stock in quicker, and if they are slow then can call it over a longer time frame.
If you take one thing away from this post: do your homework! Getting a meeting with a retail buyer is difficult, once you’re there, make sure you don’t jeopardise your chances by not being prepared. Research their company and their current product range, and be ready to talk all about your beautiful products and why you love them. Good luck!
We hope you found this article helpful, and are feeling more confident about selling your products to retailers. We will be starting a new series to help designers and small brands grow and find distributors for their products. If you have any feedback, or any topics you’d like us to cover, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.