If you’re in the mood for a simple nuts & bolts post, here it is: Ordering. Namely, how to get your retailers to do more of it. Assuming you like that sort of thing. ~ Emily of Clementine.
Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Let’s get gushy for a second: I love ordering. I devour your catalogs and squirrel them away. I take you to the beach and pull you out in front of the fire. At my shop, I’ll gladly fawn over issuu when I have 18 other things to do. Ordering is the dinner & dancing of our relationship. It’s where I commit and you send me a beautifully wrapped box. It’s the most fun.
Yet there are enough trips and starts in the ordering process that some orders are never started and others go unfinished. Let’s break it down and see how to get those orders coming in.
When and why do I make orders?
- I make an opening order when: I fall for your cards & I think they will sell. Often, this is because you reached out personally (and maybe because you kept in touch).
- I make a re-order when:
- I run out of a several things that have sold well.
- A customer requests something that has sold out.
- A holiday is coming up (maybe).
- You find a way to entice me.
- You check in.
- Your line fits and offers something new to customers.
A display of Birthday cards at Clementine. Color, size, variety. I often order based on how your line would complement my existing lines.
Your Catalog. Your Calling Card:
The best catalogs (paper or online) have nice, bright photos and clear terms. Retailers are different, so ideally you have a paper and online option. Here are some pros and cons of each option:
- Paper Catalog:
- Pros: Well, we all love paper, so there’s that. Flipping, circling, dog-earring. I like them best when they’re mailed to my shop. I like them least when I’m lugging them through Penn Station.
- Cons: I have to have it with me to order and I still have to write the order down and send it to you. Also, it seems to be standard for catalogs to have terms and prices in the front or back. This means I have to flip back and forth frequently (especially if you have cards, card sets, gift tags, prints….) This takes a while and is the #1 reason it takes forever to fill out an order.
Some of the catalogs that traveled home with me from NSS 2013. Pretty, but pretty doesn’t carry itself.
- Issuu: Most of you use issuu, so I’m assuming most are familiar. I like it. I dont’ love it, but I like it.
- Pros: It’s online so I can pull it up anytime. Your updates are instant. I don’t have to dig in my files. I can send you a quick order. You can link to it easily in emails to me.
- Cons: I still have to write/email out my order and it’s harder to “flip” through if the prices/quantity requirements are at the back. Also, sometimes the format gets wonky, especially on an ipad.
- Online: If you have good photos and an easy website, this is pretty much just a pro except that many (myself included) do love a tangible catalog. That aside, let’s look at several online options:
- A wholesale site just for retailers. Shopping online is my ideal form and results in my most frequent orders, because it’s quick. Especially, if you have a large line.
- Etsy Wholesale. Did you know Etsy has a wholesale site? I’m pretty smitten because it’s a one stop shop for me. You have to apply, but I think it’s a great option if you’re not ready to build your own online shop. Also, if you already have an Etsy site, I believe transferring products is pretty easy. (Don’t quote me on that, but I think the fabulous ladies of Etsy will be checking in on this post today, so feel free to ask questions!)
- Your existing retail site with a wholesale code. If you sell online and haven’t built a wholesale shop, a great in-between step is to simply send your retailers a wholesale code for 50% off. You may still have to work out shipping, that’s ok.
Stop the presses! What haven’t you heard from me?
- I have to fax something in. (Wait, I’m genuinely curious, do any of you receive orders by fax?) Requiring forms that I have to fill out and send is going to delay my order. Find a way to be flexible in gathering credit card and tax IDs so that all I have to do is hit ‘submit’ or wait for your call.
- I like you too much. Counterintuitive, I know, but I have several lines that I liked so much it took forever to complete the order because I was trying to whittle it down. This is why it’s so important to be in contact. Silence does not always mean I’m not interested. Personal contact or an incentive can put you at the top of the stack.
- Your line is very large. Similarly, if you have 25 pages of product, deciding what to get can take a while.
- Your photos aren’t great/Your terms aren’t clear. Look at your own website and have a friend critique it too. A tiny, dark or fuzzy photo wont sell itself even if the card is great in person. Similarly, if I can’t find terms or contact info clearly, I may delay.
- Your order minimums are too high and/or are inflexible. I generally order in 6s (singles) and 3s (packs/prints) even when you don’t require, because your colleagues have conditioned me to do so. Ask around, see what’s standard. But also make sure minimums and terms make sense for your business. If you are ok with orders of any size, say so.
- I never hear from you. When should you reach out? I covered that topic at length here. In short: ask each retailer what they prefer, and always be in contact a few times a year. If you are always too busy to reach out to your retailers, it might be time to hire a rep.
What makes me order (more frequently)?
- Flexibility. If you accept orders via web, email and/or over the phone, I’m more likely order. I mean, I’m probably never going to call in an order, but making it clear that you’re flexible sends a message and I’m more likely to email you a quick order because I know you’re open to it.
- You’re responsive and open to dialogue. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re open to the idea of turning a card into a print, or altering your existing products, it could lead to a dialogue between us that strengthens our relationship and gives me a new stake in your products. Obviously not all ideas are good ones and retailers should never direct your creativity, but they can offer insights into what might sell that could help your brand grow.
Letter & Lark’s Woodland animals were singles. Colleen responded immediately to retailers’ desire to have them as a set.
- Online, online, online. Look, I’m in the process of moving my shop, so I understand the feeling of being (incredibly) overwhelmed. If you don’t have an online wholesale shop, don’t fret. But I do make online orders far more frequently. I like to see the cards together and be able to adjust quantities in a cart. That’s something a paper linesheet can’t do (plus, the math).
- Good photographs. I understand the ease of drawing your cards, but sketches are often very different from a letterpress card. Whenever possible, take a (nice, well lit) photo and upload at a visible size.
- Social Media. I’ve been on the fence about how much social media affects my buying, but over the last few months I can say, without a doubt, that I’ve made orders based on sneak peeks or incentives I’ve seen (primarily on instagram, a bit on facebook).
Macon York’s Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Card which I saw on Instagram, had to have, and essentially started the order there.
- I think you’re fantastic. I know, this is somewhat intangible, but my favorite lesson of the last few years is that I want to have business relationships based on kindness, humor, generosity and a bit of bravery. If you like a retailer’s aesthetic, be in touch. Don’t be turned off if they don’t reply to your intro packet, if they make a first order and then don’t re-order. I’ve built great relationships with people even when their line isn’t right for my shop, I love those conversations and I am always happy to talk about how a line may become right for my shop, or someone else’s. Stay in touch. We’re all busy. If you believe in your product, keep going.
Have another question about orders? Post it below! Also, are you getting excited for the Stationery Show? I am! But if you’re not going, I have a post for that too. Next time…