Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

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.

OSBP Hello Brick and Mortar Clementine by Emily McDowell Illustration Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

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.

ClementineBirthdayCards Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

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.

NSS catalogs Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

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.

LLwoodlandset Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

Letter & Lark’s Woodland animals were singles. Colleen responded immediately to retailers’ desire to have them as a set. 

SHCOantlers Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

Scout’s Honor Co’s Antlers, was originally a card. I requested it as a print and Annemarie didn’t miss a beat saying yes. Also, take a page from this lady when you’re sending notes to retailers. 

  • 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).

MaconYorkInstagram 600x600 Hello Brick & Mortar: Order Up!

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…

xo! Emily

Happy Weekend!

Happy Friday everyone! And thank you so much for all of your kind words about the OSBP redesign – it has made my heart so very happy this week! That, and I booked a long overdue (and much, much needed) beach vacation to celebrate the husband’s birthday in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to escape this never ending winter and bury my toes in the sand for a few days! Can. Not. Wait. But in the meantime…

BHG Angelique Tulip Happy Weekend!

Photo Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

…a few links for your weekend:

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

That’s it for us this week! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week! xoxo


Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Another year is coming to a close – so in keeping with my annual tradition, it’s time to recap some of my favorite posts from the year that was. And today I’m starting with some of my very favorite wedding invitations from 2013!

Travel Inspired Wedding Invitations Ruby the Fox2 Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Charles + Sara’s Travel-Inspired Calligraphy Wedding Invitations by Ruby the Fox and Molly Jacques

Orange Teal Chevron Stripe Fabric Pocket Wedding Invitation8 Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Janine + Craig’s Modern Fabric Pocket Wedding Invitations by Janine Rae Design and Boxcar Press

Pink Gold Foil Heart Wedding Invitations August Blume Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Michael + Beth’s Modern Pink and Gold Foil Wedding Invitations by August Blume

Orange Blue Letterpress Overprint Wedding Invitations Studio SloMo Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Audrey + Erik’s Gingham Overprint Wedding Invitations by Studio SloMo

Brooklyn Wedding Invitations Swiss Cottage Design2 Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Courtney + Paul’s Brooklyn Wedding Invitations by Swiss Cottage Designs

Arizona Desert Sunset Wedding Invitations Lovely Paper Things Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Trisha + Richard’s Arizona Sunset Wedding Invitations by Lovely Paper Things

Gold Foil Calligraphy Wedding Invitations Lauren Chism Fine Papers Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Carly + John’s Calligraphy Gold Foil Wedding Invitations by Lauren Chism Fine Papers

Woodland Toile Wedding Invitations Ladyfingers Letterpress Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

James + Molly’s Woodland Toile Wedding Invitations by Ladyfingers Letterpress

Watercolor Flower Stripes Wedding Invitations Hoopla Love3 Best of 2013: Wedding Invitations

Renee + Duncan’s Modern Floral Watercolor Wedding Invitations by Hoopla Love

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the real wedding invitations gallery right here!

Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

Last time, we talked about how to approach little brick & mortar shops. Now we get to talk about maintaining that relationship. Spoiler alert: Starting now, I love to take your calls! – Emily of Clementine

OSBP Hello Brick and Mortar Clementine by Emily McDowell Illustration Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

1. 3-2-1 Contact! 

So, we’ve clicked. I liked your goods. You sent your first order. Now what? Well, let’s take a cue from the great 80s theme song on 3-2-1-Contact: Contact is the secret; is the moment when everything happens! Contact is the answer; is the reason that everything happens! 

Why am I giving you an earworm for the rest of the day? Because it’s a great mantra for maintaining retail relationships and I think a few of you need that. How do I know? Because, the comments and emails I got after my first post made it clear that: 1. You all are super lovely and amazing. 2. You are afraid you’re bothering me.

OSBPtypewriter Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

One of my many beloved refurbished typewriters at Clementine

2. Are you bothering me?

Probably not. Remember: Your goal is to get me to re-order. I am pretty darn busy over here and I have a lot of stationery, so if your cards sell out, I may not notice for a bit. When you’re in contact, I order more frequently and I feel cared for, which makes me order more frequently.

Are you bothering other shop owners? I’m speaking for myself in this column, but I imagine my preferences are similar to other small brick & mortars. The best way to find out, of course, is to become psychic ask. How? Here’s one way:

We’re at the National Stationery Show or a Craft Fair, you’ve just finished writing up my order, you turn to me and say: “I’m so thrilled to be in your shop and wondered what your preferences are for re-orders and contact.”  You only need the basics: 1. Do I have a buying schedule? 2. Do I prefer emails/calls? Bonus points: is there anything that my current vendors do that I particularly like?

We’re both busy, we’ll both forget to return emails, but this little exchange tells me that maintaining a good relationship matters, and that gesture will go a long way.

3. What if you forgot to ask these things when we first met?

Of course you forgot, those lights at NSS are really bright and you didn’t sleep for the week prior. You can ask these things at any time, and this kind of attentiveness goes a long way whenever you ask.

When else should you be in touch? Great question. Have you seen this chart? The moral of that chart is: don’t wear tights and pretend they’re pants. The moral of this post is: wondering if you’re bothering me is not going to make me re-order. With that in mind, here is my basic list of when and how to contact small retailers:

Send a group email whenever:

  • Your line has new catalog additions.
  • You have seasonal deadlines.
  • You have free freight or other sales and promotions.
  • Your line gets great press.
  • Remember: always include a link to your online shop and all social media handles.

Note: I suggest investing time in mailchimp or another email system. Create a stockist or “potential stockist” category and email all of us in one swoop. (Just beware of the new gmail system that throws these emails into the ‘promotions’ tab. That may be why you’re not hearing back from us.)

Send a personal email whenever:

  • It’s been 2-3 months since my last order (this is a quick “Just checking in to see if you need anything…” email).
  • I said I was going to send an order but you haven’t heard from me.
  • You’re having a problem that delays my order.*
  • My net 30 has passed. In small shops, we often literally do it all. Don’t be afraid to send an emails that reminds me that I forgot to pay you. It will also remind me that I may need to re-order
  • You want to brainstorm. People love being asked their opinion. Retailers are people! I love what you do and really enjoy talking about new ideas/colors/products, even if I don’t carry your line.  I am emailing presently with the lovely Brannon about an unsolicited idea that I gave her which she is generously entertaining.
  • Bonus points: at New Year, send me stats on what I ordered last year and offer an incentive to make a large January order that mirrors last year’s favorites. (I have money in January, so come and get it!)

Note: I want to stress the importance of the third point.* Tell me when you are having problems that create unusual delays. It’s natural to go silent and hope problems resolve themselves. Resist that temptation. Send a quick note letting me know what the problem is. If the problem is personal, I totally get that and you can be vague, but I need the end game: is my product coming and when? Most of the time I’m not in a rush, but if I am, I need to make other arrangements. If it’s more than a little blip, consider a small gesture: cover the shipping or include extra product. A little offer goes a long way. I have had very few bad interactions with vendors (and none with stationery folks), but I am currently embroiled in one that stems from pretty significant mis/non-communication on their part. I’m floored by how unprofessional their communication strategy is, and the worst part is that a few personal emails along the way would have gone a long way toward preserving the relationship.

Give me a call if: 

  • I said I wanted to fill out an order over the phone.
  • You want to chat/brainstorm (and you emailed first to see if I’m free).
  • You have a quick question/need clarification on my order/need my credit card number, etc. and I’m not responding via email.

Note: I still wouldn’t suggest “just calling” to check in about re-ordering. Retail shops get so many cold-calls, we’re on high alert to be annoyed when the phone rings. But if we are emailing and you say “can I call you?” I will say: YES!

OSBPSHCOkillingitpackaging Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I OSBPIronCurtain 300x300 Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

Ever so fun to unwrap: Orders in from Iron Curtain Press and Scout’s Honor Co

Follow us on social media if:

  • It adds to your day and doesn’t become a burden. A well timed comment or an ongoing conversation on instagrampinterestfacebook or twitter builds our relationship and creates easy, more frequent contact. We all have our favorites. I’m kind of a terrible twitterer. I love instagram. I love seeing what you’re working on via social media and responding right there.
  • It makes you happy. Social media can reinforce the worst high school feelings: Followers, inside conversations, the feeling that you have to be there showing something amazing. These are tiny worlds. Use them for good and enjoy them. Do the ones you enjoy, don’t feel compelled to do any, but know that it’s a great way to be in touch which makes your other contact (email, calls, in person hellos) even more welcome.

Send a personal note:

  • With every order. (I mean, only if you know someone who makes nice cards.)
  • Just because! Carina sent me a just because letter after my thanksgiving post. We have never met and it basically made me cry. In a good way. Isn’t that what we all want? 
  • Bonus points: Make your look orders lovely. Use Angela’s ribbon. It’s just the best.
  • Bonus points: Include 1-4 cards that I’ve never ordered before. 
  • On my birthday. Kidding, that’s totally not necessary (it’s February 23).

OSBPLetterLarkWoodlandPackage Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part IOSBPshannamurraypackage Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

Letter & Lark and Shanna Murray orders are always an utter treat to unwrap

Personalizing is where we, as small business owners, have so much power over the big-box operations. And personalizing, ultimately is about making contact. When in doubt, be in touch when it feels right, these ideas are ideas, not guidelines. There’s very little wrong you can do. I love my stationery vendors especially, because you wrap my orders like gifts, with a sweet note and goodies. This is the way I want Clementine to run, with small touches that make an indelible mark. Surrounding myself with vendors like you, who share this view makes it palatable to send in my law school loan check each month. I love what I do now (and I’m really glad I’m not practicing law). Everything I did before brought me to this point and I’m so thrilled to be sharing in this world with you. In other words; you’re not bothering me. So, you know, let’s make contact!

OSBPclementinewall 300x300 Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I OSBPclementineordersoutgoing 300x300 Hello Brick & Mortar: Great Relationships Part I

My ever changing collection of your notes at Clementine, an outgoing package from Clementine

All photos: Emily Blistein via Instagram

Jessie + Spencer’s Storybook-Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

These adorable baby shower invitations come to us from Jessie and Jen of Shipwright & Co. – and they’re for Jessie’s own baby shower! The shower doubled as a co-ed pool party and barbeque, so Jessie and Jen wanted to avoid anything traditionally “baby” for the design. They drew inspiration from antique storybooks, incorporating whimsical illustrations and hand lettering. Beautiful!

Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co2 Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

From Jessie (and Jen): These invitations were created for a co-ed baby shower doubling as a pool party and barbecue for an expecting mom (me!) who wanted something a little different for her shower. We set out to create an invitation that would be child-like without being overly cutesy. Our inspiration came from storybooks from the 1930s and ’40s, whose beautiful and whimsical illustrations conveyed the sense of childhood that we sought.

Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co5 Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co8 Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

 We printed the moon and animals in a light gray, set against irregular bubbles of overlapping color, to play around with the lovely way in which the translucent inks interact with each other on the lush cotton paper. The details of the party sit within each bubble in hand-drawn text. We loved the way the text pops against the background color and how the pressure of the press raises it up slightly, giving the whole piece that lovely tactile quality you get from letterpress.

Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co3 Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

Lastly, we printed the envelopes in the same light green color as the invitations with more hand-drawn text and a different illustration of woodland creatures — this time a happy pair of dancing frogs. This project was hand printed on our 1911 Chandler & Price letterpress on Crane’s Lettra pearl white paper.

Woodland Letterpress Baby Shower Invitations Shipwright Co4 Jessie + Spencers Storybook Inspired Baby Shower Invitations

Thanks Jessie & Jen!

Photo Credits: Shipwright & Co.