“How should I reach out to retailers?” is a question that looms large in both casual conversations and my professional consulting with product based designers. As a retailer, it seems obvious which approaches will work and which won’t, but through conversations with you, I realize it’s not so clear. With that in mind, I began breaking this topic down to give you real examples. My first post here discussed how to get a shop owner’s attention. More recently, I wrote about How to Submit Your Line to Retailers by Email. Today’s post will talk about when and how to submit your line to retailers by mail. Email is great, but sometimes there’s just no substitution for presenting your products by good-old-fashioned snail mail. –Emily of Clementine
Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Ok, let’s dive in to reach out:
- WHAT does it mean to submit your line via mail? Submitting your line via mail means that you send a small selection of your physical products via USPS/UPS/FEDEX to a new retail shop with the hopes that they will pick up your line. It does not mean you hand-deliver your products to a shop. It does not mean you send your catalog in the mail. It does not mean you e-mail a link to your catalog. (And yes, you should put that phone down.)
- WHY should you send physical products and not just a catalog? Crafting emails to a large group of potential retailers is a great way to cast a broad net. But emails get lost in the shuffle and simply don’t have the same effect as seeing work in person. You should consider sending an introduction by mail if:
- You want to pick up new wholesale accounts.
- You want to capture a retailer’s attention/get on their radar, even if they don’t pick up your line immediately.
- You want to gain social (or traditional) media attention.
- You didn’t have a great response to an email mailing.
- Your products don’t translate in 2D/online nearly as well as in person.
- WHEN should you submit by mail? Submitting your line by mail is vulnerable and time consuming. I recommend making a plan and a timeline to hold yourself accountable. Consider timing it as part of a marketing plan or other external event to create a reference point for your work. When is the perfect time? When some combination of the following happen:
- You’re launching a wholesale line and want to reach out to potential retailers.
- You are launching a new collection in your wholesale line and want to reach out to potential retailers and treat existing retailers.
- You’ve done your homework on which retail shops would be a good fit for your line.
- You’re skipping a trade show.
- You have the money to invest.
- You have a wholesale line that you are confident has depth, variety and something new to add to the wholesale marketplace.
- You have the inventory to fulfill potential orders.
- WHEN shouldn’t you submit by mail? Retailers all have slightly different schedules for when they’re not looking to pick up new lines, but I would generally avoid:
- The winter holiday season (Thanksgiving – New Years), because we’re just incredibly busy.
- Directly after a big national show, because we may have spent too much money.
- When you don’t have the inventory in place to fulfill an order, because there’s nothing that will turn a retailer off faster than getting in touch for an order and being told many items are out of stock or it will be several weeks before the order can ship.
- WHO should you reach out to by mail?
- Retailers who you feel confident would carry your line at their store.
- Retailers who have reached out to you, who you met at a creaft/gift show, or have expressed an interest in another venue (maybe even social media).
- Retailers whose aesthetic you are so smitten with, you want to gift them with samples from your line even if you aren’t confident they’ll pick you up.
The Hive Studio submission: product samples, wrapped in fabric gift wrap, catalog and note: submission perfection!
- WHAT should you send? Introducing a wholesale line by mail can look very different from line to line. I recommend creating a budget for this mailer and a goal for the impact you want to have. Then, divide your budget by the number of stores you want to mail to and sketch out what to include. Consider including:
- A selection of products that highlight your line, especially those that don’t translate well in photographs/online.
- Products that are tailored to a retail shop owner’s interests, geographic area and/or other insights you have gleaned about their shop.
- A physical catalog.
- A handwritten note. What should you say? Something similar to what you say in your email, but in your own handwriting!
- Details that reinforce your brand: Ribbon, wrapping, swag, and extra touches enhance the experience of meeting your line and may be the reason you are picked up.
- Clear, easy contact information via every social and traditional channel.
- A promise to follow up.
- HOW should you follow up?
- By email, one to two weeks later
I hope that’s enough to get you started. Remember: Reaching out by mail takes effort, so make it count. Please ask any follow up questions in the comment section! xo Emily