Approaching retail shops to carry your wares can feel daunting. That’s why Workshop gathered a trio of experts for an event on May 30 to demystify the process and share their insights on selling wholesale. Our event panellists were:

• Piya Sandhu, owner of lifestyle shop The Handpicked Home in White Rock, B.C.

• Kimberley Dares, owner of The Trainyard, a gift shop in Dartmouth, N.S.

• Toronto-based Claire Kilgour, managing director of BRIKA, a bricks-and-mortar shop turned retail agency that stages pop-ups, live-market concepts and retail experiences.

Workshop members can watch the full event replay below!

The hour-long discussion flew by and was filled with gems on pricing, minimum orders, what to submit to a shop when you apply to be a vendor, and so much more. Here are three key takeaways from our panellists.

Respect the shop’s application process

All panellists agreed that social media can be an excellent tool for making first contact and building relationships. But when you want a retailer to consider whether to carry your products in their store, it’s best to follow their preferred process. If they have instructions on their website such as a vendor application form, follow the steps that they’ve laid out and provide all the information they’ve asked for. The goal? Make it easy for them to say “yes” to bringing in your products, rather than creating more work because they have to ask you for more information.

Dares meets with her shop manager once a month to go through applications that have been submitted through The Trainyard’s online form. She finds that queries that come via social often get forgotten. “That Instagram message — in a month, that Instagram message is buried,” she told event attendees.

It’s all about building relationships

Where social does come in handy is for connecting with your buyers. From initial outreach to maintaining contact, social media can help you strengthen your relationships with retailers. This might mean tagging them in posts you make featuring products they carry, commenting on and sharing their posts, or even, if you can, showing up at their store to create content for your channels.

However you’re communicating with your buyers and whether you’re first reaching out or have been working with a shop for years, nurturing these relationships will be key to your success. Several times during the event, the conversation circled back to various ways in which to do this.

Sandhu mentioned that her strongest partnerships are with makers who are passionate about them working together. “It’s the communication, it's the vibe, it's being flexible with each other, giving each other grace,” she said as she described her collaboration with one particular vendor she’s worked with for many years.

Know what works for your brand

One key way to build strong retail partnerships is to know what works for your brand and communicate that to your buyers. For example, Sandhu finds it easier to sell to her shop’s customers when she can share the story of the creator and how their goods are made.

Beyond supplying product and company information, Kilgour suggested during the event that makers can also provide their retail partners with ideas for merchandising displays, special events and product bundles that you know can help move your items off store shelves and into shoppers’ baskets.

“Don't just send inventory and expect magic to happen,” she told attendees. “You have to be invested and communicative.”

Watch the video replay

From start to finish, our May 30 wholesale event saw our three panellists share plenty of insights from a retailer’s perspective. To hear their tips about pricing and minimum order quantities and learn about how our experts work with makers, watch the replay.

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