A few years ago, I discovered this great site written by a former boutique owner. It was called The Proprietress, and I quickly tried to soak up all of the information that Kate Logan Fulford had to offer there. I soon realized that she probably had some pretty sage advice for the artists who read my site as well. I thought that she’d be a great person to ask about how artists can get boutiques like the one she had owned to carry their work. Luckily for everyone, Kate was into the idea when I approached her about writing a guest blog for me on the subject:
When I opened ooma, one of my primary goals was to help new & independent designers get their start. It was a mutually satisfying goal because I was new at running a shop and wasn’t sure what my clients would like – and the designers I worked with wanted a place to test their ideas on the general public.
As time passed, I began getting a better idea of who my clients were and what they wanted to buy. This helped me further tailor my merchandise selection (after all, a store’s primary goal is to sell merchandise). My shop became more and more popular, receiving great press and being voted the best shop in the city. Designers were literally banging down my door in an effort to get their merchandise on my sales floor.
Oh how I would have loved to carry all of their collections! But alas – a store is generally limited on space and/or budget and I had to pick-n-choose. Owners are also very limited on time. Given these restraints, here are some tips to help get your designs in front of a boutique buyer so you can up your chances of showing your line and getting a PO!
**note – not all buyers are the same! This is just from my perspective – which is likely shared by other shop owners.
It may be easier to just contact every store in a city and hope for the best – but a buyer will appreciate it if you seem to know their store. If you can’t physically walk into the store – it’s as simple as looking at their website or reading online reviews. Then when you connect, you will actually know that your line is a good fit.
If you are in the same city as a store where you’d like to sell your line – send a note requesting an appointment to show it in person. Since you’ve done your research, you can indicate why your line would be a perfect addition to the store (I notice you carry “X designer” – my line is very similar, but with a twist…) Email should be your first line of communication. Small boutique owners tend to run the whole show – and phone calls can disrupt the flow of their day. Emails are much less obtrusive.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’d receive each day from prospective designers. I often made some really great discoveries too! But as the day went by and I’d be taking inventory, helping customers and everything else that comes with managing a store – those emails may have fallen too far below the line. The persistent ones would write again and remind me that I was interested in their line. Just because you don’t hear back right away, doesn’t mean there isn’t interest. Be savvy and smart with your communication – no one wants to be pestered. But you’ll find that gentle reminders are generally welcome.
You may want the glamour of a fancy lookbook with professional models running in meadows and perfect sunlight gleaming on their hair as they frolic in your dresses. Don’t waste your money – these are almost always recycled immediately. Buyers need information, not marketing. Linesheets with simple line drawings and/or straightforward photos of the merchandise works best. Make sure that all your info is included on the same page (color choices, size runs, prices) to make it easy for a buyer to write a PO. Online linesheets and photos are great too – you can save a ton on printing costs and easily update availability, etc.
Is your line new and untested? If a buyer is hesitant to try a new line (in tough economic times they may be less inclined to take a risk), offer to provide your merchandise on consignment for a period of time. This will get you into the store and allow you to gain feedback on how your items are received by the public. A 50/50 split seems to be fair for consignors. Make sure the boutique has a system in place to pay their consignors and ensure you have a written contract.
More great info on how to get stores to sell your product and how to find more venues for your artwork:
If you’re an indie biz owner, you’ll also want to check out my free resources and tips for creative entrepreneurs!
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How To Sell Your Product In Stores [5 Tips From A Former Boutique Owner] https://t.co/FkZN87320m
— Mallory Whitfield (@MissMalaprop) October 25, 2015
Mallory Whitfield has been making things and performing for as long as she can remember. She started blogging at MissMalaprop.com in 2006, and currently hosts the Badass Creatives podcast. Throughout her journey as a creative entrepreneur, Mallory has worn many hats, including blogger, visual artist, upcycled clothing creator, performance artist, jewelry designer, craft show vendor, creative strategist, speaker, teacher and consultant to other small business owners.
She worked as Content Analyst at FSC Interactive, a leading digital marketing agency, prior to taking on her current role as Director of Marketing at LookFar, a New Orleans-based startup studio which builds digital products and visionary companies.
Do you believe that art, creativity, innovation, and kindness can change the world? If you answered “Heck yeah!” then this is the podcast for you.
Badass Creatives is hosted by Mallory Whitfield and features marketing and business advice for creatives, as well as interviews with a diverse range of handmade artists, performers, makers, and creative entrepreneurs.
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