If you are a small business in your early phase, chances are you will have to actively approach new stockists. If you have the budget to exhibit at trade shows, this is obviously a good way of meeting with lots of potential stockists. Remember though, tradeshows aren't the only way to access new retailers. In fact, for a new business they can even be counterproductive as a sudden influx of orders might just be too much pressure, too soon.

So this is a slower, more organic process, which is something we have totally embraced here at OrderSpace. Having run a couple of retail websites over the years I have seen it from the other side, so I feel I can offer some advice to make sure you get it right first time.

1. Do your research
It is essential that you have a really clear idea of where you want your goods to be offered for sale. You need to understand the market, not just the retailer, but their end-users too.

2. Define your perfect stockist
Make a list of all the qualities you would expect the ideal stockist to have. For example, you might say...

  • US-based, luxury price-point, strong social media presence, established more than 3 years ago, professional website, does not stock ABC brand, does stock DEF and GHI brands.

Or, if your ideal stockist actually exists, define the factors that make them so perfect for you and use this list as a basis to look for similar retailers.

3. Prioritise
I would then create another list (I do like lists!) which ranks the retailers in order of your preference. If you have any potential 'clashes' on that list, you will have to think more carefully about the order in which you approach each one. Hopefully though, this won't be an issue and you can just cheerfully work your way through the list.

4. Be confident, personal and professional
When it comes to approaching the retailers, make sure you get the basics right first. Check the spelling of their name, their business details and address. This is a good reason to make a quick initial phone call before sending an email or some brochures in the post.

If you are emailing or writing a letter, make sure to make each introduction personal and tailored so it doesn't come over as formulaic. Let them know you have personally selected them because you love what they are doing, and/or you think they would be a perfect match for your brand.

5. Make it easy for them
Retail customers need plenty of information before they can make a commitment. I am going to dedicate an entire blog post to this topic later on but basically you should create an overview of your offering, which should include things like:

  • A brief overview of your brand
  • Wholesale prices
  • RRP's/SRP's
  • Contact Details
  • How to order
  • Minimum order quantities, delivery times etc.

Knowing this important information up-front helps them to be able to make a decision without having to ask lots of questions. You may like to refer to my Getting Started With Wholesale post for some more detailed information on all of this.

Make this overview sing out the personality of your brand, the more personal and unique the better. Retailers are always looking for something special so give them something to get excited about!

6. Keep in touch
Keep in touch with your potential stockists. Ask them if you can update them with any product launches or promotions. If they aren't interested right now it may be that the time just isn't right, but in a few months it can all change. So be persistent without being irritating, and play the long game.

Finding the right stockists is a crucial factor in the success of your business, and once you have them you need to keep them happy and interested in your company. And that's a topic for another day! In the meantime check out our start-up tips written specifically for small businesses starting out with wholesale.

Further Reading:
Getting the best from your wholesale customers
Wholesale and retail customers. Are they really that different?
5 rules for tradeshow success
Delivering excellence to your wholesale customers
Getting Started With Wholesale - Your First Retailers