5 Lessons From A Career In Wholesale
Carolyn Keating writes about what she's learned from a career in the wholesale business.
Carolyn Keating, from Wholesale For Creatives, helps product based businesses develop their wholesale and retail strategies. Her goal is to help creatives who dream about selling their products to stores set the foundation for a profitable wholesale business and learn the ins and outs of the industry.
As a former account manager with a NYC based women’s accessories company I’ve sold everything from stationery, gifts, home decor, bath & body products and handbags. In doing so I’ve had the chance to sit across the table from some of the largest retailers in the country, which was both amazing and kind of scary. I’ve had many shout from the rooftop wins and some not so pretty curl up and cry losses. Today, I’m sharing my 5 greatest lessons from nearly a decade in sales that I hope will help you on your wholesale journey!
1. Know your line inside and out:
You can never be too prepared for your appointment with a buyer. You’re the expert and buyers rely on you to help point them in the right direction! Always be prepared to talk about your top sellers, what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re selling jewelry, don’t be surprised if a buyer asks your about a piece’s metal content. If you produce stationery you should know how many pages are in that notebook. And ALWAYS be ready to talk about pricing and MSRP’s!
2. Know the customer:
There is nothing more embarrassing than trying to sell items to a customer that are clearly a poor fit (a mistake I absolutely made early in my career) Do as much homework as you can before the appointment. Nothing beats a visit to the store but if thats not possible stalk their website and social media to learn as much as you can about their business. You won’t have all the answers, but you will have new talking points and buyers will be impressed by your specific questions based on what you learned.
3. You never really know which new products will sell:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen prints and products that I love fall to the bottom of a selling report. As much as we learn and tweak designs sometimes an item or print just doesn’t resonate with customers. All we can do is learn as much as we can from past sales history and make an educated decisions. I promise, you will constantly find yourself surprised!
4. The players don’t really change:
As big as the industry seems, it isn’t. Retail and wholesale attracts a very special tribe so if its your career, chances are you will meet a lot of the same people as they move around. A good reputation will go a long way!
5. Buyers have one of the toughest jobs:
Yes, it’s seems like a dream come true, buyers get to shop for a living, attend shows and be wooed by wholesalers who want their business! Behind the scenes they are under to an immense amount of pressure to keep sales up and increase profits by projecting their business months in advance. The quickest way I’ve found to further foster your retailer relationships is to help your buyers as much as possible. Show them some love and I promise, it will not go unnoticed!