Sometimes it’s just as difficult to be noticed by a retailer as it is to find a needle in a haystack or a lucky four leaf clover. You need to be different and stand out from the rest but you don’t want to risk being brushed off for shouting ‘pick me pick me pick me!’ over and over again.
Developing a relationship with a retailer, just like with anyone, takes a little persistence, a little time and a lot of patience.
Taking a slower approach, communicating properly, connecting outside of a sales pitch and giving them the opportunity to see the value in working with you instead of trying to sell them on a promise of your line performing well might make all the difference.
Here are 4 Ways a Fashion Designer Can Build a Relationship with a Retailer:
Be a customer - Consider it market research. When you present your line to a buyer or boutique owner they’re going to want to see you demonstrate your understanding of their target market. Spend some time browsing their space and get familiar with the merchandise and their customers.
Become a familiar, friendly face. Retailers love when they can count on repeat business and look forward to regulars dropping by to browse and talk about their first love; fashion.
If you keep it casual, you may uncover some important information about what the retailer is looking to purchase for upcoming seasons or what items customers have been asking for that they’re not currently carrying. Pitching to someone you’ve developed a friendly relationship with eases the nerves compared to pitching to a total stranger.
Reach out via social media - The best thing about platforms like Twitter is that you have an all-access pass to basically anyone you’ve ever wanted to get in touch with.
Jumping into a conversation or giving your opinion is a good opportunity to get noticed (as long as you keep it professional, of course) and also a great way for your personality to shine.
Injecting humor into someone’s workday is certainly a great way to be remembered. Asking a retailer for their opinion on something you’re working on and providing a link to an instagram photo is much quicker and easier than trying to cold call them and schedule a one hour appointment for a sales pitch.
Friendly banter can lead to all sorts of opportunities.
Offer to test your line in their store by hosting a pop-up shop or trunk show to see how their customers react to your merchandise – I don’t think any retailer would turn down an opportunity for extra foot traffic in their location.
Decide on terms and conditions with the retailer first. Maybe you will pay them a commission on any sales made during your event? Maybe you will pay them a flat fee for your use of their space? Maybe they will agree to a meeting with you after the event about your designs if the event is a hit?
Then set up an eye catching display and introduce their customers to your designs. When they agree to having your merchandise on display, this means your contacts and connections will all be invited into their store (perhaps for the first time) and vice versa, you will be able to introduce your line to their regular customers and passers by for feedback and potential sales.
Ask for critique – Approach the retailer as an expert in their field. They are, after all, running a successful business in the market you want to get into. Let them know you’re a designer and you’d like to have a few minutes of time to talk about your line and see if they might offer some advice on what you can improve upon.
Approach it as a conversation instead of a pitch and the retailer will attend the meeting with their guard down. This is a great way to not only introduce yourself and your line to a retailer you want to do business with, but it will provide you with valuable feedback you can use to either a) make a sale b) improve your line or c) take all of the information you discussed and pitch your line to a similar retailer with only success in mind.