Are you thinking about taking your products to retail for the first time?
I’ve taken my watercolour paintings and educational print products to 4 storefronts and have had a mix of positive and negative experiences, as well as things I wish I had done differently or had looked out for. I’m happy that I can impart some of my wisdom with you today, and hopefully help you make those tough retail decisions.
Read Your Contract
Always read your contract, yes.... the whole darn thing. Have it saved somewhere safe where you can resort back to it. Never be afraid to ask for clarity from the management team. When both sides fully understand the agreement, business will run more smoothly.
Have An Escape Plan
I know.... this title is dramatic, but it is important to have a plan B in a retail situation. When paying rent comes into play and committing to fulfilling a certain amount of product, things can change in a second. Plans change, life changes, finances, or your ability to get your products to the store. For example, I was in two retail locations when Co-vid 19 first swept through Ontario. I had no idea or plan for what I would do financially, if the storefront was closed, but I had to continue paying rent. I wish I had set aside money and determined the amount I was willing to put out, in the case that I was no longer making profit. If I had planned where I would draw the line financially, it would have saved me a lot of indecision and headaches.
Always Make Extra
As much as you should plan for if things go south, you should plan for if things work out. Having enough product to fill your shelf, or the demands of your contract is a success. However, if things start selling like crazy, you’ll feel better knowing you have the extra product you need to continue making profit and filling the shop. I used to only ever produce enough work to fill the shop, then I'd get an online order and have to scramble to get more product. It’s just better safe than sorry.
Finding the Right Store
When I was selling nursery decor paintings, I tried two retail layouts. One was a traditional store, where all the vendors products were integrated together. The other was the new and popular vendor layout, where every maker had a designated shelf. My paintings worked way better when they where integrated within the shop and hung on the walls. They didn’t fit on one single shelf and it looked awkward. That is why it’s important to choose a retail location that works best for your customers and your product.
Bring the Works
Make sure you have business cards, a sign, a cohesive style and all the branding management will allow you to bring. Retail is a unique way to reach customers that you might have missed online or at shows, which is why it is important that they know how to reach you. It's an opportunity to put yourself on the map.
Lastly, and I think most importantly, seek to continue doing business with the people that respect you and your services. This is just how I do business in general. Respect
needs to be mutual in order for both parties to flourish. In one retail location that I had chosen to leave, the manager had a strip of tape across my shelf with the business name of the maker that was going to replace me…. two weeks before my end date. This told me that I was replaceable, my rent money wasn’t being respected and neither was I. You have to feel a part of the team, even if you are a small part. If there is respect, than there is growth and understanding. We deserve that much at least.
I have had a really challenging time with retail, mostly due to the pandemic but also because it took me awhile to realize what I wanted Inkling to become. Retail helped me discover my true intentions with Inkling and showed me how hard I'm willing to work to get my products in the hands of customers. No matter where you're at with your biz, or what kind of experience comes out of retail, you will learn and grow. For that alone I think the risk is worth it.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any retail questions. I would be happy to go more into paying rent or vendor shelf set-ups that I found brought in the most customers.
Good luck my fellow makers and entrepreneurs!