7 Steps to Start Selling Wholesale and Bring in the Big Bucks!

7 Steps To Start Selling Wholesale And Bring In The Big Bucks Are you thinking about taking that plunge into selling wholesale to brick and mortar stores?

I know that wholesale can be a mixed bag. After all, why would anyone want to sell their handmade products at lower bulk pricing?

But selling wholesale can be very lucrative if you play it right.

I started selling wholesale in 2013 and by the end of the fiscal year, my wholesale orders brought in 50% of total revenue.

In other words, I doubled my sales by selling to stores.

Are you still wondering how wholesale can have a positive impact in your creative business?

Then read on:

How wholesale can take your business to the next level

Generating big orders

What I love about wholesale is that you make large orders.

Instead of selling just one item to a regular customer, you could be selling two dozen!

Wholesale orders usually total to hundreds of dollars or more, depending on what you’re selling.

Gain more exposure

Selling your products wholesale can also help expand your reach in the market.

The more stores you sell in, the more exposure you get.

Especially if these stores get tons of foot traffic!

I’ve had plenty of retail customers tell me they found my website because they saw my jewelry in their local store.

Builds credibility and trust

When you start getting into the wholesale business, you also automatically gain instant credibility.

Your peers, competitors and current customers will perceive you as being professionally in business.

You’re no longer running a hobby. It’s for real now!

Consistent paychecks

And if you’re sick of wondering when your next sale is coming in, wholesale can generate more consistent paychecks for you than selling retail on Etsy.

If a store sells your product well, you can expect them to keep reordering from you.

Especially during peak seasons like the Valentine’s Day, back to school and the holidays!

Easy to make the sale

Wholesale orders are also a lot easier to obtain, provided you have an effective strategy for selling!

It’s pretty straightforward, just email the store owner or buyer with your pitch.

Keep following up until they say no!

Grows your business

Last but not least, wholesale grows your business in life changing ways.

You’ll start to ask yourself tough questions like these that are imperative for scaling up:

  • How can you lower your costs so you can make more profit?
  • Where can you source for better priced materials?
  • How can you streamline your production process so you’re working less?
  • Where and how can you create systems to be more efficient?

I doubt you need any more convincing, so let’s get straight into the 7 steps to start selling wholesale and bring in the moolah! 7 Steps To Start Selling Wholesale And Bring In The Big Bucks

1. Take charge of your pricing

Before anything else, your pricing must be able to take the hit.

Stores expect your products to be priced at least 50% lower than your regular retail prices.

Store owners need to make a profit too and expenses pile up quickly when running a brick and mortar.

If you want a store to keep ordering from you, give them a reason to be happy to work with you by making them money!

So take a good look at your products and what it costs to make them.

Can you afford to sell wholesale? If not, how can you lower your costs?

Consider purchasing materials in bulk, streamlining your production process and maybe even outsourcing help.

2. Setting up your program

Next, you’ll have to think about what policies you want in place.

Stores will ask this a lot: What is your minimum opening order?

This is the first order they make from you.

Set this dollar amount based on how many pieces it’ll take for the store to display your work nicely on their shelves.

Also, what would make dealing with a wholesale order worth your time?

My minimum opening order is $150, or 12 pieces.

What is your minimum reorder?

This is usually a lower number – mine’s $100.

Also, how will you support your stores?

How will you handle exchanges, refunds and damaged goods?

How much is shipping, and who will pay for it?

3. Photograph your products on white

You must have clear product photos of your line on a white background.

This is not only the standard, but it’s a lot more professional and showcases your products without any distractions!

Having great photos are absolutely necessary when creating your linesheet. Jewelry wholesale linesheet sampleWholesale order form sample

4. Creating your linesheet and order form

A linesheet is a catalog that displays all the products you have for sale along with wholesale prices and product IDs or names.

Don’t make linesheets overly complicated.

Stores expect them to be plain and simple.

You can create your linesheets using Microsoft Word by using tables and then changing the color of the table’s border to white so the lines don’t show up.

If you’re into fancy programs, Adobe Photoshop or InDesign also work!

There are paid online services that help you make linesheets, but I prefer to make them my own since it’s a fairly easy process.

Stores will also expect an order form that they can fill in and either fax or email to you.

I made mine in Microsoft Word and turned it into a PDF.

I also included my policies on the order form, so the store owner can easily reference them!

Bonus: Download my free editable wholesale order form template to go with your linesheet!

5. How will you package your products?

Almost as important as the product itself is the packaging.

Even if it’s a hang tag, how you choose to package your products for display can make your work so much more appealing to a store’s customers.

You may or may not require packaging for each individual item.

But if you’re selling soap, stationery or sets of coasters (to name a few), you’ll almost definitely want to think about how you’re going to package them for the shelves.

The packaging you use for selling to your own retail customers will normally be different than what you use to send to stores. Selling wholesale to stores: how will you package your products?

6. Searching for the right stores

At this point, you’re ready to start hunting down some stores!

I almost always search for stores online.

First you need to determine what type of store your products will sell well in.

Jewelry stores? Gift shops? Greeting card stores?

Then head over to Google and type in the type of store + your location or where you want to sell.

Start compiling a list of store names, websites, email addresses and phone numbers!

7. Emailing your pitch and follow up

Now it’s time to make the sale!

In less than 10 sentences, state who you are, what you do, why you’re emailing and why your products would sell well in their store.

If you don’t get a response in a few days, email again with a follow up asking if they would like a sample (if you can afford one) or if you can schedule a meeting (if you’re in town) or if they have any questions.

While you definitely want to only contact stores that are a good match for your creations, sometimes this can be a numbers game.

The more stores you email, the higher your chances of making a sale.

Once you’ve established a working relationship with a store owner, it becomes a lot easier to ask for the sale again when it’s time to reorder!

Download your free editable wholesale order form template

wholesale-order-form-template-download

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Comments

  1. says

    There are some gift shops that I’ve been eyeing but they use a consignment model. When is it better to wholesale vs. consign? I’m hesitant in consigning because I don’t feel like the store has any sort of incentive to push my products.

    • Mei says

      I would only ever do consignment if you know that the store treats their artists well.

      For example, I Like You in Minneapolis only does consignment but through the grapevine I know they always pay their artists on time and do a very good job selling their work!

      You’re absolutely right, if a store carries both wholesale and consigned products, they are more motivated to promote their wholesale products.

      I’ve heard many experiences with consignment that stores don’t pay you on time (if at all), or they go belly up and your inventory never gets sent back to you.

      I would also consider consignment if you feel the store is a REALLY good fit, then you can offer to the buyer that they try your product out on a consignment basis – that way they don’t take on the risk, you do.

      Eventually, a consignment relationship can grow into a wholesale relationship. When the store has confidence in your products and wants a bigger cut of the sale.

      Hope that helps Vanessa. Great question!

  2. says

    I’m struggling with photography. A lot of my products are white and look washed out if I try to edit the background to be white. I feel like I need to choose between a washed out product, a grey background or a backlit product. Which of the three would be best?

    • Mei says

      White products are definitely more challenging to photograph. I have a few lighter colored designs and even those can be difficult. BUT I have this awesome tutorial that I follow every time to photograph white products and it works like a charm. Basically you’ll need to photograph on green or blue screens, then follow this video to Photoshop edit the rest: http://www.photoshop.com/tutorials/605

  3. says

    Thanks for your post, Mei! I would love to wholesale, but I think i need to get all my ducks in a row before I do that. By that I mean, getting production figured out, getting the pricing formula right, work out packaging etc. It’s not easy in the city I live in to find sewing contractors, at least not for small quantities.
    I have any etsy shop. I still don’t know how I can continue to run the shop at the prices there and still give wholesale discounts to retailers.

    Lot of things to figure out!
    Best..

    Coco

    • Mei says

      Hey Coco! Thanks for sharing! There’s definitely a lot to think about before embarking on the wholesale journey.
      However, I do know of a lot of successful shops that started on their own doing wholesale, and only started to tweak and expand with a team after they hit a limit (which is a good thing!)
      Great pouches by the way. I can see your products doing well in stores!

  4. says

    This is so interesting! I’ve been notified that Whole Foods will begin selling our Bake it Best Gluten Free Flours in their East Lansing store when it opens in April. Woo hoo! You gave me so much to think about. Order forms, return policies, etc. Our manufacturer will be shipping to them directly, so that’s taken care of. We felt we needed to learn from the first one, so haven’t been targeting other stores yet. Perhaps we’re loosing sales that we could be capturing. Mei, this was loaded with great information!

    • Mei says

      That’s super awesome great news Linda! Congratulations. I hope it all goes well, and when it does it’ll be a lot easier to get into the other Whole Foods. Good luck!

  5. Eva Antonel says

    Thanks for the very informative article. The quandary I’m facing is whether I should charge the same retail price to my retail customers as my wholesale account sells to theirs. I feel I shouldn’t undermine their business in any way but that doesn’t give me much leeway when setting up special prices for shows etc. Any suggestions would be welcome.Thanks,

    • Mei says

      Hey Eva!

      Think about it this way instead:
      You set the retail price and wholesale price.

      Your retail prices are suggested retail prices for your wholesale accounts. If you want, you can require your stores sell at those prices, not more, not less.

      But I would recommend to just let them price however much they are able to.

      So instead of trying to have the same retail price as your stores, you decide on your own retail price and they will try to match you.

      You can totally have special prices for sales or shows. Normally stores are OK with this if it’s just a limited time offer, so don’t worry about it! :)

  6. says

    Fantastic article! I’m trying to decide how I should go about processing payments for wholesale orders once I launch and start selling. I have Shopify but there’s no real turnkey way to handle wholesale. I’m thinking maybe through PayPal or Square, but I’d love to hear what’s worked/not worked for you. Also, how do you handle the shipping cost? In my mind if I want to protect my bottom line I would charge them for shipping based on weight and not eat the cost, but I’m not sure if it violates some unspoken wholesale “best practice”. I suppose if they’re really good customers it would be good to give free shipping eventually as customer appreciation!

    • Mei says

      Hey Danielle!

      I use StitchLabs as my inventory management and invoicing software. I create the wholesale order in there and it gives me an invoice I can email the buyer. The invoice email will include a link to pay via Paypal – but they can use their debit/credit card too.

      StitchLabs also allows me to manually type in the credit card details and process it through them.

      I’m willing to bet Square and Paypal can do this too. Most orders I get however have the CC details attached, so I just bill them manually when the order is ready to ship. Some stores will ask you to call them for a card.

      It’s totally OK to charge for shipping by weight. My products are light and don’t cost too much to ship, so I always give my buyers a flat rate shipping fee.

  7. says

    What a wonderful article. I have had a small business contact me about wholesaling and I was in a fog about how to do this.
    We have an online presence so I don’t have a paper catalog. Are you suggesting I need one to send to those who want to buy wholesale? If so, any ideas on how to do that?

    Thanks again for the article.
    Amy

  8. Mendi Yoshikawa says

    I am thinking about crossing over into wholesale (I’ve had several people request it), but I’m wondering about how to handle large volume orders in the beginning since I am a young business. The items are expensive to produce and take 4 weeks to manufacture more. Is it ever acceptable to ask for pre-orders and payments beforehand so I only order what I actually need? I have some inventory to sell through now, but if it disappears quickly I’m not sure I have enough capital built up at this point to order massive re-orders. For one of my items I already have enough built in profit to offer it at wholesale pricing, but for the other half of my products it would require volume orders to even offer it for wholesale. Thanks so much for your help. Such a great article! :)

    • Mei says

      Hey Mendi!

      As long as you communicate your turnaround times, the store will understand and respect that! I normally do prepaid for my own wholesale orders, so I collect on the payment before I ship. Stores normally expect you to charge their card closer to the ship date, so that’s the only other nuance with your business that you’d have to spell out clearly to them. If payment needs to be made when the order is placed, I think that’s perfectly acceptable!

    • Mei says

      Danielle,

      Here’s a general idea for what I would do:
      —-

      Hi FIRST_NAME!

      I’m Mei, the owner of Tiny Hands scented food jewelry (http://tinyhandsonline.com), a line of handmade jewelry that look (and SMELL!) just like candy for food lovers and the young at heart.

      My line can really thrill your senses and can make any girl or lady smile, even on those bad days! Your customers would love our line because it’s so different, unique, girly and make absolutely wonderful gifts.

      Since our jewelry is quite the sensory experience, would you like a sample? Just reply to this email with your favorite necklace from http://tinyhandsonline.com!

      I look forward to working with you!

      [embedded photo] [embedded photo]

  9. says

    Hi Mei,
    Thanks for all information. They are very helpful. I have plan may start the next year to working on the wholesale. Now I am thinking about the packageing. The jewellry packages like yours, where can I find them? Because mine is kind like yours, but mine is origami locket necklace.
    Thanks for any information.

  10. Layla says

    Mei, I would so love to have dialogue with you!
    We have a business that purveys high demand products.
    But there must be something we are missing… and I jst cannot figure out what it is!
    EMailed 500 businesses that would potentially purchase our products.
    only 5 replies
    We are both well educated my hubby is a double Phd in business…
    and has incredible experience.
    I have been a business owner for 40+ years… freelance & brick & mortar…

    I said to hubby last week… must be something we just cannot see that we are either not doing or doing in a wrong way.
    Help! Please!

    • Mei says

      Hey Layla! Thanks for dropping by. You and your husband both do not lack in the credentials and experience. But I do agree, as you mentioned that sometimes we may just miss some things because we’re too close to our own business.

      If you’ve spent the time to email 500 stores and only got 5 replies, there’s definitely something awry and I would love to help! I have openings in my calendar this month for a consulting call. If you’re interested, please book your session here: https://www.creativehiveco.com/consulting

      Hope to help you get to the bottom of this and get you guys making more sales!

  11. Katherine says

    Hi Mei, I’ve just found your article and it’s packed full of greatness! Just one question, do you discuss prices in your initial email to new stores? Or leave all that info in your order form PDF? Thank you!

    • Mei says

      Hey Katherine!

      Thanks :) I don’t normally talk about prices right away. In my initial email I just see if they are interested in the product itself and/or if they’re interested in procuring a sample.

      Once they’ve seen the product, then we talk prices – usually I send them my full catalog and price list for them to review.

      Hope that helps!

  12. Vanessa Santos says

    When do you send out the line-sheets, I have sent my to two different boutiques and I was turned down. I feel like going back to the drawing board, but I’m also thinking am I sending them at the wrong time?

    • Mei says

      Vanessa, being rejected twice is not enough to warrant going back to the drawing board! It could just be that the boutiques were not a good fit for you. Don’t give up, keep trying. Stores are always looking to buy new products, especially over the holiday seasons. Don’t give up too easily :)

  13. Beth says

    I am not sure what to buy to display the jewelry – and I feel like the stores I will potentially be approaching will want to know how it will be presented to the customer…. if a necklace, for example, has just a tiny hanging tag with the price, or its hanging from a necklace card? (I don’t mean like in a box or something…I know wholesale is different from an Etsy sale)
    When I start thinking about that, I think I have to find the hang tags, then have a stamp made so I can brand it, or buy pre-printed tags with my logo – or buy a printed sticker with a logo to put on the hang tag?
    Every time I think I’m ready to start approaching stores, I start thinking about the myriad of things I should have ready first and I get completely overwhelmed!
    Or do smaller boutiques not expect that – they just want the raw product in a small bag, so they can do the rest themselves?
    Thanks!!

    • Mei says

      It’s a good idea to have some sort of packaging figured out ahead of time. This will help your line sell better. But, if you’re starting to get concerned over a lot of different things that might hold you back from ever taking that first step into doing wholesale, then just go for it! You’re right. Smaller boutiques are more understanding and don’t always expect packaging. They can price tag the necklaces themselves.

  14. says

    Hi Mei,

    Thanks for all of this information you are so generously providing. My question is, what do you do during an in-person meeting with stores in your area? Do you bring in samples, your line sheet, everything at once?

    • Mei says

      Sure, you can do that with in-person meetings. Just be sure that you’ve booked an appointment with the buyer ahead of time!

  15. says

    Hi Mei. Thank you for sharing your tips on succeeding in your handmade business. I have a line of soap and body care and just started selling wholesale. I emailed 3 more stores and didn’t hear back. After a week, I sent a follow up emails to all three. I received a reply from two stores and have appointments. I really love the third store and think my products would be a great fit. Do you think it’s appropriate if I give the store owner a call to say I was just following up on my email? It’s been a week since I sent the second email. Thanks?

  16. says

    Hello Mei!

    I am so grateful to have found you site! I have just decided today that I would like to begin doing wholesales of my Handmade Handbags made of leather and/Fabrics. I am clueless about how to package my product since the sizes can vary??? Any suggestions? Right now I attend and vend at Craft Shows and Local Events. So my packaging thus far has been a decorative bags from the dollar tree and some tissue paper.

    • Mei says

      Hey Retina! You could probably get away with just using a hangtag for your handbags since your type of product doesn’t usually need packaging. In fact, it would probably deter shoppers from buying at a brick and mortar store!

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