hello...I'm a buyer

A lot of you who get in touch have beautiful patterns on brilliant products, and you are looking for ways to sell them... getting your work known and, of course, making some money.  There are a lot of ways you can do this... sell via your own e-store, set up a stall on a market, stand craft fairs or have an etsy shop. A lot of you though would LOVE to get stocked in a lovely shop run by someone else.

Knowing this I have chatted to three very lovely buyers from three very lovely stores.

This is what they said...

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park Shop

Amanda Peach - Craft Officer and Buyer

patternbooth:  Can you describe your store?

amanda:  YSP is a destination store showcasing original work by international artists and contemporary designers and makers.  We stock a varied range of homewares, textiles, prints and stationary, toys and games and books and DVD’s.  Brands include Miho, Orla Kiely, Magpie and Jansen + Co with artist –led ranges of contemporary craft from Margo Selby, Nicola Becci, Redbrick North and Alison Milner.  We work alongside artists on exclusive ranges which relate to exhibitions at YSP.  Every year we work closely with artists who feature in the wider YSP programme to produce original limited editions and complimentary merchandise like Rob Ryan, Donna Wilson and Mark Hearld; at the moment I’m working with artist Angie Lewin on a solo exhibition and a range of merchandise for the shop. Events are organized alongside the shows such as talks and workshops which receive great editorial coverage from national magazines.

patternbooth:  Where do you seek out new products to stock?

amanda:  I attend many trade shows throughout the year including New Designers, Maison + Objet, Pulse and Top Drawer and I use social media to track down hard to find products.  I research tirelessly; looking at blogs and websites.

ysp

patternbooth:  What are the key factors that influence your decisions?

amanda:  Design, product, material, price; first and foremost, it’s got to look right. 

patternbooth:  Apart from trade shows, how should designers best approach buyers?

amanda:  By email with a realistic expectation of a response time; do your research and find out who to address your enquiry to.  Include a covering letter together with at least 3 high print quality images, a price list and CV.  I aim to respond to enquiries within 90 days.

ysp

patternbooth:  If someone is standing a trade show, how can they best attract buyers?

amanda:  There’s nothing worse than empty or bare stand; make sure you have enough stock to make an impact and create interest.  Use alternative props such as furniture and accessories to promote your work.  Make sure you have sufficient lighting and remember to look interested and be ready to converse.  My role as a buyer is based on how things looks and if they don’t appear interesting then I wont be interested in them.

patternbooth:  What turns you off the quickest?

amanda:  The hard sell from some-one who doesn’t know YSP and hasn’t done their homework about us; remember to research, research, and research.

ysp

patternbooth:  What is your relationship with the people who design the products in your shop?

amanda:  Really good; communication is important and a willingness to listen and see the other side of things; makers can often be in the early stages of a career and supporting them in any way possible is crucial whilst retaining your own vision.

patternbooth:  If you wanted the people who make lovely things to understand one thing about being a buyer, what would it be?

amanda:  If your product is right, the buyer will make contact. 

Visit YSP at www.ysp.co.uk/shop.

ysp

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Ink & Thread

Emily Baker - Owner

patternbooth:  Can you describe your store?

emily:  Ink & Thread has been open for eighteen months in the Cathedral Quarter of Derby in the UK, and also online. We stock a range of cards and gifts but what we believe make us special is that everything we sell is British made. We like bright, bold design and clever illustration.

patternbooth:  Where do you seek out new products to stock?

emily:  By spending hours on the internet; etsy, folksy, twitter, facebook and attending the odd trade show such as Top Drawer and Pulse.

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patternbooth:  What are the key factors that influence your decisions?

emily:  We only stock British made items so that is the biggest factor but other than that we have to consider boring things like minimum orders, carriage paid, wholesale/RRP

patternbooth:  Apart from trade shows, how should designers best approach buyers?

emily:  Email is the best bet, please don’t just arrive at your favourite shop with a bag of your products, it puts shop keepers on the spot and we haven’t always got time to see people there and then (hopefully we will be far too busy)

Put together a clear email or letter and if possible don’t make it too obvious it’s a generic one you send to everybody; it does need to include key pieces of information but try and make it personal.

The Indie Retail Academy has some great tips on how to approach shops http://www.indieretailacademy.com

ink & thread

patternbooth:  If a designer is standing a trade show, how can they best attract buyers?

emily:  Beforehand make sure you shout about it so we know you’re there. On the day just smile and say hello; which may be easier said than done if you’ve been standing there for hours, but if stockists like the look of your work they will find you and will want to hear about your designs.

patternbooth:  What turns you off the quickest?

emily:  In terms of being approached by potential stockists?...the email followed by a phone call a day after to say did you get my email followed by another email. There is being pro active then there is just being a bit much...we don’t have a buying department, a finance department, a customer service department, we try and reply to all the emails we get but it might not be straight away.

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patternbooth:  What is your relationship with the people who design the products in your shop?

emily:  Really good, we hope! Most of them are small business so it’s the designer we deal with, we keep in touch with lots of them on twitter and facebook and it’s exciting watching their business grow and develop. We hope they remember the little shops that stocked them when they hit the big time. Like many of our suppliers we are a small business so we understand the importance of cash flow so they never have to chase us for payment.

patternbooth:  If you wanted the people who make lovely things to understand one thing about being a buyer, what would it be?

emily:  There can be lots of reasons we might not stock your work straight away; we might already have products in that are a bit too similar, we might be a bit unsure about prices or it might just not fit with the shop at the minute. That doesn’t mean your products aren’t lovely; there is a shop out there which will love your work, it just might not be us. So don’t get disheartened.

Visit Ink & Thread at www.inkandthread.co.uk.

ink & thread

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Quill London

Lucy Edmonds - Founder

patternbooth:  Can you describe your store?

lucy:  Quill is a boutique dedicated to stylish stationery, paper goods and home office accessories. We stock a varied collection, including letterpress correspondence cards, gift wrap accessories, sleek Japanese desk wares, handmade tissue paper pompoms, opulent Christian Lacroix Papier and eccentric Martin Margiela stationery

patternbooth:  Where do you seek out new products to stock?

lucy:  Everywhere. I always spot things I haven't seen before when browsing blogs and in magazines, and will often contact the designer directly for their wholesale information. Also when I am travelling and find nice things I always try and note the designer. We often receive emails and samples from designers contacting us, too.

photo by Krishanthi Williams

patternbooth:  What are the key factors that influence your decisions?

lucy:  Most importantly I have to love it and feel it is a good fit for the store. The second is whether we already stock anything similar. Price points are also extremely important: the designer's pricing structure, their delivery charge and minimum order values. It also matters to some extent where else they are stocked.

patternbooth:  Apart from trade shows, how should designers best approach buyers?

lucy:  I don't think trade shows are the only way to gain stockists. Be proactive: do your research and make a hit list of all the stockists you want to be in, find out the buyers names and email (internet searches, call the store or even visit the stores and ask) and send them a short, concise email introduction with clear and aspirational images of your product. Follow it up after a couple of weeks.

Even if you don't hear back, do keep your hit list updated when you launch new products. If you are a designer or have your own studio, you are a sales person, whether you like it or not. It's not as scary as it sounds.

In a previous job I wholesaled homeware into UK retail. We didn't even realise trade shows existed until the end of our second year and we had already sold to 30 stockists just by marketing to them the 'old-fashioned' way!

photo by Krishanthi Williams

patternbooth:  If a designer is standing a trade show, how can they best attract buyers?

lucy:  Firstly, be on your stand! 

Don't pounce on people immediately with your sales pitch but give them just a moment to take in what you do. Then ask what it is that caught their eye, and talk to them about it. If you haven't seen their badge or don't know what kind of thing their shop sells, ask them, and then you can respond with products that might interest them. Know your pricing and know your shipping and minimum orders. And always, always take a card or email address and follow up after the show.

patternbooth:  What turns you off the quickest? 

lucy:  Long emails. And multiple emails from the same supplier, so that it becomes like spam! And laziness - there's no reason why any supplier shouldn't be able to address an introduction email by name: a quick Google search will tell you the name of the owner or buyer.

photo by Krishanthi Williams


patternbooth:  What is your relationship with the people who design the products in your shop? 

lucy:  Because Quill is quite newly launched, as are a couple of our designers, we are supportive of each other because we're going through the same thing after all. It's lovely to see the people we work with grow and watch their successes.

patternbooth:  If you wanted the people who make lovely things to understand one thing about being a buyer, what would it be?

lucy:  If we don't respond to an introduction email it doesn't mean we haven't seen or read it or aren't interested. I only have a finite pot of money, and sometimes it can take a while - many months - before I can get round to stocking things that I've earmarked.

visit Quill London at www.quilllondon.co.uk.

photo by Krishanthi Williams

So there you have it. Priceless advice from the buyers at three fabulous stores.

If you are a designer, I hope it will bring you even more success when you are approaching potential stockists in the future... and if you are a buyer, why not tell us your key advice?  I'd love to hear from you.