10 Things I Learned from Exhibiting at Last Month's Wholesale Tradeshows

Last month I exhibited at Beckman's Handmade at the California Gift Show and the Chicago Market - if anyone is thinking about exhibiting at these shows and has any questions that I might be able to help with don't hesitate to contact me by email.

I am still processing some lessons, but some things I have already learned are :

1. Wholesale selling requires an entirely new vocabulary - customers are now buyers (this is easy to remember if you continue to think of the customer as the end user, so your buyer's customer is your customer, too)

sales are now orders
(again, easy to remember if you continue to think of the sale as the final transaction with the end user or customer)

Most of the wholesale lingo I already knew and you probably do, too if you have done any research on wholesale selling, but a couple terms I heard last month that I was unfamiliar with were:

"Open to Buy" - this is the amount of money the store has budgeted for new purchases that they have not yet spent. Some buyers told me their "open to buy" dollars were very limited and they needed to make good choices.

This was when I would talk about my online success with my lines in a very competitive marketplace and delve a little deeper into what sells best in their shop -

my entire reason for developing wholesale accounts is to build an ongoing relationship and create multiple orders from them, not just get a onetime order, so I want to be a good fit for them so we can both make money!

"RTV" - which I thought for a second was some kind of recreational vehicle television system actually means return-to-vendor. Stores obviously want RTV's if merchandise arrives damaged, but what about if it gets damaged in the store or is just not selling?

From the shopowner's point of view they want sellers with RTV's that benefit them, but from the seller's point of view it may be hard to accept returns on handmade items damaged in the store or nonsellers.

I have always offered wholesale tradeout on my locket lids allowing them to swap out nonsellers for new options. I decided to be as flexible as possible with my RTV policies at these shows.

I would rather swap out things that are not selling and keep a relationship going with a good shop than have them mark the items at half off just to move them out and then never order from me again. Plus I have found that offering this option instills confidence and allows the buyer to make quicker decisions -

(I have a large selection that can make decision making hard for buyers and this way they feel they are covered if they make some wrong choices in the beginning)

I have also found buyers seldom take me up on this offer. This is definitely not something you need to do, it may not work for you, but something to think about.

2. Setting minimum order dollars is challenging

I know that gift shop owners (unless they have a very specific niche) need a certain amount of my jewelry (this is especially true of picture jewelry) to have a broad enough variety to sell well with their walk-in customers.

The store buyers told me that in the current economy they want proven sellers or very small volume orders for new unproven items.

So, we had to kind of meet in the middle somewhere. I set a minimum of $250.00. Most of the sellers around me had minimums of $250.00 and often significantly higher price points than mine -

so I realized I was forcing the buyer to buy more items and also maybe losing any lower price point advantage I had, but I decided to stick to it because I know in my heart that orders for less than this will probably not generate a long lasting wholesale relationship and I was clear with my intention going into these shows that was what I wanted.

I will continue this post tomorrow or maybe next week - I am trying to blog less this summer (you might have noticed) to focus on this new direction for my studio and also to have some extra family time plus I've got these wholesale orders to fill ...


(yes, that awesome old truck is part of my display - my lockets are fabricated from car parts after all - and yes, many people commented on it and wanted it .. badly .. and were pretty much begging me to sell it to them - I didn't want to make them any more jealous by telling them I have two - if my makings were half as popular as that truck I'd be bringing home the big bucks folks)


DancingMooney said...

You and your wise words... thank you for sharing. And your booth looks fantastic too, by the way. ;)

Catherine Ivins said...

thank you ... and for trying to save my minis!


Xenotees said...

So helpful Cat! Thank you!!