How To Build Your Future Wholesale Business The Right Way - Part One
So your brand has started to gain momentum, sales are starting to flow in through your social media marketing, you have a solid pricing structure in place for selling direct to consumer and you're happy with the margins you’re making. If you’re ticking all those boxes then congratulations, that’s awesome! Now it’s time to take your brand to the next level and gain distribution through retailers.
But before you start having conversations with the retail trade there are a few more steps you need to take to ensure you build your future wholesale business the right way, starting with ensuring your production workflow is a well-oiled machine. Because if you don’t have this nailed don’t expect retailers to show you sympathy when you can’t get the stock to them!
I want to help you avoid this disastrous situation so I’m going to share some advice to help get your production timeline in order. So grab a notebook and listen up!
Firstly, BE REALISTIC WITH YOUR PRODUCTION TIMELINES. This is super important, and because it takes the time to get acquainted with your production timelines I usually advise that you shouldn’t enter the wholesale arena unless you have at least 12 months of direct to consumer sales under your belt. However, if you've received at least a couple of deliveries from your maker or manufacturer you’ve probably already found out that THINGS DO GO WRONG! Have a think. Were all your deliveries on time? Were there any units missing? How was the quality? Did you have to send anything back, wait for it to be repaired than have it sent back to you again? These are all things you need to test now to avoid a more serious and detrimental mistake with retailers.
These days consumers' expectations are super high and it’s rare for them to give you a second chance if their package arrives late or they receive something that’s faulty because it slipped through QC (quality control) and has to be sent back. Well, funnily enough, retailers aren’t any less forgiving so it’s vital that you get your ducks in a row and iron out any flaws in your supply chain before you start selling thousands of dollars worth of product to retailers. The cold hard truth is they may not give you a second chance so MAKE SURE YOU DELIVER IN FULL AND ON TIME.
If you’re working to an indent model (where you take orders from retailers and only produce the collated quantity of those orders) then you need to work out a realistic delivery time frame for each collection based on the time required to manufacture your products. This is also known as the delivery window. Some retailers are happy for you to provide a two-month window during which time their stock can arrive e.g. July-August for first summer stock within the southern hemisphere, however, if you're dealing with a retailer who has a chain of stores or even a department store they may request a delivery window of just 7 days so you need to be able to work within that tight time frame.
To make your life easier, before selling your collection to retailers I recommend talking with your suppliers to determine and agree on realistic timelines to manufacture your products. Then once you have your orders you need to provide your supplier with your bulk production order i.e. total number of units required in each style to fulfill all your wholesale orders, and you need to provide his information on time in order to prevent any delays in starting your production run.
If you’re using sales agents you will need to enforce strict order cut-offs to ensure all the sales orders they have taken from buyers are received by a particular date. Alternatively, if you’re doing the selling yourself or have direct relationships with the buyers it will be your responsibility to chase orders and not accept further orders past your cut-off date.
Despite all your best efforts and due diligence problems will inevitably happen, so whenever possible do yourself a favour by building in a 2-3 week buffer. One day it could save you!
Ok, got all that? Good, because once you've ticked all of those boxes with your supplier it’s time to start understanding the retail calendar so you can plan your design timelines and have a think about the physical sales process, which includes building your wholesale brand kit. Don't worry all of that is coming soon in this series so make sure you follow my blog through BlogLovin’ or your preferred RSS reader so you don’t miss out!