How to Start a Wholesale Business
Posted on 25 June 2021
I recently shared some top tips about starting a gift and stationery brand, and I thought I would add to that with advice for anyone who wants to take the next step and go into wholesale. Supplying multiple retailers with your products can be truly rewarding and is a great way to scale up your business. So, if you want to know how to start a wholesale business or how to build your retail business into a wholesale operation, this article is for you.
1) Are You Ready for Wholesale?
Preparation is the key to so many areas of business and wholesale is no different. You have to have the products ready to go before you launch so you are prepared for those orders to roll in. This means making sure your packaging pops and makes the retailers desperate to display it on their shelves. You need to have sorted product codes and have barcodes too.
But it is also about your systems. If a large wholesale order was to come in straight away, would you be able to honour it? Do you have that sort of production capacity and, if not at the moment, can you call in help in order to meet orders in a timely fashion? This doesn't just mean relying on casual favours from friends; you need to be certain that you can access this additional labour promptly when you need it.
2) Do You Have the Basic Information the Retailer Needs?
Before you can truly start courting retailers in big numbers, you have to be able to show them what you have to offer. You should create a catalogue or a trade line sheet that will show them images of the product, as well as information about it and your terms and conditions.
One of the most important pieces of information a retailer needs from you is the price of the product. Confirm your pricing strategy early on and really think about it. Your wholesale price should include the materials you use, your profit but also your time. So many creators undervalue themselves or simply forget to charge for their time, but you should be compensated for it. Otherwise, you will always struggle to make a return that befits your skill and effort.
3) Build a Retailer Leads List
When you consider how to start a wholesale business, you might think of creating something that draws retailers to you and your products, but you also need to go out and target those stores that you think are the perfect fit for your brand too. Proactively approach them and tell them what you have to offer.
Note down a list of potential stockists and set to work finding out who their key buyers are. LinkedIn is a useful tool for uncovering this information, but you can also simply pick up the phone and ask someone at the company directly too.
4) Craft a Communication Plan
In order to support this outreach to stockists, you need a firm plan on how you will communicate with them and how you will follow that up. Emails can go unread if someone is busy, or they may save it for later but then forget about it. You don’t want to spam anyone, but plotting an email flow of well-crafted messages is an ideal way of getting your product in front of the people you want to see it.
The first email should be a brief introduction to your business, what you sell and why it would be perfect for the retailer. Add images in to show off your products, keep it factual and short as well so you don’t intrude on their time for too long. Most of all, be authentic and genuine. They will buy into you as much as they buy into the product, so make this introduction count. Let them know exactly what you are offering and then leave them with a call to action. Tell them how you want them to contact you and let them do the rest.
You should also have a follow up ready to go in case you receive no response to the first message. This should be a gentle reminder of your previous message and a reiteration of why your product is ideal for them and how to contact you. In case of no reply to this email, send a third and final communication thanking them for their time and reminding them that they can contact you at any time in the future.
Deciding on the gaps between these emails is entirely up to you, but you do not want to seem too pushy as much as you don’t want them to completely forget about you between messages. Try to strike a good balance.
5) Build a Rapport
When you get a reply from a buyer, start to build a rapport with them. As an industry insider, they are a key ally. Go on the journey together with them and form a relationship where you can seek advice from them, as well as asking questions about the procedures and processes involved. It will help you gain a helpful insight into the industry.
You should also comb through all the supplier terms and conditions, as well as any other documentation they provide, very carefully. This will be key to your future working partnership and you need to know exactly what to expect so that you can negotiate and there will not be any nasty surprises later on.
I strongly recommend getting advice before you sign anything. This could prove a huge decision for your business, so you want to make sure that you get it right.
Need More Advice on How to Start a Wholesale Business?
I hope this guide to how to start a wholesale business has been helpful. If you need any more detail on the points in this blog, or any other information on getting started, I share a lot more in a dedicated Facebook group. Make sure you join up today to find out more.