How to find a stockist. Some helpful tips.

Many of us market stall holders dream of having our products sitting on (and flying off) the shelves of bricks and mortar stores, don’t we? But how many of us, know exactly how to get our stuff into these stores?What do shop owners look for? How do we approach these people? And the most scary of all, are our products good enough for retail?

Shelley Panton

We spoke to Shelley Panton, who owns and runs a studio/gift store in Middle Park, Melbourne, that stocks around 40 artisans. She let us in on a few secrets about what she looks for when acquiring new stock for her store and gave us some tips for all artisans looking for a stockist.

Shelley Panton

What do you think customers are looking for when they come into your shop?
An experience. The first thing many new customers often say is, “I feel like I’m in France when I see your store.” That is the biggest compliment for me, as I adore France.

When selecting items to stock, what are first 3 things you look for in a product?
Where it’s made, how it’s made, and if it would work with my existing collection.

If an artisan’s goal is to find a stockist for their products, what do you think they should focus on when creating their products?
To make their products with a balance of passion and practicality. Is it a practical or decorative item? I find that wares that have a usability and have been beautifully made have a good chance of getting to market. The packaging (if relevant) and working out wholesale/retail prices that work for both the artisan and retailer is also imperative.

What kind of products sell best in your store?
My locally made timber frames, my pottery, cushions, artisan tea towels and things of the season. At Christmas I sell plenty of jams and gourmet pantry staples. Our wood and leather care products and cards also do well.

What products are notoriously hard to sell?
Brooches. I had a collection on consignment, they were lovely and beautifully made, but something that not many customers collect.

Common mistakes of artisans trying to find a stockist?
Presenting wares without information, pictures and a stock/price list. Dropping by to present a range without an appointment is also a no-no. It’s great if an intro can be done via email, followed by a call to make a time to come in to show the wares. I like to see new products in the flesh if I’m considering stocking them, but an appointment is paramount as I am often juggling many things behind the scenes on top of running the day to day studio and store.

Special thanks to Shelley for contributing to this article. If anyone has any other great tips, please leave them in a comment below.

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