Handmade wholesalers are selling more than ever before, especially over the last few years. And that’s because of one thing: convenience! Platforms like Faire, Tundra, Abound, and Handshake make it easy and efficient for store owners to buy wholesale from handmade artists.
These platforms have easy online access, transparent terms, a quick payment system, and build trust between store owners and makers.
If you’re a maker, though, you might not want to be on these platforms. You make more profit if you run the wholesale part of your business independently.
The Hard Truth About Being an Independent Wholesaler
But here’s the hard truth about running your wholesale business without these platforms: if you want to be successful, you have to build the same ease and efficiency for store owners into your business.
You have to stop creating roadblocks between you and brick-and-mortar store owners.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached in my store or via email by small handmade business owners looking to sell their products, but I was met with a roadblock or multiple roadblocks with each question I asked.
Roadblocks That are Impacting Your Wholesale Orders
So many retailers want to support and order from you. And we also want you to profit more! I’ve seen many retail store owners ask the makers in the Shopkeeper’s Lab how they can order from them directly instead of a wholesale platform. They want to protect the maker’s profit margin.
But if it’s difficult to order from you, they won’t do it. So here are the seven roadblocks I see most frequently—along with a resource in the Shopkeeper’s Lab that can help you overcome each one.
#1. Have trust-building information about you and your business readily available for store owners.
Brick-and-mortar store owners want to know about you, your story, and your products. But so often, makers don’t have anything prepared that tells their story.
Remember, people buy from other people. It might feel vain to talk about yourself, but it is an absolute MUST if you want to make more sales. Be prepared to tell your story, why you started your business, and why you make these specific products—all of this builds trust between you and the store owner.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: the Brand Info Sheet Template, where you can plug in some pictures, information about you, and a description of your product lines.
#2. Be prepared to show off your products.
Store owners want to see the full range of what you have available. Linesheets are a great way to present your products. Keep it between 3 to 5 pages and include pictures of your items, the wholesale prices, and a minimum quantity, if applicable.
You can also create an online version of your linesheet via your website. If you don’t have a website yet, I’d highly recommend Shopify—it’s an incredible platform for showcasing your products. You can listen to episode 53 to hear my in-depth review of Shopify.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: Linesheet Canva Template, which you can customize in Canva and update easily.
#3. Make it clear whether you sell wholesale or on consignment.
If you do wholesale, you sell your goods to a store owner, and they will sell them to their customers. If you’re consigning, you’re renting out your products to store owners until or if they sell (if they don’t, the store owner can return them to you).
Please educate yourself on this and decide which one you offer BEFORE you pitch retail store owners. Make sure your terms are apparent, especially if you want to provide both options. It’s essential to be very clear on this, as each store owner has preferences on what wholesale model works for their business.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: The Maker’s Module is full of helpful lessons, including a lesson on the difference between wholesale and consignment and how to decide between the two.
#4. Be confident in your wholesale prices.
Determining your wholesale price is a critical step before you sell to retail store owners. You need to be clear, firm, and most importantly, confident in your price!
Some makers don’t do wholesale at all because of the labor and supplies involved. It has to make financial sense for you to do wholesale, and your prices have to make sense for store owners. Usually, they’ll double the wholesale price and use that as their retail price.
Whatever price you choose, be confident. Don’t be wishy-washy about your prices.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: Wholesale Pricing Calculator. This calculator can help you find the right wholesale price for your products or help you see if you should even be doing wholesale pricing based on your labor and supply costs.
#5. Have an easy-to-use ordering system, either online or with an order form.
This might seem obvious, but if you want to sell more wholesale, you have to have a way for store owners to buy from you! Both online stores and offline order forms are fine—just make sure that whatever ordering system you use, it’s easy for retailers to understand.
Some makers create a separate login for wholesale orders for online stores so that the general public sees one price, and retail owners see the wholesale prices. You can also just have a link to wholesale information that you can send to business owners. Or, offer a discount code to brick-and-mortar store owners so they can use your regular online storefront.
If you’d rather do an order form, please make it as easy as possible. Some makers create easy-to-use Excel spreadsheets, where retailers enter in quantities next to each item, and the spreadsheet does all the work of totaling the price.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: Excel spreadsheet template for creating your order form.
#6. Know your minimum order, whether it’s the number of products or total value.
Wholesaling is meant to help you sell MORE, so you should have a minimum order—otherwise, you’re just selling retail. So make sure you clearly indicate what your minimum order is or a minimum value.
For example, let’s say you sell etched glassware. You would indicate on your linesheet that there’s a minimum order of 10 glasses per design. If you wanted to do a minimum order value instead, you’d put that on your linesheet instead.
Either way is completely fine. Just pick something that makes sense to you and communicate it clearly.
#7. Present any other terms you have, especially about shipping.
As a store owner, I LOVE free shipping. But as a retail coach, I want to help you protect your margins. So just be careful here—don’t give away too much of your hard-earned revenue OR your time.
An intro offer to ship or deliver for free is a great idea, but it doesn’t mean you have to offer this indefinitely.
Shopkeeper’s Lab Resource: You can address #6 and #7 by establishing a terms sheet or a terms page on your website. There’s a terms sheet template included with the linesheet template in the Maker’s Module in the Shopkeeper’s Lab.
Addressing all of these roadblocks can be done on paper or a website. I’m not suggesting that you run out and get the best or most expensive website! If anyone knows about taking baby steps, it’s me.
Above All, Know Your Systems and Processes Inside and Out
Here’s the big takeaway: if you’re a maker, make it EASY for store owners to order from you. Be very CLEAR about how to order from you. And stop putting barriers up between you and retail brick-and-mortar store owners!
Having a system and process for wholesale orders will not only benefit the store owners who order from you. It will make your life easier, too! You’ll have to invest a little time and effort in getting it set up, but once it’s done, your wholesale business will run much more smoothly.
As an example, a maker with their systems in place could send me an email like this:
I’ve been into your store and love it. I think my wholesale products could be a perfect fit for your business. I noticed you didn’t sell ____, and I handmake them!
Attached to this email are my brand information sheet, my linesheet with a terms page, and an order form if you’re interested in ordering.
OR: here’s a link to my website, where you can find information about my brand and my linesheet with wholesale terms. You can order directly using the code WHOLESALE. Make sure you use this code to receive wholesale pricing for your order.
All the best,
Independent Wholesale Maker
You’ll be able to pitch more efficiently with your systems and processes in place, and store owners will LOVE working with you. And it’s all in service of every savvy shopkeeper’s main goal—to work less, profit more.
*Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links or referral codes, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link or using the code. I make recommendations because I genuinely believe they are useful to shopkeepers. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
- Buy tickets to our upcoming Savvy Shopkeeper Retreat!
- Ep. 56: Systems & Processes
- Shopkeeper Shoutout: Brittany of Kalopsia Clay Co. (be sure to follow her on Instagram, too!)
- Join the Shopkeeper’s Lab
- Get a free trial of Shopify
- Ep. 53: Is Shopify Right for Your Retail Business?
- [07:21] The Hard Truth About Being an Independent Wholesaler
- [10:48] Roadblocks That are Impacting Your Wholesale Orders
- [12:27] #1. Have trust-building information about you and your business readily available for store owners.
- [13:55] #2. Be prepared to show off your products.
- [16:04] #3. Make it clear whether you sell wholesale or on consignment.
- [18:41] #4. Be confident in your wholesale prices.
- [20:41] #5. Have an easy-to-use ordering system, either online or with an order form.
- [21:57] #6. Know your minimum order, whether it’s the number of products or total value.
- [22:50] #7. Present any other terms you have, especially about shipping.
- [24:43] Above All, Know Your Systems and Processes Inside and Out