Business tips

How to find and approach stockists: A Q&A with A Quirk of Fate

Selling your products through stores as well as online can expand the reach of your brand, but finding and approaching stores can be a minefield. We get some tips from stockist and storeowner, Kylie Weir.

When you opened A Quirk of Fate (AQOF) in 2012, had you already chosen a handful of brands/designers to stock?

I opened AQOF on a bit of a whim. I was quite limited and started out stocking a lot of small, locally made goods from brands with low minimum orders and flexible terms. The first 12 months I definitely reinvested the majority of my turnover directly back into stock, picking up new brands as my budget allowed me to do so.

When selecting items or brands to stock, what are you looking for?

When I look for stock these days I generally look for items that are locally designed and/or made. I really love supporting small, local businesses. I look for items that my staff and I love. This way we’re selling products we use and genuinely believe in, rather than just selling product for the sake of selling product. It can be a balancing act and quite often it’s a matter of finding the right thing at the right time when I have the budget, space and need in-store to fill a gap in our product offering.

What items or types of items are your best sellers?

Our best sellers are constantly changing depending on the season, the ranges we have in-store, stock availability, trends etc. Classic fashion pieces; “wardrobe staples” are good sellers. When it comes to fashion and accessories we find customers are very practical these days, investing in quality, classic clothing pieces and using accessories to change up their outfits. When it comes to home/giftwares a nice book or candle would probably be the top sellers.

Are you open to designers/companies approaching you peddling their wares?

I get contacted a lot by potential brands wanting me to look at their product. I’d say I would on average have at least six brands a week contact me hoping I’ll stock their product. I am definitely open to hearing from designers/companies who think their product would be a great fit. I really like to pick up brands early and help them start out and there is nothing more flattering than people wanting to be stocked in AQOF.

How would you like them to approach you?

I think the best approach is a quick call to the store to find out who to contact regarding buying and requesting their contact details/email. I read a lot of emails so in regards to a pitch I’d say keep it short, sweet and concise. The main details I’d be looking for are:

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you based?
  • Where did you hear about us?
  • Why do you think your product is right for our store?

I’d also expect that all the information I’d need to place an order or make a decision as to whether it is something I want to/can stock would be included in the initial email.

Do people selling their wares generally bring you items, show you a lookbook or direct you to their website?

I get people doing all sorts of things. I have people pop into the shop unannounced to show me their product, I have people call and pitch products to myself/my staff members over the phone, I have people email their lookbooks through and direct me to their website and I have people send me samples and lookbooks in the post.

For seasonal stock such as fashion, how far in advance would you expect to see and choose a collection before you’d put it in the store?

For seasonal items you generally work around six months ahead. If products are made to order then orders need to be placed quite a few months in advance so there’s time for production. If brands are a bit larger and hold stock on hand – or have the ability to produce items quickly and are flexible with their terms – that can work well for stores. It’s also always great to check out stock before orders have to be placed so that when it comes time to do my buying I’m aware of new ranges I might be looking to take on and can work out and allocate my budget. Winter ordering is usually done in September/October and summer buying is in February/March.

Do you have three tips for people trying to find stockists and get their products in stores?

  1. I think the first thing I would recommend is making sure you do your research. Pop into stores and suss them out, have a look at their website, Instagram feed and Facebook page. Search for articles that have been written about them and read their “About Us” section on their website. Make sure that what you’re selling aligns with their ethos, look and feel.
  2. Send an email and make sure it includes all the information a buyer would want/need to make a decision and place an order immediately. I would include a lookbook or link to a website or social media site where the buyer can view your range. I’d also include a price list and I definitely recommend including a formatted order form that clearly lays out all the product variations and calculates the totals. If I see something I like and all the information I need is in front of me I’ll quite often place an order immediately. If I have to follow up and request further information about the brand or pricing or terms I’m less likely to follow it up.
  3. Keep trying. I must admit I am fairly bad on the emails. I often have the intention of following up or replying but will get distracted with one of the other many things I have to do. If it’s something I am interested in I will (eventually) get back to you. If you don’t hear from a store give them a week or two to get back to you and then maybe send a friendly reminder asking if they’ve had a chance to take a look at what you’ve sent. Sometimes I just need a little reminder/nudge. Also, don’t take it personally. It’s a hard balancing act trying to introduce new ranges into the store, as there are so many great brands/products out there. My list is always quite long so it’s often a matter of waiting until I have the budget to place an order or the space/need to introduce a new product or range, as much as I might like certain things.

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