HOW TO GET YOUR SIDE PRODUCTS INTO RETAIL STORES
We enlisted WNW's #6379 Vinit Patil to offer some helpful step-by-step advice on getting your products into retail stores. As a creative, Vinit knows that coming up with great product ideas in your spare time is not the hard part, it's what to do next. And as co-founder of SKUE with #6038 Spencer Sass, Vinit's specialty is equipping you with everything you need to sell your products to indie retailers. Below, Vinit puts your product to the test, setting you up for retail success.
If you found time between freelance gigs to produce something you’ve had on your mind for a while, kudos! You deserve a hug for going after your passion and shipping it.
While the path to selling online is fairly well-documented, let’s look at how you can go about selling products at your favorite independent retail store. The Kidrobots, Teichs, and Paxton Gates of the world, who serve a niche market and cringe at any mention of big box retail.
At SKUE, the online wholesale marketplace that I run with my co-founder Spencer Sass, we invite indie retailers once a month to source products from independent designers. The items we’ll use as examples are picked from these buying rounds.
We’ll stick to the basic categories of jewelry, accessories and home decor. The following are questions on every independent retailer's mind:
Is it unique?
Jewelry making is popular among the design crowd; however, since the market is saturated, standing out means thinking beyond traditional materials, beading techniques and laser cut pendants.
What sets apart these rings by Angnieska of ORU is the hand-woven Japanese glass beads, using the traditional Native American technique called Peyote Stitch. It’s not something retailers see often. And it is fairly difficult for big box retailers to replicate, which depletes them of all their cost advantages.
The combination of diametrically opposite ideas creates a distinctive selling point for the store owner.
“Love the mixed media. Wonderful job of bringing heritage into the present,” commends Angela Tsay of Oakland Supply Co., a boutique focused on Made in USA goods in Oakland’s historic Jack London Square.
Being unique is in the DNA of creatives so it’s something you’ll figure out. Now the next question:
Is it retail ready?
Retail readiness means your product is in the right shape to add to the store shelves. It could mean simple things like hang tags that clearly explain the product story. Or including care instructions. These are often overlooked by novice designers.
Sometimes it could mean including a feature that a particular store’s customers are looking for.
Oxgut founder Laura Le, who also works as a freelance producer at Google Brand Labs and other agencies, uses decommissioned fire hoses to design bags and home decor pieces. The Franchesi Tote featured here certainly passes the unique test.
Retailers however may have a few concerns before bringing it into their stores.
“I like the clean upcycled design” says Allison McGowan of Teich, a home goods boutique in the West Village. “I’ve learned that NYC customers want pockets in their totes, especially if they are open at the top as this one is. People want to be able to securely store valuables.”
While it’s ready for retail for the beach-going public in NorCal, one solution could be to produce a special edition for the NYC crowd with an extra pocket.
It could be all you need to get retail-ready for your favorite store.
Is it utilitarian?
While stores do stock novelty items, they prefer products that are not only unique, but also have regular use for personal purposes or as gifts.
For designers, stationary is a good place to start. Anything different from the Moleskin or Field Notes are great for grabbing a retailer’s attention.
Alex Pearson, who runs a freelance design studio, recycles the extra inventory from his Wes Anderson themed letter press posters into a set of notebooks.
“Colorful and quirky. Like the movie.” says Sylvia Parker of Upper West Side store Magpie, which focuses on sustainable products. “Three-pack size is an asset.”
Another area with a lot of utility and room for experimentation is barware. The sales are great all year round.
“Anything that can be used towards an alcoholic drink, people are always interested in.” says Michael Levy, Creative Director of San Francisco Curiosities Store Paxton Gate.
Retail stores offer great cred to independent designers and the shop local movement. Stores also purchase in lower minimums so the small batch quantities you make between gigs are welcome.
And how cool is it that you can start a side business selling barware. Tom Dixon would be the first to agree.
Would you like to know how your side product will do at stores? Send a link firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll include you in the next round of reviews and a chance to get sourced by the world’s best indie retailers.