It’s been a difficult time for fashion brands, with over 37% estimated to have closed in 2021. But for survivors and startups, the news is better: Fashion e-commerce has grown in the past few years and is expected to grow more than 14% annually between 2017 and 2025.
With so much volatility, now is the time to ensure your brand is taking advantage of wholesale and e-commerce opportunities.
This guide will cover key strategies for a successful wholesale business, from creating a brand identity to optimizing your sales process.
Let’s get started.
Chapter 1: Building a brand to last.
Whether you’re selling retail or wholesale, creating a strong brand identity is essential to ensuring your brand’s long-term success.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- What story am I trying to tell? (Think “elevator pitch.”)
Example: “The one-stop-shop for parents who need functional, affordable clothing for their young children…”
- What does my brand stand for? What are the company’s values?
Examples: Sustainability, empowering young women
- Who is my brand’s ideal customer?
Examples: People who love skateboarding, women who love beach vacations, hip hop fans
Once you’ve solidified your brand identity, convey it clearly in your marketing messages, website, images, and line sheets. More on line sheets later.
Create products that last.
Fast fashion has its place, of course. But for your brand to last the test of time, your products should last, too. This means thinking ahead — not just in the now.
You can focus on designing timeless pieces, but at the bare minimum, they should be able to span one year.
Why one year?
First, you don’t want customers to move on from your products a few months after they’ve come out.
Second, you want to think globally. Let’s say you’re in the Northern hemisphere, designing for Winter 2021. You want your collection to be as successful in six months when it reaches winter in the Southern hemisphere.
Chapter 2: Find the right buyers for your brand.
Many brands want to scale quickly and try to jump to selling to major retailers. But this isn’t always the best idea. Most major retailers expect brands to provide net terms and may want to negotiate consignment conditions. This is often difficult for small businesses.
For this reason, a good strategy is to build hype with small boutiques until your business is ready to take that next step.
So, how do you choose which buyers to target?
Do your research. Check out their online presence and ask yourself: Can they help me build reach? Are their customers the right target for my products? What brands are they stocking right now? Are they stocking my direct competitors? Would my brand be a good addition?
Consider the entire process, from the warehouse to the customer. Will it be a positive experience from end to end? What is the retailer’s customer experience? What kind of customer reviews does the retailer have?
And remember: Trying to sell to everyone and anyone may sound great, but setting standards for who your buyers are is a great way to ensure brand integrity. The last thing you want is a store that’s a poor fit for your brand’s identity to try to sell your products.
Be prepared to say “no” if buyers — including major retailers — are not willing to offer you fair terms.
Three tools for finding buyers.
In addition to research, take advantage of all available tools to find good buyers. Here are three we recommend.
- Trade Shows
Trade shows are a great place to meet a lot of potential buyers within a short time frame. Start by searching for trade shows in your category. For example, if you’re a streetwear brand, look at Project in Las Vegas or Chicago Collective in Chicago. The next step is to decide on your display booth strategy. To learn more about that, check out this guide.
- Brandboom Connect Marketplace
The Connect Marketplace is a truly one-of-a-kind sales and marketing tool. It uses AI technology to market your brand to new buyers 24/7. Here’s how it works.
Connect Marketplace uses AI to learn not only about your brand but also about more than 200,000 verified buyers worldwide. Using this information, Brandboom Connect matches your brand with the best potential buyers for your products.
Connect then displays your presentation on their curated Buyer feeds. You can think of these like Instagram, but for wholesale. Buyers who like your products can submit a purchase order directly through your presentation. It’s a great way to get your brand in front of new potential buyers, especially new, midsize retailers that can help your brand reach the next level.
- Shopify for Retail
If you sell retail and wholesale, boosting your retail sales can also help you find more wholesale buyers. The more people wear your brand through D2C sales, the more retailers want to sell your products in their stores.
Shopify is a great way to grow your retail sales. You can build a storefront and take retail orders directly through Shopify.
To get the biggest bang for your buck, we recommend integrating your retail storefront with your wholesale line sheet so your entire sales process is connected. More on how to do this later.
Chapter 3: Optimize your sales process.
To optimize your sales process, think about the entire buyer experience. Let’s break down how to make the best impression from start to finish.
1) Reach out to potential buyers.
Sales is a relationship business. It’s tempting to prioritize other tasks over reaching out to potential buyers, but there’s no substitute for reaching out personally.
When introducing yourself and your brand over email, focus on the buyer and their needs, not your personal history. Convey how your products are the perfect fit for their stores. Be careful to avoid the overly obvious sales pitch. Keep it friendly and short, and don’t send them too many emails.
When you talk about your brand, focus on your efficiency, availability, and ability to deliver on time. Make sure your terms of sale are clear. Make them feel confident, and they’ll be willing to go out on a limb and place an order with your brand.
2) Optimize your product presentations.
In wholesale, the industry standard for displaying and ordering products is through a line sheet. A strong line sheet will have information about your brand, lifestyle images, high-quality product photos, and organized product sections. These elements work together to create a clear vision of your brand identity and your collections.
When creating the line sheet, revisit your brand identity and ideal customer. Make sure your line sheet reflects that.
For instance, let’s say your target market is young women who love travel and vacationing, and your line sheet focuses on women’s swimwear. Include lifestyle images of young women vacationing in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach or pool, or exploring the coast of Cancun. Put effort into writing about what makes your swimwear unique.
Keep in mind major retailers will expect a customized line sheet. Research the retailer. What brands do they already have? How can you enhance your line sheet to show why your brand would fit in their storefront?
What you use to create the line sheet is up to you. We recommend using cloud-based line sheets over creating a PDF with Photoshop or other tools. Here’s why:
- Any changes you need to make are updated on the buyers’ end in real time. This includes adding new products, marking products as on sale, marking products as sold out, etc.
- Some platforms allow buyers to place orders directly from within the line sheet. This simplifies the process for both Buyers and Sellers.
- Cloud-based line sheets are quickly becoming the industry standard, and buyers have come to expect them.
To create a cloud-based line sheet, check out Brandboom’s line sheet creation tools here.
Other benefits of this platform include access to order management, invoicing, payment, and shipping tools in one place.
Brandboom also offers integration with Shopify, which we touched on earlier. This integration is ideal for those using Shopify for retail. Since many brands will sell the same products with retail and wholesale, syncing with Shopify increases accuracy and saves you time to focus on your business.
With the integration, you’ll use Shopify for D2C sales and Brandboom for wholesale. Our Product Sync feature lets you import your products from Shopify to Brandboom in minutes. And using our Inventory Sync feature, you can instantly sync your Shopify inventory with Brandboom and export Brandboom orders back into Shopify.
Now back to optimizing your sales process.
3) Expand your reach through SEO and social media marketing.
Make sure buyers can find you. You can boost Google visibility using SEO or with Google Ads.
To increase your placement in the Google search rankings, determine which keywords you want to rank for, and tailor your website copy accordingly. Paying to run Google Ads campaigns can also lift your ranking.
If your brand sells retail and wholesale, try running ads on Facebook or Instagram.
Also, reach out to influencers and offer them affiliate links so they earn a percentage of any product sales through their content. It’s a great incentive for them to promote your brand or products.
Finally, many brands have also found tremendous marketing success by creating funny videos on TikTok.
4) Continue growing existing relationships, and prioritize your reputation.
If someone didn’t purchase from you during your last collection, it doesn’t mean it’s a dead end. Maybe they didn’t have the budget at the time. Or perhaps it wasn’t a good fit for their store, but they have a contact that would be a great fit. You never know what opportunities can unfold.
So long as they’re a good target for your brand, don’t give up. If you have reps, make sure they follow up with potential buyers. When new items are available, let your potential buyers know what they can look forward to.
And don’t forget your buyers that have previously placed orders. If you’ve promised them a specific delivery date, make sure you meet (or exceed) those expectations. When planning inventory, consider how your buyers normally purchase. Will they buy multiple times a year? Or less often, but in bigger quantities? Make sure you plan for this.
Chapter 4: Choose the right manufacturing and pricing options.
Decisions on manufacturing, pricing, and order minimums do not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Consider these factors when making your decision.
1) Overseas vs. domestic manufacturing: pros and cons
Overseas manufacturing is less expensive, but it requires larger quantities. Communication and logistic problems can arise due to language barriers, time differences, and long shipping times.
Domestic manufacturing is more expensive but allows lower quantities, and communication and logistics are much easier.
2) Wholesale and Retail Prices
The difference between the wholesale price and MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) depends on product type and manufacturing costs. We generally see wholesale prices that are 20% - 60% of retail.
But what if you’re worried that your wholesale prices are too low to make a profit? Many brand owners feel their only option is to go direct-to-consumer because their wholesale-to-cost margins are too low.
This is an easy trap to fall into. You want your prices to be competitive, so what should you do if your manufacturing costs are high?
It’s important to let Buyers know why your costs are high. Are your products manufactured locally, handcrafted, or sustainably sourced? These are factors people appreciate and are willing to pay more for. Being transparent about your costs can help justify your prices. In turn, it will help your Buyers justify their retail prices.
Remember, you don’t want to undervalue your product!
3) Setting quantity or dollar minimums.
When deciding on minimums, consider your prices and your buyers’ budget.
For instance, let’s say you have a minimum order quantity of 50. Some small boutiques can’t order that much. You’ll want to bring that number down if you sell to mostly boutiques.
Now, let’s say you set a dollar minimum of $400. If you sell coats that are $100 each, that’s only four coats. That might be too low a threshold for your manufacturer to start production. In this case, you’d need to increase your dollar minimum. But if you sell beanies, a $400 minimum makes more sense because it yields a much higher quantity.
Another option is to set a higher minimum for first orders, but a lower minimum for subsequent orders.
Brandboom lets you easily set quantity minimums per style and dollar minimums per order form.
The Key to Success
The truth is, there is no step-by-step plan every brand can replicate for success.
The key is putting your brand and buyers at the forefront of all your decision-making. Think about how you can improve your brand identity, reach your ideal customer, create the best experience for your buyers (whether boutiques or major retailers), set prices based on your business costs, and so on. Happy wholesaling!
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