Through the wonders of twitter I discovered Clare Yuille of the Indie Retail Academy and the incredible wealth of help and information she has put together for people who want to approach shops to stock their work. In short, she gives you the help and guidance you need to accomplish this! Clare kindly agreed to put together a post for Origami Chicken but if you want even more information be sure to visit the Indie Retail Academy website. Its worth its weight in gold! (If websites actually weighed anything that is...) :)
How to stop being scared of shopkeepers
Judging by the standard of submissions I receive at my boutique, many artists and makers find the idea of pitching their work to a shopkeeper seriously intimidating.
That’s a shame because indie retailers and artists make a great team. Together we bring creativity, distinctiveness and variety to the high street. Stocking your work helps me to offer my customer an experience they can’t get online or at that big shopping centre on the edge of town. In return, I can give you access to an audience which values quality, skill and craftsmanship.
Sounds good, right?
The problem is we’re never going to be able to work together if you’re too scared to get in touch.
So let’s look at what’s making you break out in a cold sweat. Is it this?
"I don't know what to say when I sit down to write an email to a shopkeeper. I don't know what you expect, or how things work. What if I make a mistake?"
Most artists and designers don't know how to pitch their work to retailers because no-one ever taught them. You might have learned how to screen-print, or about sixteenth century embroidery techniques, but no-one said "By the way, here's a bunch of stuff on how to actually, you know, RUN YOUR BUSINESS when you graduate."
Or maybe you're self-taught. Your interest turned into a hobby, your hobby turned into a business, and now you're here, wondering what the heck to do next. If this is you, the thing that's going to stop you feeling scared is understanding how retailers and designers work together. There's lots of stuff over on Indie Retail about this, with more arriving every week, but it all boils down to four questions:
Retailers need to know who you are, what you sell, how much it costs and why their customers want or need it.
Answer as simply and clearly as you can, show me high-quality pictures or samples, include all the relevant details, then stand back and let me make a decision. There are lots of ways to tip the odds in your favour, but in its simplest form that's what shopkeepers want from you.
And you know what else? We actually want you to get in touch.
No, really, we do. We want you to waltz into our inbox and blow our frikkin' socks off.
If your product is right for my shop and your pricing structure means we can both make some money from selling it, you just made my job (and my life) a whole lot easier. I'm rooting for you. I want to say “yes!”
Two things are guaranteed to increase your success rate:
* Target the retailers you pitch to with pin-point accuracy
If I woke you up in the middle of the night, shone a torch in your eyes and whispered "POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT. Why did you write to that indie shopkeeper last Tuesday?" you should be able to give me at least three reasons off the top of your head. Those reasons might be to do with style, price, location, the retailer's philosophy or how your product fits into their existing collection. Doing your homework before you get in touch is crucial but lots of artists and designers just don't bother. Make sure you do.
* Use a tone of voice in your email that's friendly, professional and sounds like you
Knowing what to say and how to say it in a pitch email can be hard. Think about how you talk to your customers, tutors, friends or colleagues about your work. The way you naturally communicate when you aren’t under any pressure is the tone of voice to use in your email. At the moment, this voice might run off and hide behind a bush when you ask it to help you pitch to a shopkeeper. It will be coming out to play somewhere in your life, though, so track it down.
My final thought on taking the fear out of writing to retailers is this.
If you make a damn good product and send it out into the world in the right way, the buyers will come.
Your work will find its right people. The shopkeepers and customers who naturally love what you do will be attracted your way. It'll all get so much easier.
But in order to get to that point, you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It takes time. It takes energy and consistency, and it also takes you doing the best you possibly can on a daily basis.
Yeah, I know that's scary too. But good scary. EXCITING scary. And I really believe you can do it.
Clare Yuille is an indie retailer and writer. She created Indie Retail Academy, a blog and digital resource which helps artists and designers learn how to sell their work to shops. She aims to take away the eeeek! and replace it with aaaaah.