I posted in this forum because this is a mix of woodworking and a response to add to what Larry has asked and share some insight which if you aint been exposed to the industry you can end up paying significant school fees to learn. Thats just a waste.

So picking up on where the thread left off i thought to offer a bit of food for those who want to sell product to retailers in a wholesale manner to consider.

Getting back to understanding the world of your target client retailer or not, there can be a tendency for us to accept the stereotypes that we pick up from all sorts of inputs.

Example take the undertaker back in western days the images we all have is of a coffin maker that built a plain and simple pine box. The basis of this was who was picking up the tab and money was not flying around.

This image would have us believe therefore that poor people in poor countries going to the undertaker for a coffin would be seeking out the cheapest box, after all the poor are stereotypically again thought not to have prepared for this occassion.

Well to prove how wrong we can be consider this guys blog post. It was the first thing i found when searching for what i knew was out there but needed some pictures to illustrate the point.

This is Ghana. A place which is not home to the wealthy. Yet when they need a coffin no expense is spared. The coffin makers are more like artists and the idea is you get burried in something very close to your heart. We might for example wish to have a Stanley plane type coffin image etc.

So whats this got to do with selling to retailers?

Well these guys are servicing a market with a client base that is seeking color variety form uniqueness and the last element on the list is price. Yes there is a market price and price point for affordability sake. Competition in a free market sees to that on its own.

So imagine for a minute you are the supplier to these guys and they instead of being vertically integrated manufacturer/wholesaler/retailer, were only the retailer.

If you approach them with a design of a duck, and have an offer to supply a dozen ducks, imagine what the response will be. They may have one client come along wanting to be buried in a duck but certainly not going to buy a dozen and even more so if you only offer the Henry Ford approach to color...black.

Now lets move to a more sophisticated retailer in the US in a small town. Read my comments about his business environment in the sales post of Larrys and then add this information to it.

You come in with a widget you can make. You offer it to him at a good price. ( I have already said price is not the issue) But consider for a moment that this retailer probably has around 2000 items or more in his stock. Ask a guy like Allen L how many differnt skus he had in his store. Now imagine that this guy gets 10 from each supplier that would mean he has to have 200 suppliers.
Now just think of what he has to do to pay 200 suppliers and keep track of 200 suppliers shipments.

This is why he deals with a wholesaler. The wholesaler carrys the load and ensures supply of a variety of goods in specific categories he services.

So where does that leave you. How do you get a piece of the action and stand a chance.

Well to start with, consider the targeted retailer and his target market and demographic in turn. You need to practice being a scientist and detective. Observation and polite interrogation is the key.

See if he is to buy from you he may want unique items if that is what his business is about. If not then he may want a range of items and need them to be consistent and able to be ordered and even stocked in quantities of greater than one.

But this goes back to your own business plan and that is what is it that you are trying to accomplish and how are you going about it.

Before you get to the retailer you should have determined that you are in the business of making unique items as say Bernie does with his birdsnests or as Mack or Les does with their pens.

In these cases the retailer can stock a variety and it will suite his clientel and his business.

But in certain product categories multiples are something that may be needed. For more than just one reason. Mrs Jones sees Mrs Smith has widget x and wants the same. Mr retailer needs to have it in stock. In some cases right down to the same color and model.

On the other hand Mrs Smith might want it in Maple where Mrs Jones bought walnut.

SO Mr Retailer needs to be presented with a range of skus. One product with a variety of variations. But with consistency of supply such that he can re order specific items in the range and they replace what he has sold.

From the range you offer him say 5 colors or variants, he may only elect to carry 3 feeling that his clientel may not like the other two and if he is a good retailer buyer he WILL know this and know best.

But that dont mean you should drop the two colors he aint buying because Mr Retailer B in the next village may pick a differnt set.

Besides they need the variety offered to be able to make a choice.

So widget A gives you already 5 skus.

Add widget B and Widget C an Widget D to your range and keep them in the same category or if possible see if they can cross categories and you have a way better chance at securing a sale.

Simply by doing this you will have communicated to him that you understand some of his business.

On the other hand, you wall in with a single item in one wood type and expect him to buy 10 and keep em in his store ..... well you lucky he was polite .....because by now it should be obvious that he is not in the business of buying any old thing that walks through the door, thats for pawn shops and we know thats not a place you go to make a good deal. He politely told you he aint a pawn shop looking at liquidating any old thing you make.

So dont be discouraged. Dont give up. Just see this the same way i did when i discovered the different meanings to the word sharp when learning to sharpen as it applies to planes and chisels.

Regroup think through what you wish to do and then approach it strategically armed with any learning you picked up along the way.

While touching on this subject, dont for one minute discount packaging. Ask Toni what companies spend on design and packaging and why? Yet so many woodworkers see this as a cost element.

Packaging adds huge value in several areas.

1) Think of the spare parts industry for automakers. There is a total difference in percieved quality between two of the same parts put into different boxes. A piston manufactured by supplier A and sold in a box with a branded company logo on it when its put on the counter and that same piston with a blank cheap grey cardboard box have two different cues to quality. This is all the consumer is able to use to judge differences. 90% do not have the ability to tell that they are the same product even if you put them in their hands. If they could there would be no brands.

2) It protects the product. Imagine, you have heard Vaughn mention how after a day at the market with people handling his fine work, the finger prints have messed them up. Well think of this in the store. You could eliminate this by offering a merchandising service. Kinda package the stock and give him one for a display piece. Undertake to replace it every so often and go to the store and do so and take it back and buff it up again. People want to feel and touch otherwise they would have bought it online.

3) Packaging can add instructions and branding which sets the product apart. A fine hand crafted pen like Mack makes has a very differnt perception of craftsmanship presented in his wooden hand made boxes with brass pin hinges than a plain ole cardboard box. But there are times when the retailers clients will not be able to meet that sort of price point so be prepared for differnces.

The list goes on....the key is look around you when you go into the store. Size up what the retailer is all about. Do your research and put yourself in his shoes.

Also have some literature on your product. If neccessary include an instruction set. Even if it says put down this way. Sometimes the obvious is not obvious but the mere presence of some of this stuff shows you know its neccessary to make a good product.

If the retailer is not approachable at the time have something more than a business card to leave him. Let him have a brochure and even a free sample to pay with. This is the cost of doing business. Remember we see on tv with all these antique and collectable shows how back inthe day they made "Salesmans samples" all for good reason. And to top it off just look at the workmanship that went into them. They were exact replicas of the original.

There is no reason you cannot have made a two page brochure and had a very few printed in color at your local staples or kinko service center. You dont need to print a 1000. Sure they cost a few dollars this way but you aint in the spray and pray business. You are targeting select retailers. Not 1000 end consumers who you hope if you lucky 1% will respond to your flyer.

Better to have 20 brochures that cost you $100 as sales aids than 1000 that cost you only $300 but you cannot use.

Microsoft office online has templates for this kind of thing that you only need to populate with a bit of wording and a few pics from a digital camera. Its amazing what technology has enabled in this space for small start ups.

Again i say its a matter of how professional you come across and how serious you demonstrate you are at making a go of the product that will offset the perception of risk this guy has towards small one man shops.

Once again i hope this helps someone make a buck or two and get more succesful at selling their wares.