Last Sunday, Marci of the famed store Lula Mae in California, was up until the late hours of the night swapping out Halloween skulls for stuffed bears with reindeer antlers. Like many store owners, Marci is in a mad dash to get things set up and unpacked for the holidays.
That means she's not as immersed in selecting new products to purchase for the store. She may be buying (it varies store to store) -- but not at the same rate as she might be in September or February. So, many makers will put their wholesale outreach and relationship-building on pause for a few months. Ultimately, we defer to each individual business owner about what is right for your business. You may want to take a break, and that’s fine. But here's what we know for sure: stores will be buying among their highest quantities as early as January -- and the best time to build the relationships that underlie those new purchases is now.
The best predictor of stable income and stable production quantities is to cultivate orders and relationships with retail outlets even when you’re at your busiest - because what you do now impacts what you get a few months from now.
It's kind of like my characteristically moderate health kick this past year. While most people hope to lose 10 pounds in a month (or a week!), I ate a little less and exercised a little more and lost 8 pounds in a year. Brownies were not off the menu and I did whatever exercise I actually enjoyed -- and never lost weight so slowly in my life. But this time, I feel healthier than I ever did when I lost weight fast, and I know it's sustainable. Similarly, your wholesale growth in November and December may not be flashy or mega-fast, but a year from now, you will see the results of the work you did now.
Yeah, but how do I find the time to do that?
One question I've heard from folks, though, is this: how do I find the time to do that outreach, when I barely have time to fill orders and deal with day-to-day? How do we tend to our immediate/cash-generating/urgent stuff while building the long-term/important initiatives that will benefit us in the future? This is a tension that is never resolved. The one thing that has worked for me in this area is just religiously blocking out a small-but-important chunk of time EVERY week. So, even 60 minutes per week, Friday at 8am. And you're not allowed to do anything in that 60 minutes except work on this long-term, important project. Once the time block is over, you drop it until next week -- but you always put in that time.
Ok, so how do I make the most of the time I spend?
There are a few things you can do. If you’re already a Wholesale In a Box customer, you’re already ahead of the game, as we make it less time consuming to find stores and simpler to manage the outreach. But we did want to share a few alternative perspectives on how to approach the season -- and your goals for engaging retailers. Some things to consider in your wholesale efforts this winter:
Shift your wording and what you request.
While normally you’re politely suggesting an immediate order, you can certainly shift your wording to request that they take a look at your products and let you know if they might be a good fit for the store at some point in the next few months.
Adjust your own goals.
Right now, your goals may be more about achieving a certain number of connections with stores, and less about orders placed. Once you hit January and February, you can return to an “orders placed” mindset -- but you’ll benefit from all the relationship building you did now.
Focus on building relationships now, and follow up for an order later.
One thing you can do is shift your followup schedule so that you’re sending one (maybe two) emails now -- and then following up for a final time in January. As a Wholesale In a Box customer, you can can ask us to adjust your followups to be in January rather than now, to make more time for production in coming weeks, and also have a more relationship-oriented approach with retailers. If you're not a customer, you can always set your calendar up manually.
As always, let us know what we can do to help. If you need a sounding board on your plan or feedback on your approach -- you can always feel free to set a quick call with us here.