How to Find Retailers
Finding retailers who want to buy your products
Finding retail outlets for your work may seem like an overwhelming task. There are several different methods to finding retailers, but all of them require a certain amount of tme and work.
Much to some producers dismay, I know of no directory of gift or retailers that are waiting and wanting to buy your products. When I started my sales rep business over ten years ago, I used many of the methods listed here. Of course, since that time, the internet has become more and more useful in finding stores.
Following is a list of the different ways that I found retailer and gift shops to buy the products I was representing.
One of the best way to find retailers is maybe too obvious. Actually walk the downtown or 'historical' section of community to check out the various stores will give you a feel for which outlets will work best. Often, if you find a store that is not interested in your products, the clerks and buyers will share with your which stores may be a better fit for your items. Stores usually will know their competition, and often are a good source for where your products may sell.
Of course this method only works if you are already visiting a particular town or areas -- but, obviously, ineffective if you looking for retail outlets from your home or office.
Local Chamber of Commerce
I have found local Chamber of Commerce office are a great resource for finding gift shops. Call the Chamber and ask about the local gift shops and retailers who may be interested in your line of products. I have found most Chamber personnel to be friendly, helpful and informative about their community..
Do be aware though, Chambers ofter will refer you only to members of their organization rather than tell you about all the potential store customers in their city. Even though, I have found that Chambers are very helpful in my search .... and often, there is a gift store right in the Chamber office or a shop located elsewhere that is run by the Chambers who may be interested in your products.
... Phone books and Online!
Local Yellow Pages
Looking in the yellow pages of the local phone book under 'your niche' categories should give you an excellent list of shops worth checking out. Often the Chamber, post office, or local phone company service center, will offer local phone books, so you don't always need to order them up in advance. You will find, of course, phone books are not always complete, and often a year or more out-of-date. As a result, listings do not include new stores that did not open before press time, or include stores that moved or went out of business. Even though this muddies the waters a bit, phone books are still a top method for locating wholesale buying prospects in the retail industry.
Online Yellow Pages
Another option to finding retail stores in advance of travel is to search via the internet. I recommend, of course, http://www.yellowpages.com. If you enter in the keyword "gift" and the city/state where you are currently browsing for customers, you will get a good list of stores in those towns that sell gift products. While this database is not perfect, and often includes stores that moved, or are out of business, (or big advertisers with no business in that section,) it's one of the best resources I've found.
Best Method for Finding Retail Stores ....
.... Using Online Yellow Pages
Meryl Hooker, sales rep and author, has listed some excellent tips on Finding Wholesale Customer and Gift Shops. Here is her 7 step process to building a solid prospect list of retailers
"1. Pick a city-any city-you don't have any accounts in that city. Just start an online search for stores in that city.
2. As you find stores that look like a good fit for your products, take your research further by searching for more information on each store. It is amazing what stores will tell you on their websites.
3. Through your business page on Facebook and business Twitter feed, Like and Follow every store that looks like a prospect for you. If you don't have a business page and business Twitter account, set them up NOW.
4. Start compiling a list in your CRM (customer relationship management database) of these stores and pull all the relevant information into it, including the name of the buyer and an email address made public.
5. Create an inviting email with pictures of your line. Include a call to action in the email such as a promotion or discount.
6. A week later, call each of the stores you sent your email to (and didn't get a response) and talk to them about your line. Extend the special offer to them personally and start to build a personal rapport with them. Be prepared to email them a PDF of your catalog or mail them a printed catalog if they request one.
7. When you exhaust one city, pick another and repeat the process".
Meryl's method takes longer than most sellers are willing to spend -- but that is also a positive point! Taking the time to work through the Online Yellow Pages will put you one up on our competition who may not want to take the time!
NOTE: When I used this process, I listed my prospect in a Microsoft Access Database system ... but you can use any database system you have including Excel or Outlook, for example .
Last, but not least, is connecting with buyers and retailers via social media. Although the retail sector is a bit behind the times when it comes to the internet, there are still ways to find and connect on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.
LinkedIn features several different types of group for retailers. Finding these is as easy as going to the Group Directory page and list some key works. Gift Shops brought up several interesting groups such as ...
Retailrehab -- independent retailers
Hospital Gift Shops
RETAILERS LOOKING FOR WHOLESALE FASHION JEWELRY
Catholic and Inspirational Gift
There are also several options under the keywords: Retail Stores
Or course, I would not recommend joining these groups and making your first post a sales pitch for your products. Join in on the conversation and recommend your website when and where appropriate.
Facebook retailers are a bit harder to find, but some are out there. I would suggest searching more by location. If you watch which Fan Pages your friends are liking, you will find retail stores.
Pinterest is also a place to watch as many of the items that are pinned are featured from gift/retail store sites.
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