If you are a creative professional in the business or consider yourself an enthusiast of all that is fashion, you are most aware of where the industry’s calendar cycle is usually during this time of the year. The Covid-19 pandemic has upended any and all normalcy with regards to national and international Fashion Houses’ runway events and the numerous trade shows designed to bring together industry professions to meet face to face with the purpose of selling their runway collections wholesale to retailers.
One of our future goals is to exhibit at one of the largest accessory trade shows in the country to network with stylists and industry professionals who are more inclined to buy custom one-offs or limited collections. For our bespoke business, it has benefitted us more to showcase our luxury goods through high-end retailers and luxury boutiques who cater to a sophisticated and discerning luxury demographic. The experience of visiting retailers has produced amazing relationships with the owner/buyer of the boutique, even if we haven’t placed products. Never burn bridges! A “no” now, can turn into a “yes” at a later date.
I would suggest that many boutiques will have laser focus on bringing traffic back into their physical stores, while sharpening their social media platforms to keep customers engaged. High-end boutiques will want to partner with luxury brands showing authenticity and can successfully communicate values that clients fall in love with and want to support through their purchases. So, if you’re a small luxury brand who will be “knocking on doors” in the coming months, below are the top 5 tips from Industry Professionals on successful sales meetings with boutique buyers.
1. Know your Product
Sounds crazy…of course, but do you know your product? Do you have the ability to clearly communicate why your product(s) should be placed in a targeted boutique and displayed on their website? Can you effectively share your lines’ features and benefits and how it is better or different? Look at your products from the buyer or her/his customers’ standpoint and be able to answer any objections that will undoubtedly surface in the sales appointment. Are you able to communicate your minimums, deliverables, wholesale and suggested retail prices, shipping costs, packaging specs, payment terms, how will you handle problems with the order, how they can place an order on your website, and if all else fails exploring consignment options?
2. Know your Potential Buyer and their Store
Do your homework! This process is about the buyer and their clients. Maybe the first time you visit is to just do reconnaissance to get a feel for the store after their Covid-19 revamping. Look at their website and social media. What lines do they currently carry, the price points, and does your product fit? Beau Satchelle had an experience with a boutique who sold lovely high-end apparel, but the owner was facing challenges with her location and wasn’t attracting enough of the right traffic that could afford her beautiful expensive outfits. Needless to say, as much as she loved our pieces, we were unable collaborate and showcase any of our collections; but made a quality connection.
3. Know what to Bring for the Appointment
Besides your PPE gear to protect you and the owner, your garment bags or travel-sample cases need to look neat and professional. Beau Satchelle actually uses large trunks with wheels to transport the leather bags. Before one piece is shown, the buyer sizing you up. Are you organized or are they concerned they will be dealing with chaos? Be sure your products are well presented and your line sheets are vivid with clear copy, featuring full descriptions of your wholesale prices and style numbers… all the information that I mention in tip #1, a Look-book or photo album, color charts, order forms, and the ability to take a credit card for the order.
4. Know how to Show your Line
Memorize your line sheet and practice presenting the products in order of the line sheet. Do follow the buyer’s lead and don’t talk yourself out of an order. Because of the quality craftsmanship of Beau Satchelle, the goal is to just let the buyer enjoy the experience of smelling the leather, modeling the handbag or travel bag, admiring the hand-stitching and exploring other additions (ie. placing their cell phone in the pocket, attaching their keys onto the key fob holder, etc). This process is more powerful than my sales pitch. In addition, part of my presentation is to share the unique story of how the collection or a specific piece received its name and the back-story of our company.
5. Know how to Close the Sale/Take the Order
Be sure to communicate how you will handle the details when they place an order (are you providing the display stands, signage, gift with purchase, samples, sizes and color chart, point of purchase stand – the less work for the retailer to sell your products, the happier they’ll be). Conversations about supplying e-commerce or editorial pictures will certainly take place. All of our handbags come with personalization, a luxuriant engraved gift box, a dust-bag, a handbag raincoat and a bag holder –important packaging details for the retailer to be aware of when they sell our bag.
Then ask for the sale! “When can I deliver the first line?” “How many of this collection do you want to order today?” Throughout the appointment, take plenty of notes, especially on the pieces that they buyer liked so that you know what to focus on in asking for the order. Many a designer walk out without the order because they didn’t ask. If the buyer says no, have a great follow-up plan B, C, and D.
Unless you design as a fun hobby, no doubt, become really good at the above process (until you have the ability to hire sales reps). Making revenue is the first step in being a creative entrepreneur!
I give them all the credit in providing the informative content that I used for this blog and helping Beau Satchelle’s process with reaching out to boutiques. -AJ