Questions about Retail/Wholesale?

I was recently interview by Andreea Ayers and answered questions about retail/wholesale.

Getting to know… enV by Vanessa Coppes

by ANDREEAAYERS on JULY 15, 2011
Vanessa Coppes has built a successful jewelry business in just two short years. Her handmade jewelry line, enV by Vanessa Coppes, can be found in retailers in NYC, so I thought I would ask Vanessa about her experience with selling her products wholesale. Read on…
How long have you been selling wholesale and why did you decide to do it? 
I have been selling wholesale since January, 2010. The decision was based on getting my brand known and placed in more stores, other than just me doing all the work involved in selling.
How do you find stores to sell your products to? 
I visit them personally around NYC or in my travels and some have contact me directly.
From your experience, what is the best method to contact stores?
While email and social media can help start building a relationship with stores, I have never had a better response than when I’ve met personally with a store owner.
Has the economy affected your wholesale business? If so, how? 
Absolutely, orders are not as frequent as they used to be and since my product is not one to be considered a necessity, but rather a luxury, consumers are spending their money first on things they need and then on things they want.  This is why making personal connections with your customers is so important. When you as a business owner are emotionally invested in them and show you actually care, brand loyalty is created and can therefore guarantee repeat business.
From your experience, what are the top three most important things to keep in mind when doing wholesale?
  1. First build genuine relationship with the owners of potential stores you’d like your products in.
  2. Keep store owners informed of the strides you and your brand are making. It will only benefit your sales because they will talk about you/your product with their customers.
  3. Find an established, successful brand you understand your product is comparable to and use it as a guide. They have been in business longer and have done market researches that are working for them, you should take those as pointers for the direction you’d like to see yourself go in.
How do you balance doing both wholesale and retail?
While I would prefer to connect to all of my customers directly, it is physically impossible. Wholesale has allowed me to reach more customers. I have trunk shows where ever else my jewelry sold, so that I get to have contact with those “indirect” buying customers. However, the retail experience has been nothing but fruitful for my business. I get to chat with my customer on a daily basis, keeping me on my toes about what they like now, what they don’t and what they want see more of in the future.
What are some mistakes you have made while doing wholesale?
My biggest one was making my retail price too low (thinking my customer was me and not selling from their needs but my own. Not explaining the benefits of owning one of my pieces making pricing completely wrong).
What do you wish you knew before you started selling your products wholesale?
Having worked in retail before I started my business greatly helped me in knowing exactly how I wanted to serve my customer. The company I worked for invested in a lot of money in customer service training and company culture awareness for their staff. BUT what I knew nothing of was about pricing… period. I was giving my jewelry away. When I decided to step it up, I did a lot of research, joined a business networking group to understand not only what owning and managing a business really meant, but also learning from other retail store owners and buyers about how to successfully operate.
•    Anything else you’d like to share about selling wholesale?
Establish a reasonable first order minimum amount. In my experience, with the way the economy is, buyers are willing to work more with sellers who are willing to help the process. But also, do your research about a store who is either interested in you or you’re interested in.

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