How to successfully approach retailers and buyers

A post from our partner Cockpit Arts Making It blog:

The world of selling can be a daunting one,  so we asked Southbank Centre Retail Team’s Adam Thow and Katherine Walsh’s and Cockpit Arts Open Studios Manager Catherine Zoll  for their top tips to help you get through the door of major retailers.

1. Be professional
Buyers are approached every day and get numerous messages from people who don’t supply the right information. If your contacting a buyer make you include good quality images and a wholesale price list so you stand out from the crowd.

2. Do your market research
It’s crucial that you do your homework in advance of making any approach to a retailer. Visit the shop in advance so that you get a greater understanding of the type of customer that they are targeting and the ‘story’ that the shop communicating – retailers are looking for products that sit well with the “personality of their shop”. This saves time and demonstrates your understanding of the retailer. Also look at the other type of work that they’re stocking in terms of pricepoint and be careful not to try to compete with work that they already have.

Be careful and thoughtful about who you approach. Ask yourself is this really right for my image, the way I work and my products? Choose shops and spaces who are a good match and strengthen your brand or identity.  A good way to work this out is to look at the type of customers they attract – are these the type of customers you want to attract?

3. Be enthusiastic
Don’t be afraid to be different and let your personality shine through!

4. Be prepared
Be clear and confident in your presentation and approach. Make sure the retailer understands your lead and delivery times; provide them with information about how the work is made to strengthen the object’s inherent value. But don’t overload them – make sure information is relevant and useful!

5. Images are key
Make sure images are the best you can afford. They should show your work clearly. Choose a selection of detail shots, pieces in situ and whole items so retailers can instantly see the quality and nature of what you produce. 

 Coming up…we’ll be posting some top tips on how to develop a product specifically for retail so watch this space!

 About the author

Adam Thow, Head of Retail & Buying at Southbank Centre
Adam has been Head of Retail & Buying at Southbank Centre since 2008, with responsibility for the overall performance and ranges in the site’s three shops and online.

Katherine Walsh, Buyer and Merchandise Manager at Southbank Centre

Katherine is the Buyer and Merchandise Manager at Southbank Centre since 2007. Katherine has a wide range of experience in the retail sector and since joining the Southbank Centre has developed strong ranges for major shows at the Hayward Gallery including Psycho Buildings and Andy Warhol.

Catherine Zoll
Cockpit Arts Open Studios Manager, Catherine Zoll,  has extensive experience of the retail sector for craft, having managed projects for museumaker, Crafts Council Shops, V&A and Dazzle.

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