Behind The Scenes: Let's Do Wholesale!
Ever wonder how all those fun things from different brands get into your local brick-and-mortar western wear store? How does your local shop owner know where to buy them? And how does a local shop owner make money from selling them? Well, today's your lucky day as I answer all these questions and more.
The one word response to all of the above is "wholesale." Let me elaborate... There's a process by which aspiring brands in any industry, not just western, get their products into local shops across the country and even abroad. That process of wholesaling requires a lot of planning, preparation, and sound decisions. Today, I'm taking you behind the scenes to show you a little snippet of what that looks like for Buckaroo Bling.
When you look at the rows of boots, or racks of clothing, or cases of turquoise jewelry at your local western store, it's probably hard for you to even imagine how much behind-the-scenes work goes into obtaining and displaying all of those goodies. From the store owner's point of view, there's wholesale buying, pricing, inventory, and displaying before they can even think about starting to sell those items. On the part of people who make all those wares, there's even more to think about and do.
Here's how we do it at Buckaroo Bling. Year 2019 was the first time ever we participated in a wholesale trade show, and we'll be doing it again in March this year. Wholesale trade shows are like art and craft shows open only to store buyers (no, you can't get your pass unless you own a brick-and-mortar store or a mass merchandise shopping website), where they look at what new items or collections brands and manufacturers have for the coming season. The most famous western wholesale shows are Denver WESA (soon to be moving to Texas) and Dallas Market. Any self-respecting western store owner or buyer attends one or both of these shows. In Montana, we've got a mini version called Made In Montana Trade Show where makers of certified Made in Montana products can connect with Montana brick-and-mortar store owners each year well in advance of the tourist season. That's where Buckaroo Bling went and is going again this year.
From the maker's point of view, applying for and getting into a wholesale show is around 8 on a difficulty scale from 1 to 10. So what all goes into it? First, the maker has to have a collection of items that can be easily reproduced when store buyers place their orders. Can you make a hundred of the same item if a buyer wants them? How much time would it take to do that? Will you be making profit and how much of it when the order is placed? Will the store buyer be able to mark up the wholesale price they paid for your items enough to make a decent profit and still be able to sell oodles of what you make? Who pays for shipping? And how do you pack and ship your items in the first place? The maker needs to answer all of these questions before even beginning to design a collection for wholesale market.
Next, there's the actual process of designing. To learn more about that, check out this blog post. Once the collection is designed, sketched, out, and samples made, there comes time to have each of the items photographed. Why? Because store buyers need something to refer to if they want to re-order your products later in the year, and that's where line sheets come into play. Line sheets are sort of a collection catalog for wholesale. They include photos, pricing, and other important information for each item in the collection, as well as info on shipping, payment terms, returns and exchanges, and the ways to contact the maker when buyers have a question or want to place a wholesale order.
What you see in the top left corner of the photo above is the line sheet (it actually has several pages) for our original Dream Catchers Collection. Still, that's not the only piece of paperwork that needs to be made for a wholesale show. The maker has to have wholesale account applications on hand (right corner of the picture above) to be able to check that the buyer really is who (s)he says (s)he is, a wholesale order form that spells out all terms for the sale made at the show, eye catching postcards that the potential buyers can take home with them if they're not ready to place an order on the spot (back side of one of our postcards shown in the bottom of the photo above), a media kit should some of the local or national press show interest, and lots and lots of business cards. Can you imagine how much time - not to mention money - goes into creating all of these? How about having them printed and ready to go on the first day of the show? Now you understand why it's not wise to sell one-of-a-kind items at a wholesale show, don't you? And that's not even touching on the steps that go into filling out an application and getting accepted into a wholesale show!
So, the next time you see designs from a small brand in your local western wear store, think about this and try to shop small. That'll help small brands like Buckaroo Bling grow bigger, and it'll help you appreciate their work more the next time you consider buying from them. In the meantime, if you're planning to be in Helena, Montana in March and have a brick-and-mortar shop, come see us in Booth 181 at Made In Montana Wholesale Trade Show. Not traveling to Helena? Check out our wholesale terms by clicking the button below. Not a shop owner but love what Buckaroo Bling has to offer? Visit our online shop here or check the live events in your area that we'll be attending here.