Getting Started with Wholesalers and Stockists
Think of the first time you played Monopoly. There’s a good chance you were quite young and had a pretty rudimentary understanding of the rules. You rolled the dice, made your way around the board with your thimble or Scotty dog, and collected your $200 reward. Maybe you went to jail and maybe you even bought a house or two; likely, though, that was the extent of your experience. You were invested in the game, you spent time and energy, you wanted to win, but realistically, you were never really playing – just participating.
To really play a game, in the true sense of the word, you need to know the rules. Not only know the rules, but understand their intricacies well enough to strategize, plan, and execute on them. In this series for Growing a Profitable Jewelry Business, we are applying this principle to the retail jewelry industry.
While most jewelry business owners can envision the end goal of “winning,” few of them can visualize the tangible steps to get to that point. During each of the 7 parts of the series, we’ll be introducing essential rules of the jewelry game, walking through how to act on them tactically, and reinforcing best practices. As with any game, there is a factor of chance and luck, but we’re hoping to give you enough resources to maximize your opportunity for success.
In this first installment, we’re making an introduction to the world of wholesale.
Most independent jewelry designers sell directly to those who will actually wear their product. Designers reach customers through marketplaces like Shapeways or Etsy, on their own Shopify or Squarespace sites, in-person at trade fairs, or through a combination of efforts. While this business-to-consumer (B2C) approach no doubt has the potential for substantial revenue, for many, it can be slow-going. It requires a lot of upfront effort, targeting to the right customers, and can often yield a low return on investment.
If you are serious about growing your jewelry business, your best route forward is to add a wholesale channel to your sales ecosystem. This business-to-business (B2B) model changes your customer from an individual to a wholesaler or stockist.
Wholesaler : a merchant middleman who sells to retailers. These retailers then typically sell that product to end customers.
Stockist: Person or stores that sell a particular assortment of products. This assortment is generally made up of a varied brand mix aimed at addressing a niche audience, e.g. NET-A-PORTER or Urban Outfitters
What Can Wholesale Do for My Business?
While adding a new sales channel may seem like a lot of work, wholesale can be integral to augmenting your speed of growth and your ability to build brand equity.
Larger Orders and Recurring Revenue
Acquiring these types of clients allows you to book larger sales at one time. Buyers are typically seeking to stock inventory for resale in their e-commerce or brick and mortar channels of business. This means larger budgets than your average consumer and more consistent need. With well managed relationships, you can establish larger one-time sales combined with more predictable and consistent recurring revenue streams for your business. A more stable cash flow is never a bad thing.
Bulk and Volume Pricing Breaks
Since wholesale orders are typically in larger quantities, these can be a great opportunity to take advantage of bulk and volume pricing breaks, such as those provided by Shapeways. We offer the following discounts on all of our cast metals except pure gold and platinum:
Order Size | Discount
26 – 50 | 5% off
51 – 100 | 10% off
101+ | 15% off
These discounts can lead to higher gross margins for you and can allow you to incentivize customers or stockists with discounted prices as well. We’ll go into greater depth on pricing strategy in a future installment of the series.
Increased Brand Exposure
By being strategic with the wholesalers and stockists you target, your brand is able to gain exposure in new customers and geographies, beyond your individual reach. Partnering with the right stores can also associate your product with more popular brands, providing the opportunity to improve brand recognition and brand positioning.
Choosing the Right Stockists for Your Brand
While there are countless jewelry wholesalers and stockists, considered targeting is a key part of both a success outreach campaign and effective brand building. Brand fit, customer fit, and price fit are at the core of these considerations.
For a young company, any association shapes how people perceive and categorize your brand. Resellers are a direct association that can have a huge impact on brand perception; many times, they create an individual’s first experience with the brand. For that reason, brand fit is arguably the most important consideration in finding a stockist or wholesaler. A good stockist fit can reinforce your brand message and provide clout to your brand’s name; conversely, a bad stockist fit can devalue or convolute your product and brand identity to consumers.
Some key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating brand fit are:
- Consistent or complementary aesthetic with your visual direction
- Stocking of analogous brands/products that your target customer would seek out
- Business core values, mission, and brand association that are in-line with your brand
- Co-branding opportunities between your brand and the stockist, e.g. J. Crew x Your Brand
Customer fit goes hand-in-hand with brand fit. The customer purchasing from your stockist should be the customer that you’re targeting for your own brand. Consider both the demographics and psychographics of the person you envision purchasing your products and consider the customer base associated with each stockist. Explore resellers’ social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) and followers . If possible, even go to their physical locations to get a sense of their customer base.
Keep in mind the retail price point for your products and evaluate how your prices compare with similar product categories at the retailers you’re considering. This will often be a deciding factor in whether a stockist will consider you and also whether your product will actually move. Price fit also plays into brand consistency, as surrounding your product with significantly cheaper product can decrease its perceived value and cheapen your brand.
How to Find Stockists
Once you have an idea of the type of stockist you want to target, the next step is to actually put together your initial outreach list. We typically recommend starting with about 10-15 stockists to start. The most useful tool for finding stockists is probably already at your fingertips: Instagram.
The app’s discovery algorithm is designed to aggregate similar content and similar users, so it is ideal for searching for stockists that fit into a similar profile. Start by searching for specific stockists that you may already have in mind and use the suggested accounts drop down on the user page to find more accounts like it (see image below as an example).
Repeat this process and you can quickly come up with a list of potential targets. If you’re having trouble getting started, try searching for hashtags that match your product type or aesthetic. It takes some playing around, but once you find your niche, you can fairly quickly generate the list. For getting access to contact information, use a combination of the companies’ websites, Google Maps, and Facebook business pages (great for locating phone numbers), and you can gather the basic information necessary to reach out.
Trade shows can be an alternative approach to expose your brand to many stockists at once, but we’ll cover this more in-depth in a future installment.
Stay tuned for the next part of our series, where we’ll discuss the components of price and an intro to strategic pricing.
Contact us if you have any questions on growing your jewelry business or have a bulk order that you’d like to scope out.
About the authors:
Ross Keong is a Strategic Sales Manager specializing in growth development for B2B users in the industries of jewelry, fashion, art, and design.
Virginia Gordon is the US Jewelry Community Manager, helping designers build a successful jewelry business using Shapeways and 3D printing