Post from guest author Viktoria Kanevsky. Originally published on vkecom.com
Wholesale suppliers for your boutiques are one of the most crucial parts of your business, as they are responsible for quality, quantity, and the uniqueness of your product mix.
Before choosing any supplier and placing your order, you have to have desirable product mix plan and budget. Don’t purchase what you love instead of what will appeal to your customers; unless your clients follow your recommendations and move those products.
SUPPLIER CHECKLIST FOR AN ONLINE BOUTIQUE
- Quality – what you see in pictures and what you touch and feel in person might be two different things. If you position your business as a boutique, it translates in customers’ mind as great quality products.
- Uniqueness –if you are the only one (or one of a few) carrying the product, you can price it higher. Side note- when selling online, you should sell something people are looking for to buy. If so, using the right SEO keywords will allow your store will pop up in the top results in a search engine.
- Pricing – always leave a sizable room for markups and promotions. For example, if you know that your established customers buy average $70, your wholesale spend should not be more expensive than half of it, unless you are planning a marketing campaign to reach new customer segment.
- Product availability – if you pre-buy, you might end up not receiving the product if the supplier did not project correctly and manufactured less product than received orders. In this case, product will go first to larger stores and repeated retail buyers.
- Shipping fees – Add them into your pricing.
- Supplier reviews – it’s always a good idea to find others experiences with each supplier. However, you should make your judgment. Sometimes bad reviews can be reflecting something other than product quality and prices.
If your boutique is relatively small, scratch the idea of ordering overseas because quality might be poor and minimum orders tremendous. Also, your merchandise can get stuck somewhere on the border for days or even weeks while you plan to have it for new arrivals or holiday season.
However, if you already have established suppliers with high quality who you can trust, go for it, because prices will be lower.
The “Big Guys” – Well – Known Brands
If you a completely new to this game and want to sell recognizable names, start contacting brands one by one and see if they are willing to sell for a boutique. Usually, they want to see which brands you already carry and unless you can show them a proof (written orders from other brands) the answer will be no.
For example, Joor is the largest big-brand name marketplace to source from. They will ask you for three purchase orders from already established brands. If you show it to them, they will accept you to the network. Otherwise, you won’t receive a response.
Big brands usually want to make sure that their products are displayed at well-established retailers so their pricing policy won’t be violated in any way. The solution is going to trade shows, meeting them in person, and building relationships personally. Or keep knocking at their doors.
Personally, I don’t think that selling big names is a good idea for boutiques because other companies sell them from already established and trusted online retailers. Usually, larger retailers can provide faster shipping, an easier return policy and better customer service. Their established name has already won customers’ trust and loyalty.
FINDING UNIQUE PRODUCTS
Going toward the year 2020, unique niche products sell the best. If you mix great quality merchandise with relatively one-of-a-kind inventory, you can have higher margins and better prices, more interesting mix and better chances to sell.
Different stores have product sourcing strategies; this is what has worked best for me:
Living in Los Angeles, it is easier to go directly to manufacturers. I do research online, schedule my shopping days (actually, this is one of my most favorite part of running my boutique) and buy merchandise.
If you are not from LA and don’t have a traveling budget, you can order your inventory online.
Just make sure that when ordering from the supplier the first time, you get the bare minimum to see the quality. The majority of suppliers won’t do returns unless there is something completely wrong with the product. Many of them do not excel in customer service either.
Wholesale Sourcing Checklist
- Major fashion marketplaces – for women, men, kids, accessories, shoes, lingerie, beauty, and gifts. All four are trusted and reputable (they pre-screen their vendors well), but you can’t see goods in person till you receive them.
- LAShowroom- LAShowroom provides order consolidation (when you buy from multiple vendors, you will receive one package) and private label (you can put your name on merchandise for very cheap).
- Fashiongo.net- FashionGo provides order consolidation as well.
- Orangeshine.com- I suggest signing for all of them because while some vendors/suppliers list overlap, you can find different new arrivals, brands, and designers in each.
- Poshmark.com – personally I’ve never bought from Poshmark wholesale, but I saw the same brands as on above marketplaces, plus more upscale merchandise, well-known brands, and super cute unique products. If you sell on Poshmark and meet their requirements, you can sign for their marketplace.
- Vendors’/suppliers’ websites– After you find what you want in the marketplace, you can buy either directly from them or your favorite vendors’ websites. Majority of vendors sell wholesale online. Usually prices are a bit less (a few dollars per piece/pack) when you buy directly from them, but web selection might be different (all depends on how much of in-house resources vendors have to run their website). If you can’t find their website, call them and ask for line sheets.
- California Mart & Cooper buildings – apparel, accessories, shoes, décor, gifts showrooms.
- Apparel/Accessories Tradeshows- for fashion.
- California Gift Show and LAmart – for gifts.
- San Pedro Mart – my favorite place, sourcing gem. Over the years, I spent days walking around finding the merchandise my customers love.
- Etsy – if you have a small boutique and like one-of-a-kind items, you can research Etsy and order wholesale from there.