How to pitch your fashion brand at wholesale: 10 tips from a retail buyer

Fashion brands that start selling at wholesale can often find themselves acquiring lots of new skills; one of the biggest hurdles to get over can be learning what does and doesn’t work when you’re pitching to potential new B2B (business to business) customers.

Pitching, especially in person, can be quite nerve-wracking, particularly when you know they could be a great new wholesale customer for your brand. You’re in the right place; this post should help get you on the right track so you can sell your brand in the best possible way!

In this post, I’ll give you my advice; giving you tips on what works for me and what appeals to me as a fashion buyer. I’ve been on both sides a lot over the years; as both the person pitching my collections (for independent brands) and the buyer being pitched to at brands including Topshop, Next and New Look.

The situations where you’re most likely to be pitching are on emails, on the phone, at trade shows or if you’re showing your collection to the brand in person - perhaps at their office or shop. The principles are the same whatever the situation so I’ve pulled together my general tips below.

 

My 10 tips for pitching your brand to wholesale customers are:

1. Focus on how it will benefit them to have your brand

There’s often a slight shift in focus when you’re working with B2B wholesale customers; they’re businesses themselves so they’ll invest in products they think will sell well to their customers and fit into the range in their stores. It’s your job to prove that your brand will do this!

When selling at wholesale, your focus should always be on what can you do for them rather than (only) shouting about how great you are! Whilst you should always be trying to show off about what you do, what’s new and what’s unique about your brand it should always come back to how they can’t get what you have elsewhere and therefore need to stock your brand.

2. Research the brand and the buyer

When I work with brands preparing them for pitching I spend around 90% of my time researching beforehand. The most successful brands (selling at wholesale) are those that target the right brands and make their pitches personal.

Don’t be afraid to use the information you glean from the internet and their social media in your contact with them as it will show that you know what you’re talking about. You could reference details about their store on your last visit or something that you noticed on their social media that relates to your brand. For instance, if a customer’s focus currently seems to be on Scandi fashion then play up the relevant aspects of your brand.

If you know of some local information which might impact on their store, then mention it e.g. if you’re aware that a store in their town stocks a rival brand. Talk about how you can help them and fill in a gap. Basically, you should try and think from their point of view and show that you know what they’re motivated by. 

3. Make a point of using the name of the right contact

This and the last tip go hand in hand; the buyers, wholesale customers and owners of potential wholesale customers get lots of new brands contacting them each week so the more personal you can make the relationship with the buyer the better chance you have.

Addressing the right person by their name will go a long way to starting to make your approach more personal, thoughtful and getting their attention. If you’ve already been in touch with them on social media and found a connection with each other then definitely reference that to jog their memory.

In smaller independent stores the buyer is often the owner so targeting them is the best approach. It’s usually possible to find their name online via google or places like LinkedIn if it’s not on their website. In big companies, you will be looking for the buyers that have titles like ‘brands buyer’.

4. Start out with independents  

I know brands that have been discovered by big high street retailers; for instance, I know of one that was found on ASOS Marketplace. Whilst this is possible, it is much more common for brands to build up a loyal and avid fan base of independent stores that sell their products at wholesale.

My advice is to start out by targeting the small independents that are most relevant to your brand first and build your wholesale business from there. Once they have a following then large retailers can come along a little down the line. They'll be most interested when they know you have a track record of selling well and delivering your product on time.  

5. Focus on visuals rather than words

As fashion brands, the best way to stand out is through your beautiful product and the images you use to illustrate who you are.  

When you're emailing make what you send out visual with key images from your lookbook or a recent shoot. Add a PDF attachment with a lookbook on an email but be aware that many will not open it; adding some beautiful images to the email itself could help to get around this.

It goes without saying that f you’re pitching in person or at a trade show then your priority should be on grabbing attention with amazing visuals that do your brand justice. 

6. Consider mailing out a pack to retailers rather than emailing

Most of the brands I work with email rather than post as it’s more cost-effective but mailing out a beautiful pack can be an effective route these days; yours could really stand out as fewer brands take this route. 

This approach would work best for a brand that has an extremely strong set of images that might get missed in an email. Whilst email attachments of lookbooks may not get opened a lookbook sent in the post could be more likely to be opened if it’s of high quality, addressed to a person and doesn’t look like a generic mailshot.

7. Brush up on your product knowledge and figures

Make sure you're 100% up to date with everything you need to know regarding your brand as you might get asked quite specific questions about the range or your sales.

Know your USP (unique selling point) and product inside out; tell your story and show your product by giving insight into what goes into making your brand who you are. Be prepared by knowing what branding will be on which style and where each style was made

Ensure you’re up to date with your brands figures: know your retail selling prices, wholesale list prices or what discounts you will be offering off the top of your head.

Have information ready about how well your products have sold already, who’s buying into it (or interested), what styles are selling well and any media interest you've had on particular styles.

8. Practice

Practice your pitch beforehand and it will flow much better! There are some great resources online that can help with presentation nerves and practical tips for engaging with your audience. I find that knowing a bit about the audience and thinking about how it might go help me. The research you’ve done can help with this side of things!

 9. Be flexible

Adapt to what is being said by the buyer and listen to them; this is where it becomes key to know your pitch inside out as you need to be ready to jump to a different section as needed.

Pay attention to the buyer and what he/she are saying to you in terms of body language as well as their words. Be able to change tact to what feels right at a moment’s notice and play up what you do if it fits in with what they’re looking for.

10. Follow up and get feedback

Make sure you have their card or check that you have their correct details. Follow up with an email later that day to say it was nice to meet them and if they have any queries then please don’t hesitate to call them. Answer any follow-up emails or calls quickly!

If it goes well, then you’ll start to talk about orders during their next phase. Don’t be downhearted if it doesn’t go 100% to plan. This really is about building relationships on a long-term basis. The buyer may be on the lookout for something slightly different at that time so don’t take it personally if it doesn’t go any further. Keep in touch as there may come a time that it will go further in the future.

Take a look at my blog and website for more insight into wholesale; I also discuss these points in more detail in my Essential Guide to Wholesale.

In my guide, I talk through, in detail, how a pitch will actually go in person. I also give practical advice for your wholesale problems like what the correct wholesale list prices are, when you should be selling, advice on pitching to buyers and much more.

In addition to my guides and I offer a spreadsheet of 300 potential customers details at nicoledavidson.co.uk. It's a great tool for targeting the wholesale customers that are right for your brand.

My free buyers line sheet template for fashion brands

When fashion brands start working in wholesale and B2B they know they need some selling tools but it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out which ones they need and how to create them! Line sheets are a key tool for selling at wholesale (and in many other areas of their businesses) and as a fashion buyer, I've seen lots of them in my time; I've written this post and created a quick template which I hope will help clarify what this document is needed for and what to include in it. 

Line sheets are essentially a list of styles from a particular range with pictures and some key information on each style. That's it. It really isn't any more complicated than that! To prove this I whipped up a quick template (in under ten minutes!) that you can use if you like. Find the link at the bottom of this page. 

Fashion brands give line sheets to their wholesale customers to show the details of the styles they're showing them either in person, at a trade show or via email. It's a detailed view of the range as opposed to a lookbook or catalogue which gives a top line overview or a 'feel' for the brand. 

Line sheet template For Fashion Brands Free.jpg

I've worked for some of the biggest retailers in the UK as well as many independents and pretty much everyone uses the same kind of template; it's usually a fairly standard grid template with pics and info inside it.

I'm sure your images will be much nicer than mine (!) but I just wanted to show you that the industry standard is fairly straightforward and doesn't require anything fancy. They can get more basic than I've created (even at quite premium brands!) so don't put too much pressure on yourself to create anything too complicated.

What information you include is down to you and the priorities of your customer; name, reference number, colour, wholesale list prices and RRP are common. Feel free to add in bits of info that are also relevant to your brand and customer like Country of Origin, Minimum order quantity (MOQ) or size range as well.

Please note that my template is best opened in Word and not in Google Docs; I made it in Word and the formatting doesn't usually work well between the two in my experience (!).

I made it in Word rather than Illustrator or Photoshop so that it's accessible to most people but you may find it easier to create your own template in the software that you're most comfortable with. 

Here's the Link for edit in Word. It should be easy to switch my pics with yours, fill in your info and so on. 

I'd love to hear about how you get on with it! Either comment below or send me an email.

Take a look at my blog and website for more insight into wholesale; I discuss these points in more detail in my Essential Guide to Wholesale

I also give practical advice for your wholesale problems like what the correct wholesale list prices are, when you should be selling, advice on pitching to buyers and much more.

In addition to my guides and I offer a spreadsheet of 300 potential customers details at nicoledavidson.co.uk. It's a great tool for targeting the wholesale customers that are right for your brand. 

How to sell more at wholesale: 5 tips from a fashion buyer

If you’re a fashion brand that’s ventured into the world of wholesale or B2B (business to business) selling then you probably know how disheartening it is when your emails are ignored or a tradeshow isn’t as successful as you’d hoped. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us from time to time! 

As a retail buyer and consultant, I work with clients in this area and they often ask me what’s really important to potential new wholesale customers. This post should give your brand a steer in the right direction as the principles in these 5 tips are the basis for everything I do in my work in this channel. 

Wholesaling can be incredibly lucrative; I’ve worked with brands that make the majority of their sales through this route. It can also help as a way to promote your brand and get your message out to new parts of the country so it’s worth the extra time and effort involved. 

In my work with both large high street retailers and with emerging brands I've seen clear patterns of what works and what doesn't. Here are my 5 top tips for fashion brands who want to get more sales at wholesale:

1. Be ridiculously unique and gain a cult following of ‘cheerleaders’

Don’t be scared of making your product and story really niche in the market and shouting about your unique qualities. The quote I use most when I talk to emerging brands is:

‘ Be everything to someone not something to everyone.’

Don't try to copy what someone else is doing, the more specific and unique your brand can be the better! The brands that I see grow successfully in all aspects of their business, but especially at wholesale, specialise in one area of the market.

In contrast, big high street retailers appeal to lots of different types of people and they do it well; you can't compete with what they've established (for now!). What you can do is carve out a section that's just yours, you can become experts and be the go-to brand for that product. 

Building a brand in this way often means that you'll gain a cult following that's very passionate about what you do. These super fans will shout about your brand whenever they can and get quite loyal to the brands they love! They won't do this for the high street brands they buy from but they'll do it for the brand they 'discovered' and speaks to them in a way that nothing else does! 

If you can create a genuine buzz around your brand then new wholesale customer will be seeking you out rather than the other way round! Large retailers would kill for a bit of this kind of passion for their brands so exploit it; especially on social media where an avid fan base can have a snowball effect on your reach. 

2. Tell your story in whatever you do

To be totally frank, this is the only thing that really matters as it’s what drives wholesale customers to buy from you! Make every word and image on your website, in your look book and on your social media count and reflect your story. Wholesale customers want to buy into something that they can see will excite and capture the imagination of their customers. 

Make your story pretty explicit and don't hide it; customers don't have time to coax it out of you! To help with this ensure you have a compelling and personal About Us page on your website; it's the first thing wholesale customers (and I!) go to after they've got a quick feel for your brand on your website.

Your About Us should do your brand justice so spend some time on it! I'll be writing a post about my tips on this soon as it's so key to a brands success. 

3. Don’t overestimate how much your products will sell themselves

It goes without saying that your products should be excellent and unique in their field but there's also a lot of work and time that goes on behind the scenes when you're selling to wholesale customers. 

As an example, there's a lot of groundwork that you need to lay in terms of networking. So much of this can now be done on social media but it still takes a lot of time, especially if you're doing it in a natural and thoughtful way (not in a spammy way!). Building an engaged and two-way relationship on social media could lead to sales and if nothing else can help make the emails you send less 'cold' so it's worth the time and extra effort.

4. Target your audience; don’t use a scatter gun approach

Another area that brands need to spend a lot of time on is targeting the right customers and making their communication with them considered and personal. This approach has a MUCH higher rate than a scatter gun approach to emailing. 

At the very least it's key to find out the first name of the person you need to contact; people are much more likely to read an email that's addressed to them than 'dear sir/madam'. 

If you're going to succeed then you need to spend a lot of time researching the right potential customers and targeting them specifically with information that you know will be important to them. By sending less emails you'll increase your chances of making actual sales!

5. Persist

The focus for wholesale customers differs slightly to your usual customers; for instance, they can't always spend their money when they want to. They're also businesses that are constantly balancing their ranges to ensure that they have a range of 'sure things' that pay the bills and newness that keeps their customers excited.

There could be all sorts of reasons why a wholesale customer might not be in a position to buy from you at that time you get in touch with them. For instance, they could have used up their budget for the season or already have a few new brands that they're trialling.

Asking for a little feedback can be useful to get an idea of there's anything you could be working on but chances are it's a timing problem.

Persistence is key (obviously don't be annoying!); keep the relationship open and don't give up on it. Keep engaging and having a meaningful relationship even if you're not selling to them yet, the timing will be right eventually if they really are the right store for you. 

Take a look at my blog and website for more insight into wholesale; I discuss these points in more detail in my Essential Guide to Wholesale. 

I also give practical advice for your wholesale problems like what the correct wholesale list prices are, when you should be selling, advice on pitching to buyers and much more.

In addition to my guides and I offer a spreadsheet of 300 potential customers details at nicoledavidson.co.uk. It's a great tool for targeting the wholesale customers that are right for your brand. 

Antibad: My Favourite Ethical Store

Antibad are by far my favourite curated, ethical store; they bring together styles that not only tick all the boxes from a sustainable point of view but their photography and collections are everything I want in my life right now. I often find myself on their Insta just getting inspired about what I’m going to wear that day (is that weird?!).

I’ve pulled out some of the items I’m obsessing over most below and I’m lucky enough to have added This linen jacket to my wardrobe recently. It’s from their collection from Bug Clothing (another brand that I love) and it’s the perfect addition to my ever-growing gang of worker jackets.

Nicole Davidson in Antibad worker jacket

It was handmade in London which makes me ridiculously happy and I honestly think I’ll be wearing it for the rest of my life. It’s the perfect oversized square shape and made from proper linen in a true dark navy. It's basically ticking all the boxes to be a wardrobe classic.

The first of my picks is The Micha bra. I need this in my life. Not only is it a really pretty style but it’s also made from recycled polyester in a factory certified by the Fair Wear Foundation in India. It's a 10 out of 10.

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This Caleum sandal could very easily be this summer’s everyday wear for me; you know that shoe that you just wear day in day out during summer? I’m always a sucker for a tan leather slider...

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The Phoenix coat is the kind of style you can wear forever; it’s camel, it’s ethical and it’s made from virgin wool and cashmere. What’s not to love.

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I’m going on holiday next month and I’m getting obsessed with this Ideal Swimsuit. I love this image too and the hat is just gorgeous.

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I’m also umming and ahhing over this White Horse Swimsuit too. As a bonus these images were taken at the Jubliee Pool in Penzance; one of my fave places here in Cornwall.

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Location photography is mostly by Lulu Ash and Maddison Araceli 

Christmas at Lorna Ruby

Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Nicole Davidson at Lorna Ruby pic by Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert
Photo by  Olivia Bossert

Clothing and lifestyle store Lorna Ruby in Exeter does Christmas the way I like it; minimal, a bit scandi and there isn't an inch of tinsel in sight. My tree at home literally has lights on it and that’s it (granted there are lots of them!).

Olivia Bossert and I spent this Wednesday with the lovely team there doing some last minute Christmas shopping and styling some of my favourite items from the store. They stock many of my favourite brands (Selected Femme, Honest Skincare and Leon and Harper) so it was the perfect place to tick off my Christmas list. 

It’s super cosy inside, the mix of homeware and gorgeous accessories, like cosy cashmere scarves, give it a warm and inviting feel. We were like kids in a sweet shop; their lifestyle selection is spot on and make perfect gifts. Think scandi ceramics, jugs, skincare and minimal jewellery that will be perfect for styling up Christmas outfits but can also be worn into next year. During our time there the team helped us with everything we needed whilst we spent time upstairs trying things on in their large changing rooms and relaxing on the comfy sofas in the chill out area.

Obviously, I also spent a little bit of time thinking about what I want for Christmas (!) and pulled together a lovely selection of versatile styles that won't feel out of place come January the 1st and could last through to next summer. I've been guilty of buying items that I only wear once at this time of year (usually sequin tops and Christmas jumpers!) so shopping like this feels less wasteful.

My absolute stand out piece from the store has to the be the soft pink coat from Selected Femme that's so pale it’s almost like a neutral/grey colour. This is an investment that will go with everything I own and is perfect for both winter and worn with lighter weights as it starts to get warmer in spring.

I also like the versatility of the crop wide leg jeans that I styled with this coat. I put them with quite a few outfits, including a super soft stripe cashmere jumper which I didn't want to take off. The trousers will be great for Christmas day and I might dress them up with the silver boots for new years eve. 

Talking of new years eve, it's hard to find something to wear when you're not usually into sparkle and glitz. The navy, wrap midi dress I found here is probably the most useful piece a minimal girl could own. I styled it with a black polo neck to wear now but it can be dressed up for NYE and would even work well for weddings next summer.

If you’re looking for last minute gifts for those in your life that love the minimal/scandi look as much as I do (or if you deserve a treat for yourself!) then I recommend popping in to see the lovely team at Lorna Ruby or by visiting their online store.

The last pre-Christmas orders from Lorna Ruby online are 21st of December.

Online: Lorna Ruby

Instagram:

This post is part of a collaboration with Lorna Ruby. All words and styling are my own.