How to approach a shop or gallery...

Okay, so this is a slightly odd one. Now having had the shop for nearly a year, and having worked in galleries and other small retail outlets I thought I would share some wisdom for makers and also individuals who are running small product businesses about how is a ‘good’ way (in my opinion, obvs) to approach potential stockists. One of my old bosses did a talk on this once, at the beginning (it was for artists, wanting to get stocked) she said, “Don’t email me” I will not look at the email and it will be a total waste of time - now I think that’s pretty hard line, but she used to HATE getting artist (and agents) emailing. She said it was impersonal. Here are a few productive things I think could help…

Firstly… And I think most importantly DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out about the shop or gallery you would like to be stocked in, look at their website, read the about section, visit the shop (if you can). On face value, you think they might be perfect, but before you contact them, you have check yourself - does your product really ‘fit’ with the shop. Will your product fit well within the look and with the ethos?

It might be as simple as what I do (at Collate) My first criteria is that I only stock Southwest based makers and companies, so if you’re not based in the Southwest then I won’t stock you. Simple as that, even if I think your work is wonderful. I only stock Southwest based makers and companies. It might be slightly trickier when it comes to fitting into the gallery or shop ‘style’. You might think you fit, but the owner might not… and that’s just a matter of opinion but ultimately the decision lies with the owner.

My top tips

  • Find out the owners name/s - there is nothing worse than getting an email saying ‘Hey Guys’ or ‘Hi there’… More often that not after a bit of research you’ll be able to find names - try their website or if that fails social media. It shows you have made an effort, as small as that may seem.

  • Personally, I really hate getting DMs. EMAIL. Indie shopkeepers are busy people, that’s not an excuse, that’s a fact! If you send a DM it’s more than likely going to get lost, or we won’t see it because it goes into that separate inbox thing. EMAIL.

  • Blanket cover emails with the same message are a NO NO. And they are really obvious. Use their name, make it personal, say something you like about the shop/gallery, why you think your product is a good fit.

  • If you are sending the shop samples make sure they have a cover message or suchlike. I get sent samples all the time, that have no message… and it’s so obvious that my shop has been put on a list of people we want to ‘target’ REAL TURN OFF! If you send samples, write a message addressed to the owner (address the envelope to the owner too!)

  • If you sent an email, but you haven’t heard anything back, BE PATIENT. A lot of small shop/gallery owners have a lot on. And I can guarantee you’re not the only one to have emailed about your products. DON’T send a follow up to ‘chivvy’ them. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s more than likely that if they haven’t got back to you relatively quickly, they don’t want to stock your product… and I know its polite to get back and actually say that, but we are human and sometimes we forget to reply. And I am SO guilty of not getting back to people, but I don’t do it deliberately. I am just swept along with the mammoth task of running the shop (on my own) and things DO get forgotten.

  • Don’t spread yourself too thinly. The shop world is a small place now due to Instagram. I know that if you are trying to make a living selling your products you want to be stocked in as many place as possible. But if you pick wisely and have a handful of really good stockists where your work sells well this will be enough. This point is mainly focused on craftspeople. Personally, if I see products that are stocked in loads of similar shops to mine it puts me off having it in.

  • DON’T go into the shop or gallery and put the owner on the spot (with your work). This makes me really uncomfortable because I like time to think and consider. Also, if the shop/gallery employs staff then they won’t be able to give you an answer anyways.

  • And the last don’t… it’s a biggy. NEVER ever, ever, EVER get shirty. If the owner doesn’t think your product works for them then that is their choice. End of. It’s their shop and their decision is final, don’t get cross if this is the case. It just makes you look foolish. I know it can be disappointing but don’t be rude! I always try and be kind and diplomatic, and i’m never rude to anyone who has created something. I know if something will work in my shop, but sometimes it boils down to the fact that I just don’t like the product, and I know I can’t sell something I don’t like. If we all liked the same thing, the world would be a VERY boring place.

  • DO always stay positive about your creations. You’ll get rejections but sometimes if you can’t get stocked where you think you should/want to be, it’s more than likely a better option is coming your way.

  • DO have conviction about your work, create what is true to you. That sort of passion shines through you and your work. Don’t create what you think you ‘should’ create.

  • DO make your social media/website the best you can, with a good representation of your work… I have found makers through social media.

I really hope this is some sort of help, I have tried to be really honest and write from a shopkeepers point of view so you can see from the other side of the page. And one more thing, if a shop or gallery approaches you but you’re not feeling it. You CAN say, thanks, but NO thanks! It works both ways people.