A note from Streamline: This post was originally featured on Retail Initiative, a resource for retail entrepreneurs to learn, grow, and be inspired by retail experts and other retailers just like you. Visit www.retailinitiative.com to access exclusive content, live classes, and professional courses for independent retailers serious about scaling up.
The store build out or the website is under construction, you’re getting ready to launch your retail store, but you still don’t have the products you’re going to sale and you don’t even know where to start. What kind of vendors should I look for? What should I look for in a vendor? How do I meet vendors? These are all true and valid questions to have starting out. We’ll tackle each of these questions but first a primer on vendors.
A Primer On Vendors
Vendors for a retail store can take on many different forms and functions and it’s important to understand which types of vendors work best for your business.
- Manufacturers – Manufacturers make the products your are looking to buy and are the most direct source for obtaining your products. Manufacturers can work with you to create custom products based on your ideas. However, manufacturers can be harder to work with, find and typically have a higher amount of spending required to have an account.
- Distributors – Distributors go by many names, supplier, wholesaler and the list goes on. Distributors are great for purchasing already created brands and products.
- Independent Craftspeople – Thanks to the rise of creator driven sites such as Etsy, it’s easier than ever to buy products from independent creators. These individuals are great for purchasing customized or one of a kind products.
- Import Sources – Importers are great for sourcing products that need to be imported from another country.
Key Factors to Consider in Vendor Selection
Once you understand the different types of Vendors, there’s another level of consideration you must apply when finding vendors. Each of the key factors below are great for deciding if a vendor is a good fit for your business.
- Pricing – It’s pretty straightforward, the goal is to get the best product at the lowest price. It’s important to evaluate a vendor’s products pricing against similar vendors.
- Reliability – Does the vendor have appropriate quality assurance measures is place to ensure that the products you purchase arrive on time and with the quality you expect.
- Stability – You have a great price with a reliable vendor but it’s important to evaluate the stability of a vendor, this is most important when working with independent craftspeople to ensure that their business is operating in a stable environment.
- Proximity – Proximity is a key factor in how quickly you may be able to get your products. For instance, products overseas often are provided at a lower cost but can take months to get to your store. On the other hand, local goods demand a higher premium and can arrive in a matter of days.
How To Meet Find Vendors
You’ve decided which types of vendors you want to work with, as well as decided on the factors that are most important to you, it’s now time to find those vendors. Let’s look at several ways to find and meet vendors for your store.
- Go to market – The ever classic way to meet a lot of vendors, go where they are! Markets happen all over the country and feature hundreds if not thousands of vendors looking to sell their products. However, wear comfy shoes, you’ll likely be walking a lot.
- Join groups specific to your niche – This is a great way to not only meet vendors directly but learn from other businesses about vendors that have worked well for them.
- Trade journals / industry magazines – Another industry staple, trade journals and industry related magazines often are great places to identify new potential vendors.
- Google – The new timeless classic, Google It. Simply put, if you’re seeking a specific type of product search it out! Whether it’s a brand of jean or a graphic tee, Google can be a great resource for identifying potential vendors.
Last But Not Least
As you do business with different vendors from all over the world, it’s important to remember that vendor relationships aren’t a never ending agreement. If a vendor isn’t meeting your expectations and requirements you can seek out new vendors for your next order. Don’t sweat a misstep with a bad vendor, take it as an opportunity to learn a lesson and apply it the next go round. Your products are the heartbeat of your store so get out there so get out there and get to buying!