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I want to get my brand/designs in "skate" shops etc. But I don't know who to contact them- who to talk to, how to approach them...

What should I do?
What shouldn't I do... if there is anything?

Thanks.


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Major retail chains have "buyers" that choose what brands and products the stores carry. On their websites, you should be able to find contact info for their corporate offices. Call them up and ask for the appropriate buyer. You will specifically be looking for the buyer responsible for t-shirts. Sometimes, there are separate buyers for different regions. So you may want the Northwest buyer.

Try to make an appointment to meet with the buyer and show them samples of your brand. If you can't get an appointment (and don't be surprised if you can't), get an address to send linesheets and samples. You can also send a lookbook if you want.

If you want to sell through retailers, be prepared to need custom neck labels, hang tags, upc codes, etc.

Major retailers usually order in high volume, like thousands and maybe even tens of thousands of units. So make sure you are prepared to accept those types of orders. I know you are printing yourself, but you should consider outsourcing the production if you want to take on retail accounts like this. It's important to have consistent, high volume production capabilities to service big clients.

You will also have to extend payment terms, such as Net 30. And it's not uncommon for major retailers to require Net 90. This means you will have to pay all of the production costs up front and will not get paid until 30 (or 90) days after delivery.

Major retailers also sometimes require you to buy back any inventory that doesn't sell over a certain period of time.

Make sure you know your numbers... production costs, wholesale prices, suggested retail prices, minimum order quantities, timelines, etc. Pricing is a huge factor. Retailers want the highest profit margins they can get. So try to offer the best deal you can without sacrificing your own profit.
 

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Great tips Tim! (I dig the name! :) )
Also sometimes it may not make financial sense to go into a large retail store because since they buy 10,00 units the cost of each garment might only be $6 each. I have had experience with one retailer (quite large) who wanted to do 1,000 units and wanted to buy them at $7 each. Well since I do organic tees that cost more then half of that number just for the blank minus the printing cost, new tags, and sku numbers. It would have been about $6-$6.50 a tee if not more. Is it worth it to you to lose or make very little for exposure in a large retailer or keep doing shows and online sales? You have to ask yourself that question.
Also be prepared with EVERYTHING because buyers are serious and don't want to waste time cause they look at hundreds of brands and you need to do something that sticks out!
 

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Also, be aware and prepared to pay out mark-down money (even before they pay you what they owe you!). It's when they (larger chains and deparment stores) expect YOU to pay THEM the difference in price ( to maintain their high margins) if they decide to mark down your product. Nordstroms is famous for this tactic to maintain their high profit margins. It's devastating for small brands if they ask you to do this. If you don't play ball, they will not deal with you next buying season unless you're stock blows out and they make their margins.
Good luck!!
 

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These are all good things to think about. You may think getting your brand in a retail store equals instant success, and money in the bank. May be more of a hassle.

At times it seems like it would take away from the joy of printing or creating shirt designs in the first place. The joy of sharing your designs, meeting people happy to wear your designs, and fraternizing with fellow shirt designers. Going to shows is a lot of fun, and you get to be in touch with the people who support you, meet them face-to-face. Moving into stores I think takes the love out of it versus the face-to-face interaction you get attending shows, or running your own shop.
 

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If you're trying to expand, another option would be to go to smaller skate shops in your market. The buyers at small boutiques (I'm one, but not in the skate industry), are probably going to be a lot more accessible then those with hundreds of doors. If you work on expanding slowly with smaller shops it would allow you to grow a little slower and be prepared when you have to meet the demands of bigger stores.
 

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Take time to build your brand, start small amd expand, jumping into big retailers right away will be more of a headache than anything else. If you take the time and build your brands popularity the buyers will be contacting YOU instead of vice versa, then you have more pull in the sale because they see your brand as something they want in thier stores as opposed to something they're going to take a chance on. Remember that brands that havr stood the test of time took a long time to get where they are, read the stories on Volcom and DC, they each took nearly 10 years to be the brands they are now, but not say they didn't make great money during that time, its a long process but if done correctly will turn your brand into an empire.
 
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