A successful retail business needs to have an assortment of new and exciting products, and there are many sources from which retailers obtain products. You can’t just rely on old or boring merchandise, so it’s essential to keep up with the latest trends in product selection.
So how should you find a product to sell?
In this post, we’ll go over different sourcing methods for retail products. These include finding the right manufacturers and suppliers, as well as a few tips to help you get started.
Let’s dive in.
How do you decide what products to sell?
It’s essential to figure out what you want your company to sell before finding suppliers or manufacturers.
The best way to find out how well your company is doing financially is by talking with customers, listening to employees, and looking at retail analytics.
Cat Socrates is a design shop in Singapore with tons of regular customers and sells plenty to keep its shelves stocked with new designs. This means the owners are always on the lookout for hot brands and items- paying attention to sales reports and customer feedback.
On top of all that, you might want to consider talking with your marketing team and customer service reps. They may give you some insights into what customers are thinking too. You should also get information from them too.
Kurt Kendall, the partner at Kurt Salmon’s Retail and Consumer Products Group, wrote that many retailers possess a treasure trove of customer insight. Still, it is too often siloed within departments.
That’s why he recommends gathering data across all your departments to give you an understanding of buying patterns and common item combinations. Your marketing team can help provide information about what items consumers search for or react to when presented with other options.
At the same time, those in charge of eCommerce or web analytics can tell you which products are ignored.
Once you have enough customer data and insights about what types of products your customers want, it will be easier to find the proper merchandise for your store.
How to source products for retail?
In retail, there are three main ways to get products. Some retailers work directly with manufacturers, while others buy from wholesalers.
Not only do they buy their products wholesale, but many of them also manufacture in-house.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these methods.
Work directly with manufacturers.
Working with manufacturers directly is a great way to eliminate intermediaries and reduce the cost of goods, but it’s not always easy.
Manufacturers want to work with retailers willing to commit to big orders, not just one or two. This is because MOQs can be costly, and manufacturers would rather have a guaranteed product sale.
Working with manufacturers can be challenging if you don’t have much money to spend on your business.
When you work with manufacturers, it’s your responsibility to handle the details like ordering and importing. And if they don’t make what you need, no one can buy from them.
Spending too much time on the payroll and not doing what you love can lead to dissatisfaction.
Work with wholesalers
A wholesaler is a company that deals with large amounts of goods. They buy from manufacturers and then sell to retailers like you.
One of the reasons to use a wholesaler is that they take care of all the stress. You don’t need to travel anywhere, and there are no shipping customs or import taxes for you to worry about.
You need to place your orders.
Make your products
It’s not unusual for medium to large businesses to buy their products from other manufacturers, but having a small team and the right niche can be challenging.
If you’re creating your products, then first think about where to source materials. Craft stores and flea markets are great places to look for supplies – it’ll also help if you know how long each item takes to make.
When you need to hire a team, be sure that the labor costs are not too high, so you don’t run up an unplanned bill.
Where to find manufacturers, suppliers, and other vendors?
Now that you know what product to sell and how to source it, the next step is finding where those sources are.
If you’re looking for a new job, some options are available to you. If you’re looking for a supplier, who should you turn to? The internet.
There are many ways to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry, but nothing is better than attending trade shows. You can meet new manufacturers and get a feel for their products firsthand.
There are a lot of significant events out there that connect buyers with suppliers. For example, ASDLV in Las Vegas is the largest and most diverse general buying show in the US, which brings together fashion accessories suppliers, health and beauty supplies for sale by vendors like Unilever or L’Oreal Paris.
Not only does MAGIC show everything from apparel to footwear, but it also has an event in New York for home and lifestyle retailers.
If you’re looking for something specific, don’t worry! There are shows to cover every category imaginable. Use Google or Events in America (a trade show and conference directory) or the Trade Show News Network (for global events).
It’s also worth asking other retailers and suppliers about the industry events they attend.
At the events
Use some best practices when on the expo or show floor.
Chirpy owner Harriet Vaight says that you need to take detailed notes about the suppliers and products to do well at craft fairs and design events.
So she went through the process of collecting all favorite pieces and then sorted them by best wholesale, trade price, retail prices, and minimum order quantities. From there, it was easy to see which products were a good value for her.
That way, when you come back home from the conference or convention, you’ll have a clear idea of which suppliers are worth pursuing.
If you’re attending a significant event, it’s best to walk the whole show before jumping into any purchase orders. It may be tempting to pounce on the first great products or suppliers you see, but after exploring everything, it will help save time and money.
It’s a good idea to give everyone a chance but only work with those suitable for you.
Show deals are a great way to get discounts on the spot. Some vendors offer these at their booths, but if you don’t see any or want more savings, then be sure to ask after the event is over.
2. Trade Publications
Trade shows and industry publications are excellent sources for product ideas, supplier information, and leads. You don’t have to attend a trade show or read an article when you can find all the same info online.
You can find a lot of helpful information on trade publications. For example, some suppliers advertise in them, and you could get insights into the products that others are selling.
And if you’re looking for a trade magazine in your industry, TradePub.com or Forum Publishing will have something available to suit your needs.
3. Industry Associations
They offer networking events listings of vendors, and some will even allow you access to their resources without joining.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association is one example of an association that offers a premium rate for non-members to attend their events. They also provide free access to the online supplier directory.
If you can’t find what you need on our site, then turn to good ‘ol Google for other areas in your field.
4. Online Directories
If you’re looking for a new job, check out these sites: SaleHoo.com and ThomasNet.com.
If you’re looking for a product or supplier, start with these online directories because you don’t want to spend your time going through too many different marketplaces.
These two sites offer you access to many suppliers and provide features that make it easy for you to find the products or vendors that suit your needs. The main difference is ThomasNet focuses on US-based companies, while Alibaba can direct you to international providers.
Helpful tips for using online supplier directories correctly
Do your research: Before you start any business relationship, make sure to do a thorough background check. Check their website and look for reviews online (even if they cost money). Ask them for samples of past work as well.
Keep an eye out for warning signs like a supplier who doesn’t have a phone number or a website, and also make sure that they don’t use Yahoo! Mail.
If you are in the market for suppliers, it’s worth looking into ThomasNet and Alibaba. Both sites offer tools to help evaluate their suppliers – For example, on Thomanet, you can see company certifications or registration status, while Alibaba has Gold Suppliers who have passed tests.
When communicating with suppliers in countries where English is not the first language, be detailed and thorough. If they have trouble understanding you, then speak slower or have them repeat what you said back to make sure that it was understood.