Okay, so I thought this day was in the horizon weeks ago, but it seems to have been one thing after another, topped off with the volcano that put a halt to flights everywhere. According to the tracking numbers, by very early next week, we should not have ANYTHING on back order!! This is so exciting!
To be honest, this situation with products selling out faster than we could keep up was a big struggle for me personally. I always try to stay on top of our production, as that is my job, and I truly feel horrible when our customers have to wait for weeks to receive something that they have ordered and are anxiously awaiting. I know that feeling as a mom, when I order something online for Aubrey, and then I look forward to it arriving more than I ever did anything I purchased for myself. And, I feel even worse, when are expecting products to arrive one week and then for many reasons (factory delays, and more often than not, shipping delays), have to ship even later than we expected. As a business owner, I have to accept that there are some things I can personally control, and some things I can not. I have also learned from this experience that there are other things that I can do to prevent some things from happening that I can not control. I am learning as I go, even 3 years in, and we are only going to continue to improve. If you are not getting better, you are going no where, right?!
Last week, the FedEx tracking information all showed that the products should be at our office by Monday morning...now Monday morning, only 3 boxes showed up, with the other 24 stuck somewhere at the Memphis hub, according to them. I am getting used to this process by now, but sometimes I just wish things would happen as promised. We are crossing our fingers for more to arrive tomorrow morning, to get more of these back orders en route and on those little diaper-naked booties!
If you are one of our EXTREMELY patient customers, awaiting a back ordered item, please let me take this opportunity to thank you, sincerely, for your patience and understanding as we get in these products. We have been so blessed to watch our business grow and to have more and more adorable little ones enjoying our ruffles. We truly could not do it without you, and your support does not go unnoticed. Here is my promise to you...we are doing everything we can possibly do to get in these back ordered products and get them out to you. And, we are trying to be as proactive as possible to keep items in stock ready to be ordered at your convenience. Thanks, as always, for your business!
In response to this blog, I receive numerous emails from other entrepreneurs looking for input and/or guidance regarding specific situations. I would say that manufacturing seems to be the biggest challenge across the board, but once you finally have something made, the next most popular question is how to get it into stores. Yes, this is the million dollar question! Over the past few years our company has grown organically, but I have often thought, it sure would be nice if all of the stores that are just now learning about us had heard of our brand even just a year earlier! They often feel the same way, once they find that our products are typically a pretty consistent seller for them. So, how do you get your products into stores?
1. Word of mouth
Yes, the is obviously the easiest and least time-consuming, but is the non-aggresive approach of letting stores learn about your products through other avenues. I always love to hear that a store is applying to carry our products after numerous customers have requested that they carry our brand! This obviously shows us that we are on the right track, but it also shows me that we have not done a great job of letting these stores know that we exist.
This is obviously the most expensive form of spreading the word. The great thing is that it most often pays for itself in the long-run, but in the start-up phase, we all know that cash is not always the easiest thing to come by.
This is definitely my recommendation for those of you in the beginning phases. Truly it is wonderful at any stage, but the great thing about editorial is that it doesn't cost a thing. Okay, maybe a sample or two, but that is certainly well worth it! Editorial was a large factor in our initial growth. We were very fortunate to receive buzz from some fabulous publications that really helped to earn us credibility as we were gaining momentum. My advice here...you don't get what you don't ask for you. Get out there, you have nothing to lose!
4. Selling directly to stores
This can be a bit discouraging at first, but if you have proof and therefore confidence that your products will sell, that will relay to your wholesale customers. Don't waste their time, know who they are and why your products are a good fit. Also know that you will receive more "I don't have time" than "sure, let's take a look at that", but for every "sure" your brand is building and the ratio works itself out as stores realize that there really is something in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes...there are truly a ton of great products out there, but there are also quite a few that aren't so great. They need to know that this is going to help their business.
When selling to stores, what do you need (this was a question that I just received this week, specifically inquiring about the items below)? Hope this is helpful Kristi!
1. Brochures / line sheets
We started out with basic line sheets, but have found them to be a bit old school in some ways. Obviously they are neccessary, but my advice is to keep them simple. Let stores know what you are offering and at what price. We now use a simple brochure for our basic products to convey the line in general and then we assist them in selecting the items best for their store.
2. Swatches / samples
If you are meeting with a store in-person, they will likely want to see some samples and swatches. They are just like any shopper, and if possible, would like to see what they are purchasing. I wouldn't advise taking in your entire apparel line on the first appointment, but be prepared to give them a good feel for your product. This is also where websites can be super helpful. If you have great lifestyle pictures on your website, this can often eliminate the need for samples, saving everyone the hassle.
3. Sales order form
Yes, once they give you their order, you will need to write it on something (unless you have an online ordering system). Honestly, I ordered a ton of carbon copies of a RuffleButts order form when we first started, and I still have them sitting in our office today. We RARELY use these since most of our ordering is through our website, but you better have something that looks professional to take orders in the beginning. Here is a link to a sale order that I found online. It is pretty basic, but a good guideline for getting started.
So, this is all just my personal opinion, but I hope it helps =)