Tuesday, January 17, 2017

STATIONERY BIZ: Sending Samples to Dream Retailers

    JANUARY 7, 2017 | Los Angeles, CA

Today I'm going to blog about line sheets and sending samples to retailers as a wholesale company.

Back in May 2014, I created my idea of what line sheet was based on what I was able to reference to online. I made sure I had all the standard elements down, at least from what I can deduce on all the line sheet examples I could find. I mailed out about 5 of these and never heard back. I ended up picking up the line sheet and samples from the retailers I left them with to the sound of crickets except for one. I wish I can say that turned into a sale but no. I will not mention which store but, at that time, my heart had sank so low but I pulled the last courage of asking the owner why he didn't think my cards made the cut. He was nice enough to spare his time. He ended up pointing to his shelves of cards on why he thought mine was obviously not up to par. He was by no means condescending. I was just hurt to know that I wasn't there yet.

Towards the end of last year, I finally sat down and created a new line sheet. With a little more knowledge - thanks to my TSBC family, I also have a bit more confidence about my business approach overall in comparison to my younger self.

Here's a page from my line sheet back in 2014:

Looking back at it, I now realize my pricing are way off, my wholesale terms not industry standard... the whole thing just screams 'amateur' to me. That and my product line is terribly not cohesive. 

Here's a page from my new line sheet:

The details: 
12 pages long | Printed back to back | 6 sheets per line sheet | Size: 7" x 10"* | First page is cover/introductory letter | Back cover is the order form 

*I settled on the 7"x10" size because with a fold in the middle, I can easily tuck the line sheet inside an A7 envelope to reduce the cost of postage. Very important to consider since I planned to mail around 70 of these! 

The most common questions about line sheet are:
Q: Is it the same as a catalog?
A: No. A catalog is different by design and may not include details that are pertinent in a line sheet i.e., you can omit information such as pricing on the catalog subsequently, a line sheet may not contain any styled images but just that of the products.

Q: Do I really need a line sheet?
A: While it is not a deal breaker if you don't, and I myself have initially not planned on having one, there are buyers who prefer line sheet over a catalog so it might be best to have one handy. A positive thing to consider about having a line sheet: it is easier to edit and make changes vs. a printed catalog and much cheaper to produce. 

Q: What is the standard format?
A: As long as all the elements can be clearly found, there are no strict guidelines to follow. Some use a simple Excel spread sheet, some using InDesign or Numbers, you can even use Microsoft Word. Good thing to note about the size, it might be ideal to create one that prints well on a 8.5"x11" letter paper especially if you want this to be as flexible for mailing or email use.

As far as samples go, 1-2 pieces are acceptable. Back in 2014, I packed 6-7 greeting cards and thought it wasn't enough to represent my line. What I later learned from industry veterans is that buyers don't really want to get bombarded with samples. They field plenty of those already! If they want to see more beyond what you sent, they'll reach out and ask anyway.

Lastly, it really is important to research and narrow down your list of retailers to ask. Before, I wouldn't think of doing so because stationery shops are already far and few in between! But, that's just proven a waste of time and money pitching the right products to the wrong store. Make sure it's a good match. I always look at the retailer's shop interior by going through their instagram, Yelp, FaceBook and website gallery photos to give me an idea if my products go with the store.

The line sheet, samples and pitching to retailers are just a few sprinkles of knowledge from the vast lessons you can learn like I did from Trade Show Bootcamp / Paper Camp. If you have a calling to be a stationer or wedding invitation designer, definitely check them out.

Love & Letters,

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