Finding a good consignment partner (or “consignee”) takes careful planning - especially if you want to find a relationship that works for you long term and delivers the results you are after.
Shortlisting your consignment candidates
To begin with, you’ll want to make a short-list of your consignment targets and do some research to see how they fit with your product. You’ll be best to try and find shops that attract the same type of clientele as your own - trying to selling your babywear in a bicycle shop will be a lot tougher than the toy shop across the road.
Yelp can be a good starting point if you don't have an immediate list of candidates in your head - filtering by a location, general category and then by price range can bring back a good list to begin with.
An important factor in choosing good consignment partners is location: you’ll want to think about how you intend to send your stock to the consignee. If you have larger type items that are expensive to ship, you’ll most likely want to keep postage to a minimum - this can really cut into your profit margins, especially if you need to factor in additional consignment fees.
Local consignees can mean that you can keep costs down by fulfilling the stock yourself using your own vehicle - just remember to make sure to also factor in the cost of your own time being delivery driver as you'll be away from producing and selling your goods.
If you have small, inexpensive to ship items you may wish to also consider stores further afield. This can provide you with a bigger list of potential targets, however keep in mind that you may still need to factor in some time to visit these sites at least initially to discuss terms and placement of stock.
Once you have your shortlist, visit their website and take note of the way that they refer to their business and their product range. Look for press or interviews with the management team as this can be a great source of information you can use in your pitch.
It’s also really handy to go and visit the store in person as a customer before attempting to make contact. This will give you a good chance to see how the store presents themselves and displays their stock. You also have a chance to see what other products they sell and the price points they generally charge.
If you are generally happy with the way that they operate, try and visualise some examples of your stock on a shelf to see how it works with the surroundings.
To get the best results, you’ll need to be seeing this stage as a business pitch to sell your brand rather than a simple request. Your job is to convince the shop why they should give up some of their expensive shelf space to stock your product over their own and other consignors products.
So, much like an interview: first impressions count! You’ll want to carefully think about the contact method you use to make sure it fits with their style of business.
Email is often preferable to phoning - if the store is busy you’ll often just end up with a hurried reply to send through your request via email anyway. Email is a great option for situations where you have a lot of potential partners to contact, however it can potentially come across as impersonal if done incorrectly.
For starters, absolutely ensure that you include the name of the store somewhere in your pitch. For bonus points, demonstrate that you have done your research by also referring to the person responsible for specifically stocking products. For most small businesses, the owner’s name is generally a good guess as they are also commonly the chief stockist.
Ensure that you mention the reasons why you feel that your products are a good fit. It’s a good idea to mention the feel or look of the store and other similar products they stock that you particularly like. Essentially, you want to make a case for the idea that their customers seem to be similar to your customers and this will lead to sales for them.
Try to keep as brief and to the point as possible - this shows that you are respectful of their time. Two or three paragraphs should be ample to get across your message.
Including some small images of your products can also be helpful - ensure that they are reasonably small so that they aren’t impatiently waiting for your email to download. Try to embed them directly into the content of your email rather than attach so that they are noticed.
Lastly, you’ll want to kindly request a phone or in person appointment with them to discuss your products and the proposal further. This is essentially your “call to action” so try to craft this section well.
Finally, proofread your email before you send to ensure you have complete, typo-free properly structured sentences (then, right before you send - check it one last time!)