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How to source and buy products for your new retail store

August 2, 2023 | Published by Faire

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The transformation from the blank slate of an empty store to shelves filled with perfectly curated stock is a thrilling one. 

After you’ve planned your inventory—calculated your budget, identified what’s trending in your area, and figured out how much inventory to buy—you’ll start the process of sourcing products and placing orders. The vendors you decide to work with and the items you choose to sell will be the foundation of what makes your store unique.

Here, we’ll dive into how to discover and buy merchandise for your new store.

Discover brands and products

During the inventory planning process, you visited a handful of local shops to research what categories and products are on trend in your area. You likely came across some brands and products that are popular or unique—but now that you’re ready to start buying, there’s even more to explore. 

Traveling any time soon? Pop into intriguing brick-and-mortar stores you come across and write down the names of brands that catch your eye. These are good leads for products that might be completely new or unique back home in your shop.

Additionally, social media is a fantastic tool for both inspiration and intel when it comes to stocking your store. You can browse Instagram to discover independent brands and even reach out to connect with them. Check out Pinterest, TikTok, and Facebook to see what local consumers and influencers are discussing. Once you have social channels set up for your business, you can even check in with potential customers directly, running online polls and surveys about their favorite brands and products. 

You can also find out about brands and products through wholesale industry channels. You can attend trade shows and visit showrooms at dedicated market centers in cities including Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Some trade shows feature a single product category, such as gift, home, apparel, toys, or food, while others offer a range of product categories. Of course, you can also discover products online. 

Online wholesale marketplaces, like Faire, are an especially easy and convenient way to find inspiration, browse, and discover new products—all without having to leave your home or shop.

The Faire marketplace features more than 100,000 brands, including those whose values mirror your own. If you decide to give Faire a try, use the tools below to explore great products for your store.

Build a list

As with so many tasks to undertake as a new store owner, it’s best to start by making a list. You could either write your list out and search for those items on Faire or you could use our Boards feature to save brands as you browse. As you get inspired by products you love, you can follow brands and use Boards to stay organized. We’ll get more into that later in this section.

As you start exploring the marketplace, we recommend using filters to discover products that fit the categories (such as Food & Drink) and subcategories (such as Condiments & Sauces, Spices, Rubs & Seasonings, etc.) your store will sell. You can also filter brands and products using a range of criteria:

Brands that are aligned with your values

There are plenty of good reasons to make sure your brands match the principles and commitments that are important to you and your community. In fact, it’s often those very values that inspire entrepreneurs to open a retail store in the first place. 

Values-aligned products set you apart from the competition and help build stronger relationships with your customers. To find them on Faire, start by clicking on the Values drop-down menu in your filter options and search by values such as:

Brands that are local … or not

Use the Location filter to find brands in a specific country or region. A local vendor, for example, might provide an opportunity to save on shipping costs, reduce your carbon footprint, and entice your customers with locally made items.

On the flip side of this approach, you can search specifically by locations farther afield. This will let you offer your customers unique international goods and hard-to-find products from independent makers across the globe.

Brands with low minimums

Order minimums specify the minimum dollar amount that a brand is willing to sell to a retailer, which must be met before you can place an order. If you’re looking to try out new products without making a huge commitment or breaking the bank, you can also filter by order minimum. You can even search by brands that have no minimum at all.

Brands that are handpicked

At Faire, our merchandising specialists curate themed buying guides throughout the year, which can be a great way to shop for your ideal customer. Some of these collections feature unique products vetted by partners such as the Fair Trade Federation, the Museum Store Association, and the Good Food Awards.

If you don’t want to add all of your finds to your cart just yet, you can follow brands, save products, and get organized using the Boards feature. On your home page next to your Account tab, click on the heart icon. Here, you’ll see all your saved products and brands you follow. Build Boards based on seasonal buying, themes, products, or brands. If you need more of a jump start, Faire even has pre-curated boards.

Know when to buy

It’s important to have stock in place by opening day, but you’ll also want to consider seasonality—such as busy and slow seasons in your area—as well as holidays when you plan your orders.

It’s usually safe to place your orders about a month in advance. Pay close attention to your vendors’ lead times—the estimated time between when an order is placed and when the brand fulfills the order. While many consumer brands can offer same-day shipping, some wholesale brands will require more lead time. This information can be found on every brand’s shop page on Faire, and you can even filter by lead time, e.g., “nine days or less.” 

Consider upcoming holidays and buying moments as well: 

  • In January, buy for Valentine’s Day
  • In February, buy for Easter and spring
  • In April, buy for Mother’s Day
  • In May, buy for Father’s Day and summer 
  • In July, buy for back-to-school
  • In August, buy for Halloween and fall 
  • From July through November, focus on holiday buying

A few good tools to have on hand are our guide to annual wholesale buying, this list of diverse holidays, and even this list of United Nations-recognized days and weeks.

Choosing the right mix of products

Now that you know what you would like to buy and who you would like to buy from, you’re ready to make your first order. While this order will likely be your largest since you’re stocking your shelves for the first time, not everything you’ve found needs to make it into your first order. Here are some final things to keep in mind as you tweak your shopping cart. 

Purchase a blend of lower- and higher-priced items

It’s important not to carry pieces that only capture the imagination but to also carry practical items everyone needs to have on hand. For example, balance an expensive statement candle with more affordable lip balm products with the same scent.

Buy items of various shapes and sizes

Ensure you have smaller items to tuck between larger ones for dynamic merchandising opportunities. Also, it’s important to have suitable ways to display the products you’re buying. Will you need hooks? Shelves? Tables? If you’re not sure you have the right space to display a certain product, consider putting it on the back burner for now. 

Balance simplicity with novelty

It’s easy to fall in love with a maker’s work and decide you want one of everything. While having some built-in scarcity can be good for sales, it’s important not to go too far. Consider buying four or five copies of an artist’s three most popular prints, rather than one copy of 15 different prints. 

Stay on theme

It’s great to have a variety of products spanning several categories, but as you’re finalizing your cart, consider how the products will look together. Does the assortment lend itself to nice merchandising opportunities? Does anything look out of place? Consider cutting any products that won’t have a natural home in your shop.

Take some calculated risks

While you want to keep your inventory moving, you might also make the strategic decision to stock a small handful of items that may take longer to sell but really set the tone for your store’s mood and values. Plus, product photography of these special items often performs well on social media, which will bring in customers.

Purchasing on Faire helps mitigate the risk new brands and products might bring. Retailers can pay for orders up to 60 days after purchase, and Faire offers free returns on the first order you place with any brand. And to make things even easier, new retailers can get support from our Open with Faire program and receive up to $20,000 with 60-day payment terms.

Look ahead

During your first few months, it’s especially helpful to maintain strong visibility into inventory turnover, which can inform how you forecast sales for your business and reveal cracks in your inventory management processes. Your Point of Sale (POS) system will help give you insight into what’s selling well and when you need to reorder.

Finding the sweet spot on your product inventory is a rewarding challenge that will help you give your customers the products they want when they want them. And for many retail store owners, this is the best part of the job!

Are you opening a new retail store? Read more about Open with Faire and learn how to apply for up to $20,000, with 60-day payment terms, to stock your new shop.

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