Crow & Canary, Part 2 : Q & A with Carina

Crow and Canary

Welcome to Part 2, the conclusion of the series with guest blogger, Carina Murray, of Crow & Canary. If you missed Part 1, you can see it here. Today, Carina will answer all of the questions that you posed in part one, and she’ll also address other questions commonly asked about having a rep for your line. Alright, Carina, take it away!

{Q} “…what would you recommend for an attack plan to get noticed by buyers and the appropriate or typical etiquette to approach…” “…is there a polite way to call a store and get the buyer info for sending out a media kit or samples?”

{A} I would encourage any line looking for more exposure to send press kits to magazines, as well as emails to design blogs. In terms of contacting out-of-town stores, my method is to first call and politely request the name of the buyer. I typically mention that it’s for the purpose of sending catalogs and rarely have anyone decline to give me the contact name. From there, I would go all out in creating a package for your catalog that’s enticing to open. You may consider using themes from your line. A ton of color and ingenuity go a long way! Your mailing will be memorable and stand out among the many submissions stores receive. Be sure to follow-up by phone or email. Tenacity is key! In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to follow-up with stores, they’d see the product and order it that instant. However, I find that most buyers have so much going on that they don’t mind a few reminder emails or calls. Unless a buyer explicitly says they aren’t interested, I continue to stay in contact with them.

{Q} “I’d love to know how you got into this line of work or tips for a beginner rep.”

{A} I got into repping because I wanted to start a business with low overhead and I have a true passion for paper arts. I was also fortunate enough to have the guidance of a friend with a successful card company. It’s definitely a job that requires self-motivation and you can’t be the least bit afraid of rejection! I would encourage you to look into ‘sub-repping’ to start with – meaning you would work for another agency to learn the tricks of the trade before branching out on your own.

{Q} “Any recommendations on a good rep-finding resource?” “I am VERY interested in hiring a rep for my line of stationery.”

{A} This is always a far more challenging question than one would think. Online presence of repping agencies is surprisingly low. These are some of the routes I know of:

  • The National Stationery Show typically has a listing in the lobby of the convention center for ‘Rep’s seeking Lines’ and vice-versa.
  • Most gift show and wholesale tradeshow websites list the names of reps exhibiting in current or past shows. You may consider checking out a local wholesale gift show to introduce yourself to some reps. It’s usually not too hard to gain a free day pass if you’re able to show your business credentials to the show manager.
  • Ask some of the retailers you work with. I frequently get inquiries from designers that have gotten my name from buyers I do business with.
  • Ask other designers you’re friendly with, some may be a bit guarded about their contacts, while others are happy to share the love!
  • Lastly, get creative with your google searches. ‘Manufacturer’s Representative’ is only a jumping off point in terms of keywords.

{Q} “once you sign up with a rep for a certain region, do you have to pay them commission for any and all shops you have product in within that region? what if you already had shops in place before you signed on with them? what if shops approach you directly without having ever interacted with the rep?”

{A} This will definitely vary by rep. I personally write individual contracts for new lines and am usually willing to negotiate, regarding existing accounts. One thing to consider – designers typically receive re-orders more steadily when working with reps, as reps tend to see stores on a quarterly basis. Although you’d be out the commission, you’d likely be ahead in the long run. There are some stores that prefer to order directly from the designer. Because these are few and far between, most of the lines I work with still pay commission on these orders. If you are considering working with a rep, I’d recommend that you get answers to these questions directly and be sure to draw up a contract that restates all of the information you and the rep agreed to verbally.

{Q} What skills are necessary for becoming a rep and making yourself known and trusted to suppliers?

{A} There’s no doubt that my job is sales-based, but strangely I don’t really think of myself as a sales person. I must truly love the lines and products I’m repping to make my business work for me. In turn, I believe that my genuine enthusiasm for what I’m selling shines through to buyers. In terms of working with new lines, it was basically a leap of faith that the designers took in giving me a chance to sell their wares. I made a point to familiarize myself with the ins and outs of each line I brought on and was able to fairly quickly build a reputation of being an up and coming rep.

{Q} When should I release new holiday cards?

{A} Be sure to time new releases with industry standards. May and June is when some buyers begin shopping for Halloween, Christmas, and Hannukah merchandise. It’s really easy to miss out on a large chunk of sales if your new designs aren’t ready to show. Another occasion that often slips through the cracks, is Valentine’s Day. I start showing Valentine’s as early as October. Most buyers don’t see reps between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it’s definitely helpful to have these out early. For spring occasions (Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation) I would recommend a release date in January.

{Q} What information should I include in my linesheet/catalog?

{A} I can’t emphasis the importance of quality photography enough! If you’re planning to splurge on any aspect of your catalog, make it the images. I’d suggest you keep your price sheet separate, in case you’d like to make changes down the line.

  • Be sure to include your terms (methods of payment you accept)
  • Quantity or opening order minimum. 1/2 dozens for individual cards are the most common.
  • Standard sizing of cards or other paper merchandise.
  • Any eco-friendly information about your product or company
  • Contact information. I know that sounds fairly obvious, but I’ve seen multiple companies forget this rather important detail.

I’d like to thank Carina for sharing her valuable insights and knowledge with all of us, and I hope that it helps those of you who are curious about obtaining a rep for your line. I’ve learned so much from Carina’s posts, and I hope that you have, too!

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4 comments on “Crow & Canary, Part 2 : Q & A with Carina

  1. Brooke commented //

    Very, very informative! Thanks for posting this!

  2. Pretty by Pistachio commented //

    Great post! Very interesting and helpful read. Many thanks.

  3. Jilly Jack Designs commented //

    Thanks for the great post. It was extremely helpful.

  4. Kristen commented //

    Glad to hear that you all found the post to be informative and helpful!

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