Three of the top factors in choosing a line of merchandise today may be that old retail adage: location, location, location. The cost of freight is of course one of the considerations in giving preference to a supplier that is not on the other side of the country, but another major advantage of buying from a local vendor is being able to provide merchandise that differentiates your store from the mass merchandisers we all compete with.

Consumers are looking for locally produced merchandise, and in fact Canadian-made goods rank #2 in a recent survey of what Canadian retailers are seeking. If you can narrow your focus down from the national level of Made in Canada or Made in the U.S. to merchandise from your region, you will make your store even more unique. ?

Where do you find locally made goods? For a start, you should attend a gift show in your area in addition to any national show. Let your sales reps know that you are focusing on goods made in your region, and ask what they’d suggest. We also find it worthwhile to go to local arts shows, farmers’ markets and crafts shows to look for merchandise.

You may find potential vendors at these events who are not used to selling wholesale, so some education may be necessary. Be sure that the vendors agree to sell you their merchandise at a price that will allow you to retail it at the same price that the artisan is selling it for. We often meet with an artist or craftsperson to work with them on developing some products made for us exclusively. Cards, jewelry and soap are examples of items that can easily be made in small quantities that we can say are only available through our store.

Be sure to have signage available drawing customers’ attention to your special regional goods. We have a variety of shelf-talkers that start with “Made in the U.S,” then “Made in the Midwest,” “Made in Wisconsin,” and finally get down to “Made in Madison.” Both visitors and residents appreciate finding goods that are unique to our store and also do good by helping to support our regional or local economy.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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