Understanding The Relationship Between Brands And Specialty Shops

Posted by Drew Karel on March 11, 2019

Specialty retail holds a unique value for brands.  It’s extremely important to understand this value in order to build the partnerships needed for lasting, mutual success. To help, we’ve put together a primer for you that describes the specialty market from the perspective of your buyers.  

As you can imagine, taking on a new brand can be a big risk for any specialty retailer.  Their retail space is often limited and they need to make sure every inch is performing to its maximum potential.  To do this, they need to buy from brands that they can trust, that show that they are invested in a mutual success, and that work with them to mitigate the risk they’re taking by buying from them.

Remember, just as your specialty brand must overcome hurdles that non-specialty brands don’t, your specialty retail buyers face challenges that big box stores don’t.  And understanding how these challenges influence their buying behavior will help you choose the right tools to help them make the right choice with your brand.

Shelf Space
For example, big box stores order in high volume and can leverage this to force brands to take back unsold stock. This eliminates most of their risk associated with making an order and allows them to easily keep their shelves full.

Specialty retailers, however, don’t have the ordering volume - and thus lack the clout - to force the return of any unsold product.  They have fewer shelves and less margin for error when trying to fill them.

Utilizing a modern wholesale B2B destination, for example, will help your buyers be more efficient by allowing them to carefully and confidently control their merchandising, orders, and inventory.  This, in turn, results in fewer unsold items and greater success for your buyer.

Value, Not Volume

“Large brands are once again coming to their senses that specialty shops provide a degree of authentic credibility that they can absolutely not manifest on their own… The staff that make up successful mountain town shops can ultimately be their biggest advocates. That doesn’t mean they’ll compete on volume, but we’re of the mindset that the outdoor industry has to refocus on QUALITY and not QUANTITY.
-Brendan Madigan, Alpenglow Sports

Big box retailers also have a different incentive in their buying than your specialty retail buyers.  Big box stores live and die by volume - the most people in the store, the most products in the cart, the most choices for the customer.  This often results in a Walmart effect - buyers looking primarily at margin and price point, not quality and value.

Your specialty retail buyers, however, will tend to be much more concerned with quality, value, and desirability.  They are looking to create the best experiences for their customers and to turn them into enthusiasts for the brands they choose to carry.

An effective B2B tool, with reporting and analytics tools, will help by surfacing key data such as best fit items for their store, their geography, or that particular season. Your buyers can then use this valuable information to optimize their offerings and increase sell-through.

Knowledge Is Power
Finally, big box retailers don’t take time to create retail experts, so employees are often less educated on the features of a product and the brand’s message. This means the only obvious differentiator to the consumer ends up being price. This is the opposite of what your specialty retail buyers want.

With a modern wholesale B2B system, retailers can educate themselves, check inventory, merchandise, and place orders autonomously as they manage their own demand. This frees them up to focus on maintaining the high levels of customer experience specialty retail is known for, and their store flourishes for it.  As they grow and find greater success, they order more product, and the cycle repeats.

Brands And Retailers, Together Forever
The relationship between your specialty brand and specialty retailers is very important and needs to be cultivated as much as possible.  One the most effective ways to do this is to implement a B2B tool built around the retailer’s seasonal journey and the fundamentals of wholesale.  Brands that provide a tool built around servicing not just their needs but also the needs of their retailers demonstrate that they take their relationship seriously and are invested in the success of their partners.

It’s simple.  If a brand gives retailers a content destination to educate themselves and become experts, then pairs it with robust commerce tools that allow for easy access to prebooks and at-once ordering, inventory, and merchandising, and that system also supports buyers all season long with tools built on a deep understanding of the buyer’s journey?  That’s the brand a retailer wants to work with.

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