If you've landed on this page, chances are you're either thinking of opening a gift shop or are looking to refresh your existing store with new, unique finds. It makes no difference whether you're at the beginning of the road or have been in business for years, you should always be on the hunt for newer, more competitive products that your customer must love. After all, the key to a good gift is it's originality.
We have entered an era where there is no limit to innovation and customers of all ages are looking for something that is not only unique but functional as well. People have access to massive amounts of information and get bored very easily- they are always in the search for the newer, the better, the more intriguing. Consumers have acquired a level of consciousness where it isn't about the product itself anymore, but rather how it will make them feel? How will they get the most use out of it in their busy, hectic lives? Even if you own a very traditional gift shop, or maybe a fun, new-age boutique by the beach, keeping this new transition in mind will position you above the competition in your area.
So where do you start? How do you get the most competitive products in your gift store that will have the customer coming back for more? The following Tips might come in handy:
Tip #1 Use the Internet to your advantage and get creative in your google searches. The world-wide web is an important tool in finding some of the most unusual products out there, you just have to know where and how to look. Start with a simple google search but be specific in your search terms. Instead of typing in "unique wholesale gifts", have your search terms be unique to your store. For example, something like "unusual glass sculptures" or "unique wooden boxes" would work more efficiently. Another suggestion is to search for vendors or indie startups first and then browse through their list of products. Think about what is specific to your store, what sort of items or materials you are looking to bring in and start your search from there. If you have no idea and are just looking for clues, then finding a vendor that offers a variety of unique products first will make it easier in search for the perfect one for your store.
Tip #2 Visit craft shows, and travel to smaller trade shows that are NOT in your immediate area.
If you've been in business for a while, you probably already attend some local trade shows. The trick to standing apart from the crowd is not going where the crowd is going but heading in the opposite direction. Chances are, all the gift shops in your area (your greatest competitors) are attending the same shows and browsing through the same product line-up. Next time you're planning your buying season, take a risk and find a trade show in a completely different city, preferably where no store in your area will think to look. A smaller trade show is probably your best bet because it will feature younger companies and brands offering products unknown by many (Don't forget, we're looking to stand out). Yes, it's more time consuming but it will pay off- your existing and future customers will know you are the shop to go to for unique products they can't get anywhere else, and your reputation will grow. In addition, don't underestimate the small craft shows in your area. It's at these small craft events that you can meet a local artist who may potentially become your number one best seller in the future. You just never know- the trick is to attend as many events as possible and never stop exploring.
Tip #3 Don't be afraid to contact individual inventors or local craftsmen directly.
If you come across a new invention that is really unique or something handmade from a local craftsman, don't be afraid to reach out to them personally. Even if the artists don't sell wholesale, they will be happy to come to an agreement with you and get their art in your store. Working directly with an artists gives you flexibility when it comes to quantity and design- you can always get something customized. If you come across a new revolutionary invention (perhaps you saw it on social media or stumbled upon an article) check with the vendor to see if you can get a trial run in your store- You will be viewed as an innovator in your community. There is also a possibility customers in your area have already seen the product in the media and will seek you out directly to buy it.
11:11 Jacket: the jacket that transforms into a shoulder bag.
Tip #4 Search in other markets- don't be limited by just one industry.
Don't ever feel like you have to be confined to just one industry. Let's say you own a shop that offers mainly home accessories and handmade goods, next time you plan your buying week, don't just visit the home goods and gift trade shows, try to fit maybe a fashion accessories and apparel show in your schedule. There is a high probability you will come across some unique accessories that will work well with you store's character and it will set you apart from other similar stores in the area. It's always a good idea to offer a nice variety for you customer- just having some small unique accessories by the register could attract not only your customer's interest but also some additional sales.
Tip #5 Use product listing websites (for example: www.thisiswhyimbroke.com or coolthings.com) to find interesting products.
These product listing websites work wonders for finding unique gifts that people actually love. Scroll through and decide on what fits the best for you store. Have a price range in mind as you browse- you'll need to first figure out if you can afford it on a wholesale basis. Once you came across something you find to be a fit, do some research on who the vendor is and contact it directly. Chances are, they will be happy to hear from you and will accommodate you on your wholesale needs. Don't forget, you are a potential client for any manufacturer, distributor or importer so you should never be afraid to contact anyone directly and negotiate!
Tip #6 Use craft sites like esty, shophandmade or artfire (to list just a few) to find unique, handmade products you love. Build a list, contact the sellers directly and strike a deal with them. If they have something that could be customized, ask if they can produce a unique batch for your store or the area you live in. Perhaps you live in a town where locals love their football team or have an event or landmark they are proud of- Keep that in mind when you commission your bulk order. Don't forget to be respectful of the artists' work and negotiate a wholesale price that is deserved by them (but that your customers will also be able to afford).
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Designer by trade and dressmaker at heart. I spend most of my days obsessing over new fabrics and daydreaming new ideas.
Executive Assistant &
Client Relations Manager