Stick To Wholesale Or Open First Retail Unit?

Anyone who is wholesaling will quickly agree that it is a difficult business. The retailer often swallows a lot of your profits, and you can loose control over your products. Suddenly, you’re having buyers dictate what products they take, in what colour, and in what quantities. And then, you have to wait 30, 60, 90 and often 120 days for your money. It’s expensive and dangerous. And then after all that, they can just decide not to work with you again. Just like that.

However, thinking of the larger picture, it can work. It works if you are dealing with the right retailer, who is going to get you the right exposure you need. You may not be directly successful from a financial point of view, but indirectly you will build up your customer base and become a more trusted business. Plus, that customer who walked into that small shop in Kensington High Street to try on your shoes, may just end up buying them directly off your website – or telling their friend to! Just go in with your eyes open, have contracts in place and make sure you trust the retailer you are dealing with.

Then there’s the option of having your own retail outlet... (assuming at this point you already have an ecommerce site).

The negative: Finding a shop in an appropriate area with enough passing trade is a mission itself, and then there’s the rent, the rates, the fit-out of the shop, and all that goes with it.

But then there are the positives, and there are plenty...
A. Pop-up shops are becoming more and more common. You no longer have to commit to a long lease, so the risk can be substantially reduced. 
B. You get the entire mark up in your pocket (obviously minus the overheads). 
C. You can decide what you put in your shop, and when.
D. You're in control. That colour isn't selling well? Just mark it down.
E. You can meet and speak to your customers, and give them a streamlined customer experience.

How to find a pop-up (the basics).
1. Find your key locations, based on research as to where your customers are or spend their time.
2. There are a few great middlemen who connect retailers with landlords looking to fill spaces, such as Appear Here and We Are Pop-Up. However, seeing as there is a middleman involved, you won't be getting the best of deals...
3. Go directly to the landlords. Find out who owns the units in a certain area, and contact them directly if you have seen a space available, or to see if they have any spaces becoming available. If they have an empty space, they will be only too happy to fill it for a short period of time. Some landlords (if you push for it) may even give it rent free (with only rates to pay), if they like what you're doing and think you'll bring people to the area. 
4. Make sure there is passing traffic in the locations available (unless your press is going to be so great that you can drive people there).
5. Make it even less risky and share the space with other brands who are align with what you do. That way, your costs are lowered and you'll  be bringing even more people into the store.
6. Use the space efficiently by finding one with enough space to hold stock or where you can work from, so you don't have to pay for a warehouse or office space while you are there.

My advice?
Although there are plenty out there who no longer believe in bricks and water, I believe that pop-ups are a really great way to test your market, make sales (at the right time and in the right location), and spread awareness about your brand (and drive more people to your website). If you have the finance to do so, definitely start with a pop-up (and all going well you can commit more permanently), and continue to wholesale to selected and trusted retailers who are going to help grow your business in terms of exposure. All of these things will ultimately build your brand presence and lead to more online sales, which is the goal for most modern retailers.