{Ask Grace} What's the Common Thread

by Grace Kang of Retail Recipes & Pink Olive Boutiques

ask grace, retail recipes, grace kang, pink olive boutique, retail answers for handmade business{image credit: a collection of wooden spools print by honeytree}

I thought I would start off this month’s Q&A post by sharing a small secret – I never knew there was such a thing as a retail buyer! In fact, I wanted to be a designer like many of you. I have always had a creative mind and one that was constantly over-flowing with new ideas and inspirations. Long story short, I ended up going to Cornell as a Textile and Apparel major but ended up leaving with a Business Management and Marketing degree. My love for design and creativity didn’t change. However, I became fascinated with the business side of how products came to life. I was determined to be a sponge and learn everything there was to know about the retail side of running a business ~ and that pretty much describes how I spent the last 13 years in the retail industry. People usually look at designers vs retailers at two ends of the spectrum. I am someone who is actually on your side. My mission for starting retailrecipes.com was to equip emerging designers with the proper tools and ingredients to succeed. I realized that without indie designers, all the retail stores will start to look the same. As someone who is still IN the business, I need all the creative designers to thrive! If you do well, the retailers do well. It’s a win-win partnership.


Q: Meg asks, “I am the owner of a small business and I make a variety of products but the main focus has always been handmade pillows. Many of the pillows feature hand-embroidery or some sort of embellishment. I get all of my fabric for the pillows on closeout sales at a local fabric store so unfortunately when I find a fabric, there usually isn’t a lot of fabric and I cannot re-order more. Because of this, the pillows I make truly are “one-of-a-kind”.

I want to get into the wholesale part of the business and have been approached by store owners. But I don’t know how to “market” or “package” a product that cannot be re-ordered again. And how do I make line sheets/catalog for store owners without making a million different versions?

Thanks for listening! I know there are many small business owners that have this problem and I would love to hear what you recommend!”

A: Hi Meg! This is a great question and one that other designers can apply to their businesses as well. “One-of-a-kind” items can absolutely be re-orderable. Here is what I mean.

As long as there is a common thread theme to your items (i.e. for you, the pillows can be grouped by patterns, color ways, jewels…etc) you can say to the buyer that they will get an “assortment” of pillows in “X” theme. As long as buyers are informed of the “theme” ahead of time, they will be OK with getting an assortment of those items. If anything, that actually make the item more interesting and gives something to talk about with their customers. It also creates that sense of urgency for customers to buy it right then and there. “It may not be there tomorrow!” 🙂

Here are a couple of examples of how we have incorporated “one-of-a-kind” items at Pink Olive.
ask grace, retail recipes, grace kang, pink olive boutique, retail answers for handmade business

1. Surprise sock monkey for charity

The perfect gift for any monkey lover! This one-of-a-kind sock monkeys are handmade by artists of Fresh Art, a NYC based non-profit organization that provides assistance to artists with special needs. No two are the same as they vary in color and size. It will be a sweet surprise! 80% of sale will go directly to fund Fresh Art.

2. Surprise one-of-a-kind cakestands

The perfect gift for any foodie, this one-of-a-kind vintage cakestand will surely impress your guests. Each piece is hand-picked and made with love from knack studios. No two are the same as they vary in color and size. It will be a sweet surprise!

3. One-of-a-kind onesies by mama cow

Felt graphic (i.e. owls, birds, whales) is handmade and hand stitched on these adorable bodysuits by Designer Emily Cowdrey. Made with new & recycled materials.

Hope this gives you some ideas! You do not have to create multiple versions of linesheets. Keep it simple. You can create one that has the “base” of what your pillow normally looks like. Then add the different themes for each season. If you are only able to create a few units of something (due to fabric availability), you can note that they are “limited run” or “limited edition.” Customers like the idea of getting limited runs of something – you can even note 1 of 20, 2 of 20, 3 of 20…etc on the hangtag. When you create something that only a few people can own, it creates a greater sense of value.

So whether you make one-of-kind pillows to onesies to notebooks to dolls, you can absolutely have that be a reorderable business that can be very profitable. Once they start selling, your customers (i.e. stores) will start to trust you in selecting different batches for them. This is where you start rock-n-rolling with your stores and selling can be FUN!


Do you have a burning question? Leave your question below and be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get your FREE checklist report – 10 things you MUST do before approaching a retail buyer.

One comment

Leave a Reply