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Me at Spring Fair 2018
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My top 10 tips on how to not lose your sh*t when selling to shops

Friday 9 February 2018


Maybe you sell your stuff to shops already. Maybe you would like to. Or maybe you have NO idea how all the lovely stuff you see in the shops gets there and are intrigued to know how it all works. Or maybe you have 4 minutes while you eat your BLT and there is nothing better on Facebook. Whatever your reason, here is my guide on how I managed not to lose my mind at Spring Fair:

1. Spring Fair is huge. Like REALLY BLOODY huge. For the last week, this ginormous trade show at the NEC, Birmingham show has been mine and my sisters entire life. It is the largest in Europe and it is where businesses set up stands to display their wares for shops & online retailers to then buy their products to sell to the general public. Some of the stands you might know (think Bombay Duck, Ian Snow, India Jane, Joe Wicks, Sophie Allport) and some are smaller, newer or just downright obscure (I even saw one stand selling nothing but bin liners, glam). There are around 2,500 stands taking up 20 halls and you don’t just nip from hall to hall; it took me 20 minutes, 3 travelators, a lift and a near nervous breakdown getting from end to end). Anyway, little old us managed to blag a stand and my point is that you need to be prepared to feel like a drop in the ocean – you just need to make sure your drop is made of glitter and can conga round the living room. Here I am, with sister Lucy (biological relation, not nun) looking like we are ready to star in the Great British Bake Off:

2. Wear a thick skin and the most orthopaedic shoes you can find. You love your product, you know it’s well designed, well made and the classist thing since Lady Di but some will not. For most shops, what you are selling is simply not right for them or not their cup of tea. And you’ve got to remember that that is FINE because if all shops stocked the same things the world would be a very dull place indeed. Nine times out of ten, if a shop likes your product, you also love their shop so it’s happy days all round. The shoes thing? Well, after 2 days of setting the stand up and 5 days parading it’s 5-meter length, your feet will hurt like a heartbroken teenager. Embrace your inner old lady – here it is cushioned sole HQ and you are the CE0.

3. Take at least 2 tubs of mini rolls. You know the ones. Enough said.

4. Be kind to your neighbours. They will be your life for a week. Offer those mini rolls around and talk, talk, talk. They will know things about selling to shops that you don’t. We were SO lucky and were surrounded by the nicest people you could hope for. Here is me and Chelsea from Chelsea Candles while she was trying to explain the joys of Instagram Stories to me. What a gem.

5. Don’t book your accommodation just one month before the event. You will have to stay somewhere with one lift for 400 people and a view onto the bins. On the upside though, my bed now i’m home has never felt more god damn beautiful.

6. You need a Lucy. My sister knows what she is talking about – she knows her payment terms from her point of sales and if it wasn’t for her, I would still be there turning in circles trying to woo shops into buying my things just because they are really pretty and lovely and brilliant. The products should speak for themselves but once they are done chatting, a bit of retail knowledge is golden.

7. Stand outside for 5 minutes a day with your face in the sun. Or drizzle. Or even snow, for one of our days, which was particularly nice. You will be inside from sunrise to after dark – it’s enough to turn even the most agoraphobic running to the hills for a frolic with the badgers.

8. Write EVERYTHING down. When shops come-a-browsing, you need to make sure you know as much as you can about them. They will see hundreds of stands and you need to be able to pop up in their emails the next week with a cheery hello and a REMEMBER HOW GREAT I AM 👋🏻 Apparently, writing ‘Helen from that really nice shop in London is not good enough – lesson learnt.

9. Get a curry. It’s Birmingham and they are great. Oh and make sure you know whether or not Rag ‘n’ Bone man is playing a gig 2 minutes from your hotel. We, sadly, did not and standing with your ear to the wall outside isn’t quite the same. Plus the security will think you are bonkers and chase you away with a broom.

10. (well done for hanging with me here) but 10 is my biggest and best tip to stop you losing your sh*t. PAY SOMEONE TO PAINT YOUR STAND BACK AFTER THE SHOW. This is me, at 7pm after a looonnng 6 days, wearing my nice jeans because I forgot to pack my scruffs, painting the darkest navy you can buy back to white. To top it off, the paint had dried up to the consistency of peanut butter and more ended up on the carpet and in my eyes than on the walls.

I am in NO WAY an expert at this and have so, so much to learn but doing a show like Spring Fair was a huge step for us and I am so proud that we now have some fantastically gorgeous shops stocking our stuff, with more on the horizon. Oh, and you will be happy to know my eyes are now paint free but I have acquired an unfortunate reliance on mini rolls. Highs and lows but as always, forwards with a grin and a merry wave as we skip along our path of making stuff we love to sell and hopefully, that you love to buy!

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3 Replies to “My top 10 tips on how to not lose your sh*t when selling to shops”

  • Alison Scothern says:

    Have you ever thought of running a business workshop with tips on how you have expanded your business over the years? I for now would definitely be interested. I’ve followed you from when you we’re first featured as artist of the month in Artists and Illustrators. I think it’s amazing how far you’ve come since then, especially for someone so young and with a young child! I’m sure you’d have a lot of advice to give. Just a thought.

    • katiecardew says:

      Hi Alison, such lovely comments, thank you so much! Yes, I am thinking about it. We have just moved into a bigger studio so it is something on our to do list!

  • Caroline says:

    That is a BRILLIANT blog! And so very true. You now have to get a second wind to get back to all those stockists. The golden rule really is believe in your product… and keep going! Well done team KC!

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