5 Questions You Should Ask Before You Take On A New Supplier

This week’s guest blog is from Salena Knight, former cloth nappy retailer, member of the ANA and now, retail business strategist. 

As a retail store owner, you probably get requests every week, from people wanting you to stock their products.

Picture your potential supplier. They have a product that they’ve spent months or years perfecting, sourcing samples, getting manufactured and now, it’s here.  Or perhaps they’ve secured distributorship for an awesome new product. They want it to be in all the stores, because, let’s face it, they think it’s brilliant. As a retailer, you have a responsibility to your brand and your customers, to chose the correct products. Here are my top 5 questions you should ask potential suppliers before you even look at their products.


1. Products liability Insurance (PLI)

This is your top priority. No retailer should take on any product that doesn’t have its own products liability insurance. What is PLI?  It’s insurance that covers the manufacturer or distributor in the event that their product (or service) causes injury, death or damage to another person or business. As a retailer, I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death/injury caused by a faulty product. And you can bet your bottom dollar, that should something happen, all claims will lead straight to you if the manufacturer or distributor isn’t covered.


2. GST

Unless a product has massive mark-up of more than 110%, in these tough, cut-throat, economic times, no one is going to want to have to gouge 10% of the total sale price to give to the government when they can’t claim any input. It can be argued that a retailer can make their sale price anything they like, but at the end of the day, there is only so much tolerance in the general public for price differentiation. If a product has an RRP of $30, an online retailer (not registered for GST) might charge $29.99. The GST-registered business (who probably has bigger overheads and gets a lot more traffic into their store) is going to have to charge $33 to make the same amount of money. As retailer, if you have a choice of two similar products, with the same RRP, and one was registered for GST and one wasn’t, which would you choose? Being registered for GST shows a retailer that a business is not some fly-by-nighter. The person is confident in their business being around for more than a few months.


3. Account terms

Some smaller suppliers won’t offer you account terms. You need to think about whether this product has a proven track record and if it’s in your business’s best interest to have money tied up in an untested product. As a retailer, you must look at yourself as an agent for a product. You are going to be out there, actively promoting and selling this product. For many stores, account terms are a deal breaker.


4. Some sort of marketing plan

Very few retailers will ask this question. They think it’s getting a bit nosey, or it’s not their place to be asking about someone else’s business affairs. A supplier’s marketing plan doesn’t have to be uber professional, it can be sketched on a tissue for all I care, but I want to know how a supplier is going to drive customers to my store, or create a buzz around a product. Essentially, what’s in it for me, the retailer? If a potential supplier can’t or doesn’t know to how to promote their product, ask them to think about how they will work with you to get your product out there. Perhaps they could offer extra product for a giveaway, or offer to contribute to some advertising. There are many ways that don’t have to be expensive. It just requires some creativity and openness.


5. Professional product shots

As a retailer, you have to protect the brand you’ve created. Your customers know, like and trust what you’ve developed. As such, you should set high expectations of what a supplier provides to you, and the products you sell should be presented consistently and professionally. Do you really want some shots taken on a mobile phone representing what you sell? Are you prepared to put the money into having a product presented to a level required in your store?


There are of course, a lot of other things to consider before taking on a brand, but with all of my experience, these are the top 5 questions I ask a supplier, before I get their product in for analysis.


Salena Knight is passionate about retail being exciting. She shows store owners, and those who dream of being store owners how to bring business to retail.

You know that feeling when you walk into your favourite store? That feeling of calm, maybe a little excitement, wanting to know what’s inside? Through education, inspiration and fun, Salena wants small businesses to give EVERY customer that experience.

You can watch her Bringing Business to Retail TV show HERE or challenge yourself to grow your business this month by signing up for her 21 day boutique bootcamp HERE

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