Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Business Chat - How to Create a Line Sheet



“Help! A store asked me for my line sheet! I’d love to have my work in this store, but I don’t have a line sheet because I don’t know what it is.“

The good news about this is that if they are asking for your line sheet then they are looking to buy wholesale and not on consignment. Yay! Moving on, now you have to create your line sheets. Easy.

A collection is all of your work organized into “lines” or “series”. A line or a series, is a body of work with a common defining element. A line sheet is basically a catalog page or brochure that shows your line to prospective wholesale customers. A catalogue is all of your line sheets together.

Here are the sections of a good line sheet.

The Basics
  • Business Name/Logo
  • Your name
  • E-mail, phone and addresss
  • A short statement about your business – what makes it special

Your company wholesale Policies
  • Opening order: The minimum amount a retailer must buy from you the first time they order (e.g. $200). Remember these numbers are all the wholesale numbers.
  • Reorder amount: The minimum amount a retailer must buy from you after the first order.
  • Payment – Outline your payment options and policies here. Do you accept cheques? Paypal? Direct Debit? Credit Cards? Do they pay in advance, COD or do you accept terms such as Net 30? It is common for first orders, or the first 3 orders, to be paid in advance and then for the maker to offer Net 30. (Net 30 means that the buyer has 30 days to pay from the date they receive the order).  Do you offer discounts for early payment?
  • Shipping Cost and Times – How long will it take you to ship your items to the retailer once they have ordered? How long will the actual shipping take from where you are to where they are? Who is paying for the shipping?
  • Valid Until – Make sure you put an end date on the validity of your prices!! It may become necessary to raise your prices, make sure you have this option.
  • Your warranty policy. Do you take returns for damaged/incorrect goods? How long after receiving your goods does your customer have to return these goods? Do you refund shipping costs, too?
  • Your Returns policy –Do you offer a “swap” policy? (If your work doesn’t sell can they swap it – exchange it?)

The Items
  • Start with the name of the line featured and the season. For example, “Ocean Line, Summer 2012 Collection”
  • Each Item should have a photograph that is clear, professional-quality and large enought to show the details. Keep the photos simple and uncluttered
  • Next to each image on your line sheet:
  • The item's name or order number.
  • Any available options such as colours, sizes, etc.
  • The item's measurements, length, etc.
  • Price Sheet
It is a really good idea to keep your prices separate from the actual line sheet. Your supplies fluctuate in price and if you were hit with an increase in supplies you have to increase your prices. Rather than changing your whole line sheet, you only have to change your price sheet. (Make sure you have a statement on there saying “prices subject to change without notice”). A price sheet is just a list of your items by number, your wholesale price and the MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price). Keep in mind, once a store has bought your work they own it and have the right to charge whatever they want.

Order Sheet
Start your order sheet with your company information and then a simple table for them to fill out. Head the columns with quantity, item number, title, and subtotal. You can make this a pdf that they can download and fax back to you, or you can fill it out in person. If you don’t have a fax, you can ask them to scan it in and then email it back. Or you could try sending them a Word file so that they can fill it out online and email it back. 
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Brand your line sheet.
Make sure that your that your line sheet evokes the style and personality of your work. This is sometimes one of the first pieces of your company that a potential account sees. They should have a good feel for you from this.

Keep it simple and clean. If the buyer can’t read the tiny print, they can’t read it. If this is going out electronically test it out on a variety of screens. Designing on a 27” screen may give you a lot of space, check out how it looks on an iPad.

Some makers include a short artist's statement or artist biography as part of their line sheet, or any unusual information about their products. This kind of info isn't necessary, but if it happens to be unusual, interesting, or related to a timely topic in your case, it can sometimes lead to more sales.

Getting your line sheets to prospective customers
You should have printed copies of your line sheet available to hand out in person at trade shows and when visiting a shop or gallery. It’s important to have an electronic copy that you can email to  wholesale prospects.

The best way to create the electronic version is to save your line sheet file as a .pdf file, and either make it available on your website or email it when you contact a store.

Some designers prefer to keep their product lines and prices a secret from their competitors and keep their line sheets in a password protected area of their website. You definitely don’t want your retail customers seeing your wholesale pricing sheets as they won’t always understand why the difference between the wholesale price and the MSRP. It’s your decision on how you want to distribute your line sheet or catalogue.

If you do make it openly available, there's a much greater chance it will be found by a shop or gallery that's interested in carrying your work. One idea is to put your line sheet openly online but not the price sheet.

If you are serious about selling wholesale, creating line sheets is a necessity. The first one is the hardest to do, after that you have a template and can just change the images. It’s worth the time.

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