wholesale strategies during covid-19


Lela Barker

The COVID-19 pandemic has done a serious number on artisan businesses. We’ve been talking a lot about it on our blog. Most of the brands in the Lucky Break community are struggling with sudden cash flow crises, forced shop closures, and uncertainty about what’s coming next. While direct-to-consumer sales are continuing to limp along to some degree, it feels like someone has put the universal air brake on wholesale. In an effort to maintain these channels, I have outlined 6 wholesale strategies during COVID-19 to weather the storm.


Wholesale strategies during the covid-19 outbreak is a two person tango.

Virtually every brand we work with reports that wholesale revenues are down steeply, whether those sales were coming in directly, via sales reps, or a third-party marketplace like Faire. With main streets shuttered from coast-to-coast, it easy to understand why wholesale revenues have suddenly evaporated.

But many makers and product designers rely on their presence in both large national chains and smaller, independent retailers for the lion’s share of their revenue. These brand owners are feeling the burn of the coronavirus pandemic more acutely than others. If your small business is struggling to continue relationships with the retailers you’ve worked so hard to gain, then we have some advice about how to bolster wholesale until the world returns to normal.


One of the best strategies is to be easy to work with and make your wholesale clients lives easier during COVID-19

One of the best wholesale strategies during the COVID-19 outbreak is to just be a good partner and help your stockists succeed. You can do that by implementing the following:

Temporarily lower wholesale minimums to help ease the cash crunch facing independent retailers right now. If possible, reduce your case pack minimums by a unit or two to help them bring in a broader assortment with minimal cash outlay.

Make it as easy as possible to sell your products online. Create professional-quality images on a white background, then make those photos available to approved stockists. Grant permission for them to use approved product descriptions, too. Many merchants are launching new e-comm sites right now, while others are expanding their online offerings. The brands that make it easy to feature their products online will fare better than those who don’t.


Consider launching a dropshipping program. In this arrangement, you permit approved online shops to promote your products, though the orders are forwarded to your company for fulfillment as they come in. This system benefits the retailer because they can fulfill orders without having cash tied up in inventory. It helps your business because you can expand your online presence at a time when e-commerce is booming, but brick + mortar is withering on the vine. We suggest a 70/30 or 60/40 split with the retailer, with your company keeping the lion’s share of the transaction price.

Ask shopkeepers to avoid third-party services, placing orders directly with your company whenever possible. Faire (and virtually every digital wholesale marketplace) collects a hefty commission on each order placed through their platform. Let your retailers know that placing orders directly with you saves your brand heaps of money at a critical time. Perhaps you can show your gratitude with a few incentives in the form of free or reduced shipping, extra testers, the inclusion of POP display, etc.

Wholesale strategies during COVID-19 outbreak.


Be a resource for your wholesale partners- what knowledge do you have that might be helpful to them? A longtime client this week shared with me that she’s creating video tutorials highlighting tricks for safely packing out orders, alongside leads of the best places to score shipping supplies. While she’s a seasoned pro when it comes to shipping online orders, this is virgin soil for many of the shopkeepers she works alongside. By creating resources to help them, she’s helping ensure their long-term viability while building brand loyalty. So smart!

Create a simple referral system to support the independent retailers with whom you already have a relationship. Invite them to drive traffic to your e-comm site to keep their customers supplied with your goods. Each time a shopper mentions the local brick + mortar store where they usually shop during the checkout process, you’ll credit a wholesale discount to their account. This system creates a win-win for both you and the independent retailers who carry your collection, and all you need to do is add a text box in your shopping cart to collect the referral attached to related orders. Peep at how candle brand Paddywax has implemented this concept.


We’d love to continue this conversation going to help makers and product designers continue to see returns on the wholesale programs they’ve worked so hard to build. What are you seeing out int he wild? What are you doing for your wholesale stockists? We invite you to drop a comment below to let us know.

Craving more actionable business advice? Hop on the Lucky Break mailing list to enjoy hot takes on business trends, resources, and strategies delivered free to your inbox twice a month. We’ll be in touch soon!


About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *