Every shop you've ever dreamt of stocking, will work in a different way. They all have different buyers and different things suit, but here are some universal rules that I think will apply.
-DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Most websites will have a section dedicated to submitting work so have a look and do your homework.
When I receive email submissions, I can tell immediately who has read our guide and who hasn't. And to be honest, I already favour those who have. It can be frustrating, when we spend time explaining how to do it, and artists don't even read it. Some shops might have a day dedicated to studio visits and some may do skype meetings.
If you can't find anything on their website, give them a call. Ask how they'd like to be contacted. Say your name and be friendly. Once they've advised you, you can tell them to look out for you.
-KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Be brief. I cannot stress this enough. If I have an email submission that is five paragraphs long, I'll read the first line, skim the rest, then look at the pictures. If I like the images, I will go back and read a little more.
Buyers don't need to know that you like long walks on the beach and live with your cat. So make it snappy and you're more likely to get a quick reply. If we want to know more, we'll ask for it.
If you're sending post, then a little note, a wholesale catalogue and a sample of your best seller is more than enough.
Huge jpegs are a turn off. Zip files are a big no no. It may seem fussy but if we have 30 emails with 5 zip files each, that's a lot of time we are wasting.
Send around 5 images that are 72dpi (you don't need anything bigger on an email). If you have a wholesale catalogue, that's okay but make it a PDF that can be opened directly from the email.
Now pricing is often an awkward topic for artists, and could fill a whole blog never mind a bullet point. But make your wholesale and RRP prices obvious.
Personally, I don't mind friendly emails. Casual, honest and simple is my favourite.
-BE NICE ABOUT THE SHOP.
A little nod to the shop you are approaching will get you brownie points and talking about something you've seen in there will definitely make a difference. But don't blag it. I've had people pretend they've visited, and they soon get found out. If you live 400miles away from it, but follow their instagram and twitter then that's okay.
I've once had an artists say 'My work is better than x's work , who you stock, so have mine instead'. This is obviously a silly thing to do. I chose our stockists, so I take each comment personally.
-DON'T BE A ROBOT.
Use the right persons name. If you can't find it, call and ask who to address it too. If I have an email 'Dear Sir', 'To the owner', 'To Anna', then I'm probably not going to want to read on. If it's been sent to twenty shops, I probably won't read it either. Choose shops that you love, that represent something you care about and the fit will be much more natural.
I hope this helps some of you, even if it just gives you the confidence to say hello.
Feel free to comment if you have any questions for future advice posts or if this has helped at all.