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Going Global · Georgia Perry

Small Business

We live in an age of interconnectedness, where few of us would think twice about buying products from international labels we find while casually scrolling Instagram. Yet, for many Australian small businesses, reaching out to global stockists is a daunting task.

In our last Small Business column for 2017, Fiona Killackey talks to the ever-inspiring Georgia Perry about self-education, embracing the boring bits of selling globally, and how she landed some of the most coveted stockists on the planet.

1st December, 2017

Georgia Perry RULES at getting product noticed globally! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Inside Georgia Perry’s bricks-and-mortar store, KIOSK. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Studio details. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘The hardest thing has always been accepting that I can’t do everything… taking on too much and burning yourself out is not good for anyone,’ says Georgia. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Product notes and sketches by Georgia. ‘I really liked the idea of creating something just because I felt like it – not because I’d been commissioned by a client,’ she tells. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Georgia at KIOSK, which opened on Smith Street, Collingwood, earlier this year. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Photography – Caitlin Mills and Amelia Stanwix.

‘I never planned to turn this into a business in its own right,’ starts Georgia Perry from her Smith St KIOSK store, ‘but things progressed quickly, which meant I had to “level-up” and learn things fast so I could make the most of the opportunity.’ That business is Georgia Perry, a colourful and bold accessories and design brand, that’s become one of Melbourne’s go-to for unique gifts (often to one’s self!).

Originally trained as a graphic designer, Georgia began experimenting with small product runs in 2014. ‘It was just before Christmas when I first had the idea to supplement my studio practice with some small products’ the designer explains. ‘I’d been working as a graphic designer/illustrator for about seven years and I really liked the idea of creating something just because I felt like it – not because I’d been commissioned by a client’. It was only after sharing her product creations with her friends via social media, that Georgia realised the potential that existed. ‘Miraculously things started to sell! I was shocked, excited and a little under-prepared!’

Grasping the opportunity, Georgia set about teaching herself everything she could with regard to retail, profit margins and marketing. ‘I’ve taught myself literally everything from calculating profit margins and navigating import taxes to using accounting software and creating line sheets, purely by Googling stuff! It’s often the quickest way’. It was at this time Georgia also launched her online store, enabling items to be seen and purchased by people across the globe.

‘At first I did everything myself. Designing the products and packaging, researching, manufacturers and prototyping, shooting and editing product photos, listing products online and maintaining the website then hand-writing (!) address labels and taking everything to the post office!’ Georgia admits. While handling orders online was stressful at times, especially during the peak Christmas season, it was when stockists began approaching Georgia, that she realised she needed help. ‘The hardest thing has always been accepting that I can’t do everything… taking on too much and burning yourself out is not good for anyone.’

Six months after launching, Georgia enlisted her good friend Zoe to help out. ‘At first, it was just for a few hours and then gradually it became more and more. Now, nearly three years later we have a team of five and Zoe is still working with me as my Wholesale/Studio Manager’.

Within those three years, Georgia Perry has grown from a small product run for friends to a successful global business with her 130 stockists of the brand ranging from Colette and Le Bon Marché in France, through to Nordstrom and Kin Los Angeles in the US. ‘Initially I never even planned to wholesale at all, but after a few accessories began to get some press I started getting approached by stores.’ Admitting she knew ‘literally nothing’ about wholesaling, Georgia was forced to up-skill for a second time.

‘At first, I would spend many long nights on the couch with my laptop, compiling spreadsheets of cool stores I wanted to stock with. It was very time consuming (scouring the internet, finding buyers emails etc.) but I realised the value that wholesale would bring – both financially and in terms of getting my product in front of a wider audience, so it became very important to me early on.’

Educating herself via her own networks as well as online forums and articles, Georgia was able to create her own wholesale terms — ‘just a single A4 page with things like payment terms, how we would ship orders, what happens if something goes missing etc.’ – as well as a wholesale price list (using Google Sheets). She used ‘online margin calculators to try and work out a sweet spot where we’d still make enough from wholesale for it to be viable’ and drew upon her graphic design experience when creating ‘well designed selling tools — clear photos of the products, an easy-to-follow price list and a PDF lookbook’.

Given the popularity today of Georgia Perry, the brand regularly receives invitations to stock in places across the globe. So, how does she decide which ones are the right fit? ‘Before we agree to stock with anyone (both in Australia and internationally) we have a quick form that the store needs to complete which includes things like social media handles, which other brands they stock etc. This definitely helps us get a better picture of who they are and whether it’s a good fit… Above all, it’s ensuring the stores we work with have values that align with ours, and we trust them to represent us well.’

For those looking to get stocked overseas, what advice would Georgia give? ‘Firstly, buyers are always on the hunt for cool new products to fill their shops with. You could be doing them a massive favour by reaching out and showing them something they haven’t seen before. If you can get them to open an email, you’re halfway there.

Secondly, buyers are insanely busy people so you want to do everything you can to make it easy for them – eliminate barriers like long boring biographies, low-res product photos or not including a wholesale price list.’ Next, says Georgia, is to ‘make your selling tools clear, concise and easy on the eye. If you can’t do it yourself, enlist a friend who can take some product photos or help design a lookbook for you… We only started investing in photo shoots last year, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’

Most of all, says Georgia, just don’t be afraid. ‘The absolute worst thing that can happen is they say no. That’s it! Don’t die wondering!’

Deep into the gifting season, celebrating their new physical store and and a recent third birthday, Georgia Perry is one busy lady. So, what’s next? ‘We opened our own retail store, KIOSK in August so we’re really looking forward to our first Christmas with a physical space. Other than that, we have lots of new products and ideas in development for next year – the dreaming and scheming never ends!’

Shop Georgia Perry and KIOSK  online or drop into the Kiosk store at 77 Smith Street, Fitzroy, VIC.

‘I’ve taught myself literally everything from calculating profit margins and navigating taxes to using accounting software and creating line sheets purely by Googling stuff!’ – Georgia Perry.

Georgia Perry and her vibrant inspiration board. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Photography – Caitlin Mills and Amelia Stanwix.

TIPS FOR GETTING STOCKED OVERSEAS

1. Know Your Audience

When you know your audience completely, you’re able to understand what sort of retail experience they want – regardless of where in the world they find themselves. Is your target audience more likely to spend time in the main shopping areas of a city or are they the type to venture out to lesser known, smaller boutiques or galleries? Will they want to find you in major department stores or will they think negatively of your brand if that happens? Which publications (online and print) will they be devouring and which shops are regularly featured in those publications? Who’s following the stores you’d like to be stocked in and could they become new audiences for your brand to be exposed to?

2. Do Your Research

Once you have a solid understanding of your audience it’s so much easier to begin your research into the most suitable stockists for your items. When looking at a potential stockist, review the about us pages, understand what drives their business, the team and the values behind it. Follow and engage with them on social media and look at the way they represent their existing brands. Digest media about the business and, if applicable, set up Google Alerts so you’re up to date with any news about their store/s before you go in with a pitch.

3. Embrace The Boring Bits

As Georgia states, it’s the boring bits that can trip you up when stocking internationally, so it’s crucial to embrace these elements from the start. From getting legal contracts in order, through to understanding the best freight carrier for your products and organising bar codes, it’s the “boring bits” that will save you the most heartache (and time!) later on. If need be, look at getting legal or financial assistance before making any long-term agreements. Local government sites, as well as global payment companies like Paypal can be a place to start accessing further information about selling globally.

4. Make An Impression

In my very first job, as Editor of Fashion Journal, I had a guy drop by the office wanting us to push his t-shirts in a shoot. It was 2004 and he was making them from home in Melbourne, but had them stocked in Colette in Paris. When I asked how he had managed to get Colette he said he had packed up the t-shirts with a huge amount of “Aussie” chocolates (Freddo Frogs, violet crumbles etc.) then spray painted the whole delivery box to Collette bright pink with glitter. Now, compare this to a stock standard brown box that gets delivered. Which one would cause more intrigue in the Colette buyer’s office? If you’re going to bother to send samples, think outside the box to ensure it’s a memorable (IG-worthy) experience for the recipient. If you’re contacting them via email in the first instance use tools like Headline Analyzer and Google Alerts to aid in open rates and relevancy, and consider the best time (in their zone) to send it.

5. Support Your Stockists

One of the best ways to ensure stockists remain fans is to show them you care. This could be as small as sending the buyer a card for their birthday or creating a how-to video guide for selling/merchandising your products. You may also want to invest in professional photography they can use on their own social media or write articles they can use on their blog. You should invest the same amount of time, if not more, retaining stockists as you do chasing them in the first place.

 

Fiona Killackey is a business consultant and the founder of My Daily Business Coach, providing information and education for starting and growing a creative small business.  Need help with your Marketing? Fiona is running a full-day workshop on Marketing for Your Small Business Saturday 16th December at General Assembly, Melbourne. 

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