Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
We recently sat down with Grant Mahan, Head of Sales Operations at Sunski, to chat about the ways in which his team approaches successfully growing their brand. Sunski takes a 50/50 approach to growing their business, focusing on both their direct-to-consumer market and their business-to-business wholesale market. That’s a ratio that they strategically maintain as they grow. Grant revealed a couple of key approaches Sunski takes in order to maintain their retail market, and keep that 50/50 balance.
- Building strong partnerships between wholesalers and retailers
- A process to differentiate their products
- Investing in efficiencies and systems
Partnership between wholesalers and specialty retailers
Sunski grows their brand with the specialty retail industry by ensuring a strong partnership between their wholesalers and specialty retailers.
“In the retail market, you hear about stores going bankrupt left and right. But a lot of that has to do with the lack of partnership between retailers and wholesalers,” stated Mahan. “The shopping experience needs to be more unique for the consumer, which is where wholesalers come in. Retailers and brands need to partner with wholesalers in order to provide better and unique customer experiences.”
Smart wholesalers and retailers partner up and share information on the retailers season, the likes and dislikes of their customers, and the unique qualities of the brand itself. This creates more value for the consumer because wholesalers and retailers were able to better cater to their wants.
Jon Faber, CEO and Founder of Envoy B2B, agreed with Mahan. “The opportunity within wholesale is vast,” Faber added. “While the industry will always be changing, brands and retailers working together to delight consumers will not. That collaboration is the bedrock of the industry and it’s more meaningful now than ever.”
A process to grow and differentiate
There’s a lot of noise in the sunglasses industry, which ultimately makes it tough for retailers to meet the demands of their customers. That’s why a process is needed for brands to differentiate themselves and provide value to their retailers.
The eyewear industry is considered “fast-fashion.” It’s always jumping from one style to the next, never taking time to consider the consumers needs and wants.
“You can look at a rack of 50 pairs of sunglasses from one brand, and 20 of them will look almost the same due to the lack of product development,” explained Mahan. “However, Sunski has been able to grow our business through diversifying our sunglasses without overwhelming people. With this, we’re working directly with the retailers to help them choose the best products for their customers.”
Sunski has taken a more involved approach to product development. They’ve created a process that includes research, development, and design stages to ensure they are in line with current trends.
Sunski takes this same process-led approach to building connections with their retailers.
Mahan explained that a lot of retailers are still choosing their products out of a paper catalog based on the merchandiser’s likes. However, Sunski has opted to go for a more efficient approach – providing support and working with the retailers – that helps them grow better connections.
From this, they are able to make a stronger partnership with their retailers by providing extensive knowledge of their products while enabling reps with the confidence that they need to sell. This relationship ultimately leads to a shopping experience that is more unique for the customer because the products are based on their specific wants.
Having a process to differentiate themselves allows Sunski to tell their story about each of their products to their retailers. This gives retailers the ability to better sell the story of Sunski, rather than just the product alone.
Investing in efficiencies and systems for growth
Lastly, Sunski has continued to grow their specialty retail channels by investing in efficiencies and systems.
Their small team of 11 people knew it was about adopting the right technologies to grow their wholesale business. As they grew, managing orders got more complex. They moved from CSV files and emails to multiple B2B platforms, and eventually invested in an inventory management system, Stitch Labs.
That adoption of Stitch Labs exposed gaps they could take advantage of with their wholesale channel. Those gaps were recently closed with the implementation of Envoy B2B’s e-commerce platform.
Envoy B2B enabled Sunski to empower their retailers with educational, shoppable experiences, merchandise their buys, and make ordering easier. This efficiencies allow Sunski to scale easily, while building strong retail partnerships.
“We wanted to change the way that wholesale was done, which was also Envoy’s mission. We want our reps to want to go into the platform and place orders. We want to build that partnership between our reps, our brands, and our retailers. When you create these partnerships, you are able to better sell to your customers, which creates a unique buyer’s experience, that then leads to keeping the wholesale market alive,” stated Mahan.
With 68% of specialty retailers attributing their growth to in-store sales and only 6% to website sales, having a B2B wholesale platform that can partner with brands and retailers, a process to differentiate products, and a plan to invest in efficiencies and systems is key to continuing growth within the specialty retail industry. Sunski knows this all too well, and their using it to their advantage to achieve success.