10 Easy Steps to Setting Up Your Own Merchandise Run
So you want to start a merchandise run for Base/Outpost or Legion items…but you start to tell yourself, “What am I doin, I have never done this before…what kind of Bantha Poodoo am I fixing to get myself into…aren’t there a million things that need to happen for me to do this…?”
Never fear…don’t turn to the dark side. Here are 10 easy steps to get yourself going from Interest to Completed Sale:
1. Decide on your logo and/or art that you are going to use on a particular item, and make sure that the art is approved by the Merchandising Officer. If it is something for a major convention, the LCO. Those emails are firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org . If it is PR merchandise, then it needs to go to the Rebel Legion PR Officer by PMing Deidra Culp, Princess Dee. There is so much out there that can be put on a particular item, and it is great when bases/outposts want to run their own sales for merchandise.
2. Research – find out as much as you can about the product, whether it be a coin, patch, hat, shirt, pen, button, sticker, etc. The Interest Threads and Current Items Threads are great places to start. See what others have done with their items. These areas are perfect for finding out the companies they have used, as well as the general interest for a particular item. Some things take time and may have dropped off after a while…maybe it is time to resurrect that item, start on a brand new one or do a rerun of an item that has already come and gone, like the We Are The Heroes shirts or the Tatooine Base patches.
3. Get pricing Quotes – Contact the manufacturer that we have used or if you know of a local company that you would like to try and give the business to, by all means, get competitive quotes as well as either hard copy proofs or as some of the major companies do, digital proofs, showing colors, threads, and pricing including and fees for shipping, setup and extra colors. Also make sure that you get information about quantity discounts and what the minimums are. Most places will have a minimum of 100 pieces for clothing, patches and coins, whereas items like pens, stickers, tattoos, etc. will be better off with 1000-10000. Some of the companies we use are:
• Moritz Embroidery
• Stadri Emblems
• Patches R Us
• Butler Patches
• Challenge Coins R Us
• Monkey in a Dryer
EMBROIDERED ITEMS – POLOS, HATS, JACKETS
4. Compilation of information – This is very important….please make sure that you have all your information together and approved. Double and triple check it. This includes all your costs, PAYPAL info, mailing info for persons not using PAYPAL. All costs MUST BE on a 1:1 ratio, meaning no profit AT ALL can be made from the items. The only allowance that we give is if you need to purchase mailing products for shipping, ie. envelopes, boxes, etc. This cost should be added in to the final cost before mailing and then divided out into the total number of items. These days, the USPS will provide you with mailing boxes for FREE, which you can order off of their website, www.usps.com or by going into a local branch. For International locations, your local mailing office should have boxes, but if not use this simple formula:
Cost of items + any fees(mailing, setup, etc.) + cost of purchased items(envelopes, boxes, etc.) divided by the total number of items being looked at; if it is 100 in the run then divide by 100, if 200, divide by 200, etc.
5. Interest Thread setup – Once you have all the information under your belt and you have reviewed it against all your options, it is now time to set up the Interest thread in order to find out how many you are going to do the run for. As mentioned in step 3, you will need to get all the pricing for the items, with all the quantity discounts listed. For example: you are doing patches and 100 – 200 is $2.10 per patch, 201-300 is $1.50 per patch. At this time you should post in the Interest Thread area all the information you have gathered in an easy to read format. There are plenty of threads to model yours after, so don’t worry about having to do one from scratch. Make sure you have all the International mailing costs as well as US mailing, and whether you are using Flat Rate mailing or 1st Class along with insurance or delivery confirmation. Specifics are a key to making sure you get the numbers for the sale to run. Also get your paypal fees in order. The take 3% +.30 out of US sales and 4% +.30 for International.
6. Timing – Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get the numbers needed to get the price point that you have specified, and don’t feel like you have to limit it to the Rebel Legion. If you find that you need 50 or so to get to the lower price point, contact SKAUGHT on the 501st boards and once the sale starts you can post it over there…we all know that the 501st is a bunch of merch hounds, so you will easily be able to get the numbers you need.
BE FIRM ON YOUR TIMEFRAME! – This is very important. You need to set guidelines for your interest thread. If you need to have the sale started by a certain time in order to have the merchandise produced by a certain time, then make that known. If you aren’t in as much of a hurry…don’t be afraid to still set deadlines, or you never know how long the Interest Thread will drag out. Some items it will be difficult to set times on, like shirts, pens, stickers, tattoos and such. But you can still be firm that you would like to get the numbers to a certain point by X date.
7. The Sale Thread – Well you have gotten your interest up to where you want it and in the timeframe that you specified…time to turn that thread into a full fledged sale! The easiest thing here is to copy the main information from the Interest Thread over to a new thread in the Merchandise Currently Available area along with all the names compiled with the quantities of the items as well as the sizes and colors if they are shirts or hats or other wearable merchandise. Make sure you include all of your pertinent information if someone needs to mail you their payment and any other information you feel it is necessary to include to make the sale run as smoothly as possible. Also refer back to number 7…BE FIRM ON YOUR TIMEFRAME! END IT WHEN YOU NEED TO END IT! This is incredibly important if you are trying to make deadlines for conventions, or if someone perhaps from out of the country will be in the US to pick them up. This part can be a real hassle sometimes and you need to have the patience of a Jedi Master. While the sale is going on, a major thing you can do it UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE. The more information you can give, the less questions you will get. If you had planned on opening it up on the 501st boards please make sure that you update there as well. Also make sure you check your PAYPAL constantly. Sometime people say they have paid, but you haven’t gotten a notice. Have them send you the transaction number and such. Emails tend to get mixed up and they might have to resend it. Also if you have been specific, and by this point I know you have, you will have been contacting persons who don’t follow those instructions about mailing addresses and correct amounts.
8. Ordering the Merchandise – You have made it this far…you can’t turn back. You have taken the funds, closed the sale on the deadline, and now it is time to get all that info and money over to the production company. I cannot be any more clear when I say this…BE THOROUGH IN YOUR COMMUNICATION TO THE VENDOR! Production can usually take 10 days to 2 weeks with a week for mailing. Microsoft Excel can be your best friend in this part of the endeavor. Use Paypal to send yourself a CSV file with all the names, addresses, and information regarding the sale so that you can get your quantities correct. There will always be a little margin for error, trust me, I have been there, but as long as you send the company a list for the product with all the specifics you should end up alright. That Excel file will also double as your file for your mailing labels for shipping by using WORD to generate the labels. The vendor will usually send you notices about shipping if they use FEDEX or UPS. Once you get the item in hand CELEBRATE AND POST! Take pictures of the stuff…everyone will be happy to see what they are getting.
9. Shipping them out – As I mentioned in step 9, Excel can be your best friend in setting up the mailing labels and tracking what you have sent out. Be timely in sending them out and make sure that you have all the correct addresses from the Paypal payments or if someone has sent a PM or email requesting a different send address. There is nothing worse than taking all that time to mail them out and then getting back one that you spent $9.00 to mail that you have to send out again. When packaging them up, be considerate of how you mail them…you wouldn’t just throw a challenge coin into a regular envelope and send it off. Wrap it in paper, tape it to the inside of the envelope or such, and make sure that you are using the proper size envelopes for the product being mailed out. As most people have seen, when I sent out the Heroes shirts, they were in a plastic bag inside the boxes with instructions for the care of the shirt. This was to make sure that any damage in transit wouldn’t damage the product.
Once people start getting them, they will respond on the thread. If there are any extras, wait until you are pretty sure that everyone has received them before offering them up for sale.
10. CELEBRATE!!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOU HAVE JUST COMPLETED YOUR FIRST MERCHANDISE SALE!!! You can have the Merchandising Officer move the sale over to the completed items threads and then you can start all over again with step 1. Wasn’t that fun.
Please know that you can always contact the current merchandising officer with any questions you have about running the sale you are about to start. That email is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org