Once you have decided that you want to sell your products via shops, the next challenge you will face is actually selling the products. One option is to enlist the help of a sales agent.
Why use an agent
Sales agents are typically experienced sales people and if they are in your sector (gifts), they will likely have a large network of customers already. In addition, agents will usually represent more than one company, although ideally not another candle company. For example, agents we have met will typically represent companies dealing in gift cards, mugs, soaps, gifts and other items, as well as candles. This can be appealing to shop owners.
Most agents get paid on commission. The level is typically 15% of sales, but this may be negotiable. Remember, it needs to be worth the agents while, so you will get what you pay for. If commission rates are good, an agent will be more inclined to go the extra mile to get sales.
Finding a sales agent
Finding good agents in a geographical area can be difficult, as most will already represent a candle brand. However, it is possible to find agents who are 'between' brands or who do not have a candle line. The best way to find sales agents is to ask shop owners for contact details. In our experience, sales agents tend to know each other and even if they cannot represent your brand, they will probably know a friend who will. Your local business support services may also be able to help; i.e. Chamber of Commerce, Council Enterprise.
Enlisting the help of a sales agent would normally be done via an agency agreement and you need to be quite careful here. Agents are very well protected in the UK and even more so in continental Europe. If you sign an agreement, allowing an agent to be the sole seller of your products in London, it can be very difficult to later change this, unless the agent fails to meet the agreed terms in the agency agreement.
Nevertheless, it is quite right that agents are given this sort of protection. If you look at it from the agents perspective, they may spend years building up a customer base of 200 shops on your behalf. If you then decide you will bypass them to reduce costs (commission) and sell direct, this would be grossly unfair.
On the flip side, if that agent then stopped trying to grow your business further, because they were quite comfortable, that would also be unfair.
An agency agreement resolves this issue by protecting the agent, so long as they meet agreed targets.
What should be in an agency agreement is beyond the scope of this article and we would always recommend speaking with a solicitor before entering into any agreements.
There is also lots of information online about agency agreements and some background reading is recommended.