The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Line Sheets


Hello! Here’s what you need to know.


There’s no such thing as a silly question, so if you have any just drop us a line at info@shopsartorial.com


To build a thriving business and sell your work to retailers, you have to learn how to think like a retailer. That’s not always easy, so questions are always welcome here.


In this guide, we’re going to look at five common line sheet issues which often trip up brands who are new to wholesale.


And I’m going to give you a straight answer to each one.


Before we dive in, please take a moment to look at this example of a line sheet. Yours may not end up looking exactly like it, but there should be some kind of family resemblance.



So shall we get started?


“What’s the difference between a line sheet and a catalog?”


STRAIGHT ANSWER:

Your line sheet tells a retailer HOW to buy your stuff. Your catalog tells them WHY THEY SHOULD.


Okay. If you want to sell your work to a store, two things must happen.


First, you have to convince the retailer that they’d be better off giving you money than not giving you money. They have to feel that stocking your work is a sound investment of their hard-earned cash and that they’ll see a return on that investment when their customers buy it. Second, the retailer needs to know how to get you collection onto their shelves. They need to understand the mechanics of the transaction – how much your products cost, your minimum order,  any minimum quantities and so on.


You have to equip them with all the details they need to make a decision.


A line sheet is very good at the second part. It sucks at the first.


Take a look at my example again. All the items are laid out in a clear, logical way. Information about the name, style, materials, wholesale price, and suggested retail price all included. There is another page that talks about the minimum orders, terms and conditions, and gives all your contact details. All the details a retailer could ask for are right there.


But there’s no information at all about why this shopkeeper should stock your work. Who is your product for? How are customers going to use or enjoy it? How is it made? Why should the retailer trust you with their money? 


Your line sheet has nothing to say on the subject.


That’s because it’s only designed to cover the how part. If a retailer wants to know how to stock your stuff, it’s got all the answers.


When a retailer wants to know why, it’s up to your catalog to communicate those reasons.


That’s where you show your work in action through lifestyle photos. It’s where you explain the process of making your collection. It’s where you display your credentials as a supplier so retailers start to feel like you’re safe and reliable.


So your line sheet is a bit like the credits at the end of a movie – it’s as brief as possible and conveys only facts.


Your catalog is the movie itself – it tells the retailer a captivating story about the lovely thing you make. 


When you get it right, both sections work together to make the retailer feel like placing an order is a total no-brainer.


Extra Complication:

Sometimes, “line sheet” and “catalog” are used interchangeably.


A retailer might ask for your line sheet, but they actually mean your full catalog including all the facts and figures. 


Avoid confusion by always sending your catalog and line sheet out together. Neither can do its job without the other.


“Why can’t I put the details on my line sheet into my catalog?”


STRAIGHT ANSWER:

You can, but a separate line sheet can save you money.


In the far-off days before the internet, when all catalogs were paper booklets, suppliers had a big problem.


They knew they needed a catalog to sell their collections to retailers. They knew that catalog had to tell the retailer why they should place an order and exactly how to do that.


But they also knew that sometimes things change. It might occasionally be necessary, for example, to adjust the price of an item or tweak their terms and conditions.


And if those details were printed directly into their catalogs, they’d either have to send out-of-date information to stores or shell out for an entirely new print run.


Those suppliers were not happy.


So they came up with a solution.


They decided to put any details that might change onto a loose sheet of paper and insert it into their catalogs. That way, if an adjustment was required, all they had to do was reprint a single page.


The same principle still applies. If your catalog is printed, it’s almost always a good idea to put the facts and figures on a separate line sheet. Unless you’re incredibly sure nothing will change, it’s the safest option.


Extra Complication:

But what if your catalog is digital?


Making changes to a PDF is free and easy. Do you still need a separate line sheet?


Well, maybe.

The line sheet has become such an ingrained feature of wholesale that it can be a good idea to include one, or something like it, even if your catalog is made of pixels rather than paper. 


So you might make a separate line sheet and attach it to your pitch email. Or, you could create a line sheet-style section towards the back of your digital catalog, where you give just the facts about placing an order.


This can be very handy for retailers. Instead of flicking back and forth, searching for details on a particular item, all the information we need is in one place.


“How long should my line sheet be?”


STRAIGHT ANSWER: As short as possible.


Your line sheet is the cheat sheet version of your catalog. It’s where you summarise all the stuff the buyer needs to know so they can move on to actually placing an order.


Ideally, by the time they reach it, they’ve pretty much decided to stock your work and the only question is which items to buy. So we want the period between the retailer deciding to buy and them emailing you with their order to be as short as possible.


Any delay or obstacle at this stage could mean the retailer’s attention slips away.


So your line sheet has to be very simple and as short as humanly possible.


Now, this doesn’t mean you have to crush everything on to a single page, or that you should leave out important details. You shouldn’t, and if you have a large collection it’s fine to use more than one page.


The point of your line sheet is to make buying your stuff stupendously easy. Feel free to ditch anything that gets in the way.


“How do I stop my line sheet looking boring?”


STRAIGHT ANSWER:

Retailers like boring line sheets.


That’s because, in this context, boring usually means simple.


Retailers receive a ton of catalogs. Most read through at least a couple on a daily basis.


Sometimes, when they are in the middle of Christmas ordering, for example, they might look through twenty in a single day, or even more.


So you know what? A boring line sheet is just fine.


Your line sheet isn’t the place to be clever, cool, interesting or ground-breakingly creative. It doesn’t have to make them laugh or express the personality of your brand. 


Save all of that for your collection and your catalog.


In your line sheet, just tell them what they need to know – without any distraction, prevarication or bells and whistles.


You can certainly make it look nice – a clean, airy, well-organized line sheet is always better than a cluttered one – but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. 


Also, try to see things from the retailer’s perspective. What might seem perfectly clear and obvious to you could be confusing to someone who’s new to your company.


Imagine you’re a tired, busy buyer who’s found a spare five minutes to pull together an order. What can you do to make that process smooth and hassle-free?


“What’s the biggest mistake brands make with line sheets?”


STRAIGHT ANSWER:

Here’s my top three.


1. Poor quality pictures.


Bad product photos make even a well-designed line sheet useless. They don’t have to be incredibly high resolution but they should be clear, in focus, in color and have a white or neutral background.


It’s pretty hard to make an order if I don’t know what I’m looking at.


2. No email address.


Even if you’ve provided your email address (and phone number and street address) elsewhere, like in the main part of your catalog, repeat it on your line sheet. Don’t make the retailer hunt around.


3. “Contact us for full details.”


The full details about, well, everything should already be on your line sheet or in your catalog.


A few buyers will always have obscure or highly specific questions, and it’s fine to encourage them to get in touch. The vast majority, however, should find all the information they need right in front of them.


Expecting them to contact you about something basic is a bad idea – it’s just too much work for busy retailers. And if you try to force them, there’s a good chance they will just order from one of your competitors instead.


When you need to get your work in front of retailers fast, a line sheet is your best friend.


It doesn’t have the persuasion power of a full-blown catalog, but it can take you a long way towards building a thriving wholesale business.


If you could do with some help pulling yours together (preferably without having to shell out for a graphic designer, or it taking a life age of the Earth) take a look at our Wholesale Linesheet Template Package.


This customizable linesheet template will allow brand owners/designers to showcase their collection to retail buyers in an effective, and organized way. This acts as their reference guide, allowing buyers to see important information such as pictures, pricing, color availabilities and more. A linesheet, is the the way buyers are able to place orders with your company.


Pick it up now and you'll be able to create a line sheet that makes you look professional and established by the end of the day.

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