Supply chain · 23 March 2017

Selling to Notonthehighstreet: Insight from those with stocked products

NOTHS 1
Notonthehighstreet gets 39m unique visitors a year to its site

As an online ecommerce marketplace with millions of monthly users, a listing on Notonthehighstreet.com could be the perfect launch pad for fledgling UK brands.

Now officially Britain’s leading curated online marketplace, Notonthehighstreet.com sells everything from home furniture to experience days.

The platform attracts around 39m unique visitors from around the world every year, representing a rapidly growing international pool of potential online customers.

It has developed a reputation for catering to the slightly alternative tastes of its more open-minded consumer base, standing out from competitor marketplaces like ASOS, Amazon or eBay by doing so.

It can be considered one of the top launch pads for small brands that offer unique or quirky products, and it isn’t surprising that Notonthehighstreet is the most desirable online marketplace for the ambitious owners of many new UK brands.

According to its “Why join?” page, the platform continues to sell products created with “innovative and original ideas” that offer “something a little different” to consumers.

Its tagline is “choose a life less ordinary”, and the retailer claims to be always open to new product ideas and constantly looking to diversify its product mix, working with independent designer-makers, designer-manufacturers and small boutique retailers.

Business Advice spoke to Gemma Wilson, the founder of new design-led children’s brand Blueberry Boo Kids, for whom Notonthehighstreet was, from day one, the go-to platform for launching her range of personalised children’s clothes.

BB Kids
Blueberry Boo Kids: Designing peronalised t-shirts

Having bought from the marketplace herself, Wilson knew it was a good place to discover new brands. Together with her husband Gary, she prints bespoke t-shirts near their home in Torbay, Devon.

“I applied directly to Notonthehighstreet in January 2016 because I thought our product would fit well on the site,” she said. “If I’m honest, I probably should have taken the process more seriously and prepared more.

Currently approaching the end of its first year of trading, Blueberry Boo Kids has a turnover of around £43,000. Much of the success so far, Wilson said, has been down to the firm’s partnership with Notonthehighstreet.com.

“They told me to take more time to work on the brand and reapply in future, so that’s what we did,” she added. “We hired a brand representative to get some better-quality product images and developed a gift range for babies – something I thought would be a more attractive proposition.”

Wilson began reapplying to Notonthehighstreet in August last year, and that very same weekend was contacted by a different member of the retailer’s buying team, who’d found Blueberry Boo Kids on Instagram, with an on-the-spot offer to become a partner.

“From that point on it was straightforward,” Wilson explained. “I had a chat on the phone with the buyer to discuss production and how we’d manage orders, and that was that.”

Blueberry Boo Kids was offered the same partnership agreement Notonthehighstreet offers all new suppliers in exchange for hosting and marketing their products.

For a £199 one-off joining fee, small business owners receive help form an expert when setting up their account, a unique web address that acts almost like an online shopfront window, and access to a 24-hour a day order management system to help process orders.

Notonthehighstreet pledges to support new suppliers further by offering a search engine optimisation (SEO) service on their page as well as advice on new marketing strategies to boost sales. The retailer charges 25 per cent commission on each product sold.

Wilson said that for small brands with unique products, there is no better place to start than Notonthehighstreet, but suggested company owners prepare before approaching the site’s buyers.

“Research the website and their social media channels thoroughly for similar products to yours, then try and ensure yours offer them something different – make sure you standout,” Wilson told Business Advice.

“Above all, make sure your [product] images are up to scratch, as this is the main thing they’re concerned with. Take good, clear images you can guarantee will work well online.”

One brand owner who did just that was Vahan Hovhannisyan, founder at luxury sock brand Look Mate London.

Look Mate London
Colourful socks from Look Mate London

Working with his brother, the entrepreneur left a high-paying corporate job last year to pursue with his company full-time after attending a London networking event for new designers at which Notonthehighstreet buyers held a talk.

At the event, he met one of the platform’s buyers who suggested he apply for Notonthehighstreet’s Pitch Up event – a regularly-held event where creative small business owners can meet the marketplace’s buyers and pitch to them face-to-face.

“I thought it would be really serious, like Dragons’ Den, but it’s not like that at all,” said Hovhannisyan when describing Pitch Up. “You give a brief presentation of your product, then you just chat with them. If you get on well with the buyers and they like your product, hopefully they’ll offer you membership then and there.”

Because he’d done his homework and knew what Notonthehighstreet looked for from new partners, Hovhannisyan went to Pitch Up with brand new professional photos of his socks, and several ideas for new designs.

He walked away from the occasion with the promise of a listing for Look Mate. “Once we attended the event and an offer was made, Notonthehighstreet had us up and running within a week.”

“Larger retailers demand higher margins,” Hovhannisyan went on to say. “I would recommend Notonthehighstreet to any small supplier wanting to see more of a return on their investment. [The platform] won’t be the main point of sale for us in the future, but it’s been a great way to kick things off.”

Rubina Tyler-Street, the co-founder of Cornwall-based gin brand Curio, told Business Advice that the best thing about selling to Notonthehighstreet has been the site’s help in boosting sales.

Her brand was up and running, selling gin via the platform in August last year, but it wasn’t until a Black Friday discount, offered online in November, that Tyler-Street started to see the benefits of Notonthehighstreet in terms of sales figures.

“It worked very well as a marketing exercise,” explained Tyler-Street. “They [Notonthehighstreet] suggested we put on a special offer for Black Friday, and said it had to be a minimum of a 25 per cent discount.

Curio
Sales of Curio Gin have gone up

“We found out it’s something they ask most suppliers to do at some point, and the team came to me with examples of how offering discounts had helped other brands grow on the site.

“Some supplier’s chose instead not to offer discounts because it lowers the price of their product by too much, but we had a good response from discounting, seeing sales from all over the UK.”

Despite a small technical difficulty during Curio’s promotion, whereby Notonthehighstreet.com mistakenly added free postage and packaging to the offer on the brand’s page, Tyler-Street said the process has helped her business considerably.

“When you don’t have masses of money available for PR and marketing, selling to Notonthehighstreet is a great way to promote yourself. If we launched a similar promotion through a different agency, we would have spent so much more.”

Barring the odd minor hiccup, the three owners Business Advice met were more than happy with how their Notonthehighstreet.com partnership had helped develop their brand.

Each had seen progress on the marketing side, as well as a sales boost, and had sold to at least a handful of customers outside the UK, opening opportunities in new markets long before they’d usually get the chance to do so.

Want to learn more about getting your products stocked with other major UK retailers? Go back and read some other features in our ‘Selling to big business’ supply chain series.

  • Selling to Holland & Barrett: Insight from those with stocked product
  • Selling to Waitrose: Insight from those with stocked products
  • Selling to Planet Organic: Insight from those with stocked products

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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