Is it okay to buy gift basket products at places other than wholesale suppliers? You’ll find out if you read this before you buy from retail stores.

Straight to the source

Where did I go to buy foods and gifts when deciding to make and sell gift baskets? I went straight to the NY Now trade show (formerly known as the New York International Gift Fair). Buying from retailers wasn’t part of the plan. I knew, from research in trade magazines and even before writing Gift Basket Products, So Easy to Find, that retail prices would cost more due to their markups so I wouldn’t make as much profit as possible.

The show introduced me to many items, some I knew existed and others that were completely new. I was mesmerized by it all. However, I didn’t buy one thing at that first show, as I used the event to become knowledgeable about the industry and collect catalogs (we did that back then because there was no internet) to decide later what to purchase.

Change of heart

I stated earlier that buying from retailers wasn’t part of my purchasing plan. However, I learned to never say never when entering Bed, Bath & Beyond one winter evening. The first item I saw directly across from the entrance door was a pallet of individual soup mixes wrapped in clear cellophane bags with an attractive label on the front and a bow-tied rope string closing the cellophane top. Each mix (24 of them) was 99 cents. Here’s why my “don’t ever buy retail” mindset changed.

  • 99 cents each and perfect for gift baskets. Buying it was a no brainer.
  • It was packaged attractively and wasn’t a name brand available in supermarkets.
  • No shipping charge from a wholesaler. The only extra charge was my own travel (a personal trip turned into a business expense).

How could I turn down that price and opportunity? I didn’t see anything like it at the trade show. Obviously, the product was there for me (couldn’t be for another customer, right?). I asked a cashier to call the manager to learn if I could buy the entire pallet of soup mixes for a lower price. He agreed.

I paid 75 cents for each mix and stocked it in my studio. It was wintertime, and I paired the mixes with cocoas, cookies, and tea. Each design sold quickly. Buying those soup mixes was one of the best decisions I made that first year in business, and it also taught me to keep my buying options open.

Why buy retail?

I know, from discussions in the online Start Your Own Gift Basket Business course, that aspiring designers purchase first from retail stores, and it’s done for general reasons.

  • Easy access
  • Low costs
  • Product variety
  • Seasonal options
  • Clearance products

These are all good reasons to read this before you buy from retail stores, especially if gift baskets are your hobby. These reasons aren’t so good when making gift baskets full time. You may be able to buy some items from retailers, as I shared above, but not everything.

Candy bars, popcorn, and cookies found in supermarkets and dollar stores keep gift baskets separated from the specialty items category. Customers talk about gift baskets in negative ways when the products are dollar store, can-get-it-from-anywhere quality.

Perception counts

People want to see exclusivity in the gift baskets they buy and receive. That doesn’t mean the products are only available to you, because no wholesale company survives that way. It means that the products in gifts and baskets ooze originality. It’s either not on every local shelf or is available in better locations, with the word better being subjective in the area. Such products silently scream, “I was chosen for you and for only you!

As examples, the word specialty is the difference between:

  • Chocolates made by Hershey’s and Mariebelle
  • Potato chips packaged by Lay’s and Route 66
  • Water from Poland Springs and Fiji or Voss

Don’t recognize some of the above names? That’s what I mean about “chosen for you and for only you.” That’s what a specialty product exudes. It’s a premium brand that’s seemingly exclusive yet affordable when you want to stand out from others who sell gift baskets.

Why read this before you buy from retail stores

It’s fine to buy gift basket goods from retailers. The goal is to be selective about what you buy especially if you are a full-time designer marketing to corporations and mid- to high-end clients. Even customers at other levels want exclusivity. However, those customers may not be willing to pay the price. It’s truly a balancing act.

Wholesale buying keeps your costs as low as possible so you earn the highest return, allowing your income to increase every month. If you must buy retail, make smart decisions before you spend. The last thing you want is for any merchandise, be it from wholesalers or retailers, to sit on your shelf collecting dust. In the case of retail stores, let them keep goods that are plain, ordinary, and available everywhere.