St. Louis Wholesale's owner and founder, Craig Pinkerton, has come a long way since his first wholesale purchase. Had he not taken an initial risk, St. Louis Wholesale would never have been created. Pinkerton's first buy was a case of 150,000 three-and-a-half-inch floppy disks, and he found it was nearly impossible to sell them. "From the time I got into this business, I learned that just because an item is easy to buy doesn't mean it will be easy to sell," he reveals. "The moral is, if the company you're buying from can't sell an item, there's likely a reason for it. Sometimes it's wiser to spend more if it's something you know you'll be able to sell." Since starting St. Louis Wholesale in 1998, Pinkerton has seen his company grow to become a leading source for licensed products, sunglasses and general merchandise.
With the football season in full swing, customers have been blitzing NFL related products and licensed sports team goods. St. Louis Wholesale carries an extensive collection of items for retailers who sell sports souvenirs and accessories, and upon first visiting its website, it is difficult to find a team the company does not carry. The company specializes in items priced from $4.99 to $19.99, typically avoiding merchandise above that price point, and requires a minimum order of $50. Dealing strictly in licensed merchandise, the company strives to introduce new products on a frequent basis, recently including new purses, backpacks and wallets that are an equal mix of closeouts and imports. "We've also created a line of sunglasses, Elite Image Eyewear, which we trademarked," Pinkerton points out. The company's range of products appeals to a customer base of big box stores, mom and pop retailers and everyone in between.
To accommodate the demand for online updates, St. Louis Wholesale relies on its in-house web developer to keep its website up to par. The website is not used to generate business as much as it is meant to serve as a reference for customers, Pinkerton explains, because the company doesn't produce a printed catalogue. Since new items arrive every day, new products are photographed and posted online much more quickly than they could ever be processed in print. As for the website itself, it is simple and straightforward, with items organized by category then split into two sidebar menus. Product photos occupy the website's prime real estate and entice customers to buy from the very first click. One interesting feature of the site is that it contains a link to all of its shipping rates and policies in plain sight on the homepage, so that buyers can obtain answers to all of their shipping questions, then peruse items without finding any unpleasant surprises at the shopping cart.
The average day at St. Louis Wholesale can be hectic, devoted to product development and purchasing new items. Pinkerton imports an increasing percentage of his merchandise, due to the fact that it has become difficult to find closeout lots containing the most popular pro sports teams. In order to be sure that the company is able to offer the best selection of merchandise to its customers, he looks to international sources and takes cues from his customers. "Above all, the benefit of having a solid relationship with your customers is that they will take care of you in return for you having taken care of them," Pinkerton remarks. Customers regularly keep him in the loop, tipping him off when they hear of a buying opportunity. "If a deal is too large for what one of my customers would handle on their own, they let me know about it so that we can purchase it and sell it ourselves. This industry is a two-way street." Pinkerton has befriended most of his customers along the way, and attributes the success of his company to the relationships that employees cultivate with vendors and manufacturers.
Pinkerton has assembled a team of vibrant self-starters, and has taken cues from a few key teachers along the way. Two of his greatest influences, he recalls, have been Bill Westwick of Nostalgic Images, the first person he bought merchandise from and his initial introduction to wholesale, and Mark Woods of Novelty Inc., a close friend, who passed away a couple of years ago, who had a profound impact on his business. Blessed with many great mentors, Pinkerton says he "always takes advice, because advice is always free."
For more information:
St. Louis Wholesale LLC
801 Texas Court
O'Fallon, MO 63366
Toll Free: 800-340-7642
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