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Business Expertise and Advice for Makers - How to sell to large retailers

Ways to expand your lampshade making business come in many forms and so far in our BEAM posts we’ve extensively explored marketplace selling platforms to retail to individual customers. But what if your dreams of building a lampshade empire are bigger than that? If this sounds like you, then it could be time to think about scaling up your operation and look at selling to larger retailers and we've collected together information that will help you on your way.

Start at the beginning

Before starting to approach a larger retailer it’s important you have a brand, understand what your USP is and what your target market is. We’ve all watched Dragon’s Den when a potential entrepreneur hasn’t known or understood these fundamental business basics.

Have a clear brand in place and understanding why your lampshades are different from any others on the market will stand you in good stead when completing the application processes for larger retailers. These are the questions they will ask, but more importantly, they will be the selling points for you and your products.

Also, have your backstory ready. At the application stage, this might not be asked for, but it’s always good to remember why you make lampshades and how you have got this far. Although large retailers are just that, large, they are still interested in the human element of your product and your passion and authenticity will count towards this.

Upscaling your production

To be able to supply larger retailers it's a given that you’ll need to upscale your operation. You might be a one-man band, but it’s important for larger retailers to see how you would be able to meet their orders, so make sure you have a bulletproof plan of how this can be done. Recognising at this stage that you may need to outsource your production, in a professional and sustainable way and not take this on yourself will help you work out your margins and your wholesale price.

If you’re currently making to order with business flowing in from online marketplaces, larger retailers will expect orders to be fulfilled possibly in one go and as part of the contracting you’ll need to make a commitment to this fulfillment. Also in your planning allow for restocks, as if your lampshades fly off the shelves this could catch you unaware. Ensure you consider your turnaround times for units of your lampshades in bulk, so for example for 50, 100, 200 lampshades at a time.

Know the retailer

Similar to applying for a job, take the time to research the organisation who you want to sell to and find out how you align with the retailers ethos and how you can meet the needs of their customer.

Also don't be afraid to take retailers off your 'to approach' list if you can see you won't be a match for them or vice versa. It's better to funnel your energy into the retailers that will work with your brand.

The pros and cons of being stocked by a large retailer

Being stocked nationally, or even locally by large retailer is a huge boost to your business and your brand - your amazing shades will be seen in stores and hopefully sold online too. Starting out with one retailer can lead to being stocked with others, dependent on your agreement and the project of working with one or two larger retailer can, if you choose to replace dealing with lots of smaller customers.

This said, being stocked by a larger retailer doesn’t come without it’s downsides and by retailing on a 1-1 level the profits from your lampshade are yours. When working with a larger retailer expect for them to take 50% of you retail price to cover their overheads so before taking your lampshades to them fine tune your figures to work out how your business could sustain this.

Below, we've picked out four high street retailers who stock lampshades, with advice on how to contact them and their requirement for new suppliers. Good Luck!

John Lewis

If you’re a supplier looking to work with John Lewis & Partners, they requested that you first download their Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice.

To submit product details please email, which will help them make an informed decision about your product you should include:

  • Company name, contact details and a brief background (history/size/location in 50 words or less)

  • Describe your products and why they are suitable for John Lewis & Partners

  • Details of current stockist along with any planned future stockists

  • Website address, social media handles and a link to clear images of your products

The Range

Offering an automated marketplace, The Range allows you to sell your products on their website and make your own amendments. To apply to sell your lampshades at The range using the following link:

Sainsbury’s / Argos

Stating on their website that they are always looking for new producers and suppliers both medium and small, Sainsubury’s / Argos might be a good place to try. Making it easy to apply, you’ll simply need to answer a series of yes/ no questiond before reaching their application for which you can find here. You’ll need to prepare for this application form as it includes the sections Tell us about your product and Manufacturing your product


Asda gives the following advice for prospective suppliers to include when applying:

  • Your contact details

  • An overview of your company name, size and location, any technical accreditations you have achieved, and a link to your website address if relevant

  • If it is a product, please ensure you detail what the product is, what makes it unique, the brand name, where the product is made, what department you see this sitting in, any key ingredients (if relevant) and an image

  • As we don’t have a centralised trading team, it is important we share your information with the relevant internal contact. If you sell products that would be sold in a different location within our stores, send them on separate e-mails

It’s worth noting that you will need to meet the following to start your application with Asda;

  • Comply with Asda’s terms and conditions

  • Have factories that are BRC Accredited

  • Comply with Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers

  • Be able to invoice via an EDI platform


Tesco welcomes suppliers, both new and established and has a simple online form that you can complete. Interestingly the questions format talks about pitching an idea and included the following:

  • Please describe your idea in a headline

  • Please provide a short summary of your idea

  • Please describe what problem your idea solves for Tesco and/or its customers

Before starting the application it would be worth preparing your selling information to answer these questions.


Aldi's focus initially appears to be more about groceries than homewares such as lampshades, but their associated information for new suppliers is second to none and definitely worth a read through in terms of the transparency and the processes involved in getting a product to the shelves. Scroll to page 28 for information on 'Quality and CR; Non-food and textiles'. You can find their supplier application form here.


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