1. Maximize your space.
Floor space in brick and mortar stores is expensive.
That's why it's important for your product and packaging to take up as little
retail real estate as possible.
Visit your ideal retailers and take notes on similar items for sale.
Where are they placed on the shelf? Do they hang or stack?
How durable is the packaging?
Once you've gathered sufficient information, you may want to
evaluate the need for a specialist. It's important to choose a
reputable company who has the experience in designing
packaging for the stores that you're looking to target.
2. Get to know your retailers now.
It's also important to select your partners early on and study
their floor layouts, displays and product categories. You will get
a better understanding of the buying cycles by doing your
research, networking and asking store managers about regional
and nationwide buyer information. Prepare to ship your product
to buyers and have
to wait up to six weeks before hearing anything back.
3. Figure out your product codes.
Each variant of a product, such as size, color and other factors,
require a common 12-digit universal product code (UPC) prefix
number and a unique extension to that variant. Companies must
join GS1 US, a nonprofit that sets the standards for international
commerce in order to obtain their own identification number
that is the first part of the UPC. Aside from the initial fee to join,
companies must also
pay an annual maintenance fee that varies on the number of
unique products you sell.
It's easy to see how this can quickly add up.
The other option is to work with a broker that resells UPC codes
for reasonable prices.
The only downfall is that you're paying to use ones that
ultimately are not your own.
If you're targeting smaller retailers with just a few products, then
you may consider going with a broker who will allow you to use
their UPC codes at a lower cost.
However, if you're aiming for the large retail stores, they require
each company to have their own code for each product.
4. Pin down your actual costs.
Not only is it important for you to understand your true cost per
unit -- be prepared for retailers and potential investors to
disclose this as well. Always remember that the per-unit figure
isn't solely derived from manufacturing expenses. A true cost-
per-unit breakdown also includes shipping, packaging, UPC
costs and other expenses related to getting that product created
and onto shelves.
It's essential to take all of that into consideration when factoring
in the number.
5. Know when to protect your product.
Keep in mind that retailers see thousands of items each year.
Because of this, they can't sign non-disclosure agreements before
reviewing yours. If you're worried about having an idea stolen,
speak with a patent attorney before developing the product.
If you have special designs or brand logos, seek out a trademark
attorney. In most cases, patent attorneys and trademark
attorneys are one in the same so they should be able to help with
6. Develop a retail pitch plan
Gain access to national retail chains by developing a quick and
dirty retail list of stores you'd like to approach. Make sure that
your product aligns with their current merchandising plans.
Then reach out to buyers and distributors and share a pitch
package that includes a cover letter, press kit, and product
7. Get straight to the point
Buyers from national retail chains will only give you a limited
time to pitch your product, so it is imperative to be well
prepared with a concise presentation. Skip the story telling and
get straight to the point.
Provide critical data on your products—price points, product
warranties, manufacturing capabilities, and data on consumer
8. Know "their" needs
You'll have an advantage if you do your research to know what
stores carry your competitors' products. It's also good to find the
chains that don't know they need your type of product yet.
Regardless of whichever situation it is, understand how the
stores would benefit and make sure they realize it as well.
9. Brand yourself
One of the best ways to get into national chains is to build a solid
following via social media sites, before you ever go in for your
first meeting. Make a name for yourself, so they know your
brand equity before you step foot in their building.
10. Sell at independents
Start small and sell at independent shops and even Web shops.
The more exposure and sales you get the better, creating
legitimacy for your product, so you can approach the big
retailers and say, "I sell 10,000 widgets a day, perhaps you'd like
to sell them, too?"
11. Reach out to the gatekeepers
Networking is the fastest path into tight-knit, highly competitive
markets. And there is nothing that gets attention faster than a
personal introduction. Sometimes, decision makers are easier to
reach than you might expect and may only be one or two levels
removed from you. Use LinkedIn and other platforms to
discover how your contacts can help you into the gatekeeper's
center of attention.
12. Slow and steady wins the race
Start off with growing your business and building your brand,
get the product into enough local stores before going national.
Make sure your business is ready for the large margins and low
volumes they will demand from you just to be in a "national"
store. Once you feel your company can support that structure
work through regional managers and then continue to work your
way up the ladder.
13. Does my product need to be in retail stores?
I don't have a product that would sit on a retail shelf, but I deal
with hundreds that do. It's my experience that setting your
The Internet is such a huge place and offers so many
opportunities to sell a product and be overwhelmingly successful.
14. Prove yourself
The biggest issue for many retail chains dealing with a small
business is whether the supplier is going to be able to keep up.
That's why many businesses start by supplying smaller stores. It's
not impossible to skip that step, but you have to be able to show
that you'll be able to keep up with demand and handle working
with a big chain.
15. Eat and sleep with procurement
Most retailers, especially the national ones, would have a
procurement/ buying department. These are the people who
decide what to buy, from whom, and at what price. Mostly, the
individual stores have very little say in such decisions, so your
best bet is to—eat, sleep, and be best friends with the
procurement folks at the retailers.
16. Conduct interviews
Schedule non-sales informational interviews with key decision
makers. Offer to take them to lunch or invite them to an
industry related event. Prepare 3-7 key questions and inquire
about the process from a purely information place. Learn all you
can and apply it. Then you'll be positioned to approach them
with a well thought-out plan.
17. Try, try again
Every industry and product is different, but the one constant is
those with persistence consistently have better odds of success.
Try every angle, meet every person possible who can help you
succeed and I promise you your passion will be rewarded
18. Guarantee success
Tell stores you'll guarantee sales—it is no risk for them by letting
you go in there and demoing it until your product sells out. Start
with one store, sell it out, go to the second, etc. It's important to
build that buzz/confidence with retailers so they invest in you by
pushing the product themselves into the other stores.
19. Find the right distributor
Distributors already have relationships with the large retailers.
Put them to work for you, using their relationships to place your
products. Large retailers don't like to waste time, they want
someone who knows the system. Find a distribution partner who
understands what type of customer you are targeting and has the
relationships with retailers that serve your target market.
20. Creating comfortable relationships
It’s all in the pitch and doing due diligence to know who you will
be presenting to. As a partner of the brand Vision Vodka, I
watch my team prepare for meetings with different liquor stores
to take our product. Most liquor stores are mom and pops and
only care about the person you put in front of them and if they
feel confident the product will move.
21. Big margins, quick Turnover, small footprint
The best retail products have the highest margins, fastest
turnover and smallest footprint—for the retailer. That means
they make a lot of money selling your product tons of times in a
small area. If you don't have a product with that criteria you
don't have a product for retail.
22. Create a YouTube video tailored to one person
I know an author of a book who convinced a national publisher
to sign him on because he created a well thought out video as to
why they need that book. This video was made for one person
only and it was clear it took him some time to do. Needless to
say he caught her attention and got in the door. Sometimes the
hardest part is getting in the door and this could be a good way
to get through.
23. Be unique and different
I was able to get into national retail chains with my first business
because I had something no one else had. We sold customized
sports apparel. We knew what the market wanted and since
they were our custom designs they were only able to buy them
from our company.
24. Don't be afraid to reach out and sell yourself
Don't be afraid to research who the appropriate point of contact
is for the retail establishment and pursue them! Call their office,
e-mail them, find out when they are reviewing new vendors,
what they look for in products and their placement, and any
special programs that they may have throughout the year that
are applicable to you whereby they highlight new companies
even if just on a trial basis.
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Resources: 24 Steps To Profitable Retail