How To Get Your Product into Big Box Retailers
Millions of Americans still shop, at least some of the time, in stores despite all of the buzz about online shopping. Having your products on the shelves of big box stores like Target and Costco will provide a new level of sales success and brand exposure that is difficult to achieve with an e-commerce only sales strategy or relying on local, regional businesses. There’s a lot to consider before meeting with a large retailer so be sure to follow the tips below when trying for the big leagues.
Build a professional online presence
Buyers will want to gauge your product’s appropriateness for their stores and your company’s readiness to join their shelves. A well designed, easy to navigate, informative website is the first step to putting your brand’s best foot forward. Invest in a professional website that includes a compelling brand story, high resolution product graphics and product demonstration videos, product descriptions, pricing, testimonials, stockist list, contact information, company mission and history. It’s easier than ever to create one with sites such as Squarespace, which enables users to drag and drop their way to a beautiful custom site with lots of functions and capabilities. Don’t forget about social media. It’s imperative to have presences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Instagram.
Set a profitable pricing strategy
If your business is trying to make the leap from direct to consumer to retail, get ready to crunch some numbers. You have to make certain that your wholesale price covers manufacturing costs in order to continue generating profits. As a rule of thumb, manufacturing costs should be roughly 1/5 of retail price which is a tall order when you consider packaging, sales commission, marketing/advertising, and distribution expenses. Discount retailers want to purchase products for next to nothing, but they do deliver unparalleled brand exposure and sales volume.
Study your competitors
Buyers will want to know why they should add your product to their offerings so to determine your point-of-difference you have to understand your competition. For a food or beverage product, does your company offer new unique flavors, an innovative packaging vehicle or a better price? Is it tastier, healthier, cheaper, more convenient to consume? Find out where the competition is sold and visit those stores to see how the product is packaged, priced, displayed, and marketed.
Target the right retailers
When figuring out the distribution strategy, target stores that sell similar products at your price point. Be sure that the stores are located in areas where your target consumer lives/works and shops. Pay attention to the customer experience to ensure that the store format and sales strategy works for your product. For instance, if the product requires a lot of face-to-face interaction with a salesperson to explain the attributes but the stores don’t have the proper sales support, they may not be a good fit. Also note the marketing support the retailer offers. How well do they promote new or local products in store (visual merchandising, promotions) or online (email marketing campaigns, prominent placement on website, social media mentions)?
Planning the meeting with a buyer or category manager
Pitching to a big box store is a very different experience that requires a lot of research and planning. Be prepared to make the case for an efficient and reliable scale up of production to meet their demands. Do you need a licensee? Can your existing suppliers handle a massive volume increase? It’s important not to overpromise and have realistic timeline and cost projections. Keep in mind that your product’s packaging may need to be re-designed to include required regulatory copy, and an upgrade of materials, graphics, shape/size of packaging vehicle in order for the product to stand out on shelf. The layout should ensure that the brand name, product name and attributes are prominently displayed in concise language. Construct a marketing and advertising plan that includes in store demonstrations, sampling program, merchandising displays & product brochures, and a social media and digital marketing strategy to drive traffic to physical locations and e-commerce website.
Now, who will hold the meeting? Proprietors usually know their products best and have successfully pitched to local businesses with multiple locations and have a sense of how the pitch should go and a bit of experience with managing local retail accounts. However, there are other options that might be suitable. A manufacturer’s rep can include displaying your product with others for a percentage of sales. Grocery items are often introduced to category managers by brokers for a 5-7% commission.
Take advantage of 3rd party services that link manufacturers with distributors and retailers such as RangeMe. Trade shows are also great environments to present your product to potential distributors and buyers quickly and efficiently.
Play up your strengths
After you’ve booked the meeting, the presenter will need to create a picture of sales success based on industry trends, existing business of the competition, and the current success of the brand in other selling channels. Focus on the sales growth trend of your product as opposed to sales dollars, which may be less impressive, particularly to discount retailers with hundreds of stores nationwide. What’s new and different about your product? How does it fill a category or price point void for the buyer? A successful presentation should include:
- Sample of product with packaging
- Line sheet with product descriptions, sizes/variations, photos, wholesale and retail pricing, discounts, credits, shipping guidelines, allowances, conditions of sale
- Marketing, advertising/PR, promotions plan (social media, in store demonstration, visual merchandising)
- Manufacturing plan (high volume)
- Company mission, overall growth strategy, and corporate structure
Good luck and go get ’em!