What is one tip you have for getting a brand-new product into major retail chains?
Getting a new, untried product into the market is tough. Major retail chains may not want to gamble on something brand new.
To learn how other entrepreneurs managed to get their shiny new products into major chains around the country, we asked 12 founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) their tips for success. Their answers are below.
1. Find the right partner
Walmart was ZinePak’s first partner and has been one of the most instrumental forces in our company’s success. To get your product into retail, first choose the right chain for you. Then, find the right buyer and make your case to him or her of why your product will make his or her customers’ lives better and why you should partner. If you can’t answer these questions, don’t approach the buyer.
2. Find out what it actually costs
There’s so much uncertainty when it comes to presenting products, which I never understand. All it comes down to is: How much will this cost me? Them? The customer? Once you have those numbers, then you can effectively present yourself to the buyer. If your product is solid and your numbers are good, it’ll be a home run.
3. Be patient
We’ve all heard the phrase: “It’s not what you do, it’s who you know.” Well, even though this may be true for most situations, I believe it also just takes time. Usually, the factor of time is never on our side. However, I’ve seen opportunities and deals happen at times one would never expect. I’ve come to realize that it’s not on my clock, so enjoy the ride, be patient, make money, and wait.
4. Work on licensing
Definitely work on licensing. License your product to a major company with existing distribution. They will likely have more luck getting your product into all of their existing channels, versus the time and effort it takes to create your own.
5. Offer flexible pricing
Make sure you give a major retail chain a little flexibility on the pricing of the product. This is always the sticking point if you have a quality product. Make sure that their price is somewhat in line with your online pricing.
6. Frequent industry trade shows
Retail store buyers attend all the major trade shows related to your product’s industry. The buyer’s main agenda is to meet with the brands currently carried in their store. The trick is to get the buyer’s attention directed towards your booth when there are hundreds of other companies all competing for the buyer’s time. Find a creative way to display or showcase your product at the show.
7. Create demand for your product
Create demand. You can spend time begging buyers to give you an opportunity, or you could spend time creating demand for your products. Trust me, when retailers start missing sales from customers coming in to look for your product, they will contact you.
8. Generate a press buzz
You need to get press in magazines and places where your major retailers are reading and paying attention too. If you have an amazing product and everyone is chatting about it online, it’s hard not to put you in their stores! Create the hype, the calls will follow!
9. Contact the purchasing manager
Contact the retailer’s purchasing manager in your product’s department and find out what the process is for submitting a product. There may only be certain times of the month or year when new product demonstrations and submissions are accepted. Be sure to find out how soon you’ll need to deliver inventory, and how much, if your product is accepted.
10. Buy custom data to prove that your product is a match
Stores want to make sure you have a product that matches their consumers. It’s important to have data to prove that there is a match. For example, a dermatology brand commissioned Poshly to find out which retailers it should target for a new skincare product line. The custom data showed that specific retailers were a great fit, so the brand had an advantage when vying for the store’s real estate.
11. Use LinkedIn to connect with buyers
Use LinkedIn to connect directly with the buyers using InMail. If there is interest, they’ll ask you to send in a sample and answer a few simple questions around your ability to deliver at scale, etc. Ultimately, they want a product that differentiates their current offering and has healthy margins built in.
12. Start with local retailers
Build local, pitch local, and expand global. Getting into large retailers and being able to facilitate orders is difficult. You can refine and control processes better when limiting your exposure to a local market of that chain.