Do you have a great new product line but don’t know how to get it onto retailers’ shelves? You need to gain approval from the store’s buyer. It sounds simple, but convincing a retail buyer to take a chance on a product isn’t easy. Retail store buyers receive numerous product pitches daily. Persistence and sales skills are necessary to get your product into a retail store.
- Skill level:
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Create a list of potential stores to pitch. Look for stores that carry items within your product category and style. For example, a scrapbooking product can be pitched to scrapbook shops, art stores and national chains with a scrapbook section.
Contact the store and ask for the buyer’s name. Ask for the owner’s name when calling independent shops. National chain stores usually have regional buyers. Call or e-mail the corporate office to get the buyer’s name for your location. Request the buyer’s e-mail address, direct phone number and mailing address. The buyer’s name is sufficient if the company denies your request for contact information.
Mail the buyer your product information. Send a marketing kit and include a sample whenever possible. Always include a line sheet, or list of products you offer with pricing. If you have received publicity in a local newspaper or magazine, enclose copies of the article. Include a letter of introduction detailing how your product will benefit the store’s customers. Indicate that you will contact the buyer via phone or e-mail to follow up and answer any questions. Give a time frame for your follow-up, such as one to two weeks.
Follow up with the buyer to set up an in-person appointment. Call to confirm that your product kit was received and ask for feedback. Ask to meet if the buyer’s office is local. Building rapport with the buyer is essential to a successful relationship with a retail customer.
Prepare a list of value propositions and benefits if the buyer is unconvinced of your product’s merits. For example, offer a temporary price reduction or waive the minimum order requirement if the buyer is concerned about investing a lot of money in a new product. You can also offer an initial consignment period to small established retailers. A consignment contract places your product in the store and the store pays you a percentage of items sold. This is appealing to retailers because it eliminates risk if your item does not sell.
Tips and warnings
- Hire a sales representative on a commission basis if you're uncomfortable or inexperienced with selling.
- Buy a booth at a wholesale trade show if you have the capital. Trade shows are expensive but will put your product in front of hundreds of store buyers looking for new inventory.
- Never show up to a buyer's office or small retail shop unannounced. Buyers are extremely busy and will probably give your product an outright rejection.
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