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Bonus Material: Q&A with Founder of a Company Seeking Distribution in Target and Babies R Us

Extra! Extra!

We have a special treat for you.  As bonus to our readers, here is a Q&A between Vanessa, our Buyer, and the founder of a DVD content company that fills the niche of childbirth classes and labor preparation.  Currently, their hero SKU is the number one top-selling item in its genre on Amazon.  In their first year, they hit six figures in revenues!

Here are the founder’s questions and Vanessa’s answers on what buyers at Target and Babies R Us look for.  Is this applicable to your business?

Question: Honestly, can you see my product fitting onto a retail shelf at Target or Babies R Us…or do you think we need to support it more with a kit, per se, that includes a birth ball and more items that feel like goods rather than services?

Answer:  The challenge with DVDs/CDs/Books for retailers these days is that it is a dying format.  These sections in the store are projected to go away in the next 3 to 5 years – and be replaced either by kiosks that sell digital files or other store merchandise altogether (e.g., clothing, household commodities, etc.) unless industry can find a way to stop the bleed to Amazon, iTunes, etc.  That said, I think this is a big threat to your business – and any business in this area – and you’d be remiss in not getting ahead of this change.  With this dynamic being the reality, Target and large retailers are very reluctant to take in unproven or new DVDs/CDs/Books like they may have before.

You are on the right track by co-merchandising it with other more tangible items like maternity wear or maternity exercise equipment.  The problem then becomes – where in the big box store will it sell?  And which buyer will get credit for those sales?  The DVDs buyer or the maternity apparel buyer?  It’s ridiculous that something as non-business related as organizational structure should prevent you from selling a kit but unfortunately, it does.  It causes complications that the buyer doesn’t want to touch.  This strategy might be more useful in smaller boutiques and chains where organizational structure is less rigid – and more freedom exists on the sales floor.  For national distribution, I honestly do not think mass or drug is the right place for your products.  Maybe at Barnes & Noble (where they specialize in books/dvds) or Babies R Us (where it is in their interest to carry a wide variety of mom and baby products) – but not at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.  Your biggest bet is selling direct-to-consumers online and via mobile apps.  This is where growth in your media format is projected; not in traditional brick and mortar.

Question:  Do you feel that it is advantageous for suppliers to appear in print to retail buyer audience magazines such as “Baby Shop” or “Baby Maternity Retailer” magazines?  Do buyers really browse them? 

Answer:  I often reference a framework for deciding which marketing activities suit your products, which I think applies here.  First, diagnose what the marketing problem is that you are trying to solve.  Is it building brand awareness?  Is it driving shoppers to a specific retailer?  Is it garnering trial?  Is it building repeat purchases?  The answer to questions like these will help dictate the right tactic.  Then, employ the tactic that will help you achieve those goals.  In general, a buyer DOES want to see a marketing and promotion plan.  They want to see a calendar of activities detailing how you plan on building your brand and directing people to their stores.  It is not enough to put a product onto shelves.  You also need to provide a sales support plan.  Buyers do browse trade publications, e-newsletters and websites.  It is part of how they stay on top of industry trends, competitive activity, new product launches and news.  So, to answer your question more directly…yes, you need to do something to promote your products.  But I can’t answer what the right tactic is unless I know more about your business challenges and consumer.

Question:  [At trade show, I have found that] buyers respond to things that are “cute” or “soft” so I actually started a designer baby blanket company…but my buyer’s rep says “It’s almost impossible to get a new line of blankets or bedding into buyers because they prefer to limit the number of vendors they carry.”  Would you agree with that statement or is it worth showing off our beautiful faux fur designs with gathered satin ruffles to buyers anyway?

Answer:  I agree with your buyer’s rep.   It’s a crowded marketplace, one in which it is hard to differentiate yourself and find a competitive advantage.  And blankets/bedding have been so commoditized that if a buyer sees a print/pattern/fabric they like, they can easily turn to their favorite current vendor and say — go find out if there is a patent on this product and then go make it for me.  A buyer is always goaled to reduce the number of vendors in their assortment.  It not only makes it easier and efficient to manage the business, but also provides cost savings through lower supply chain costs and vendor management expenses.  I don’t know enough about your designs to recommend whether you should show it to buyers.  At minimum, it would have to be noticeably different than competition.

Was this Q&A helpful?  If you want more, submit questions or topics that you would like covered and we would be happy to oblige.

Cheers!

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