From the Entrepreneur’s Perspective: Will selling at a major .com site help me get onto major retailer shelves?

I do not feel that you need to sell online to get a major retailer’s attention; however, it can help. Why?

  1. You can show the retailer that you have the sales to justify placement on shelf. It’s all about sales. You must be able to show the buyer that they will increase their top and/or bottom line margins as a result of taking in your product. You can obtain sales data from your online retailer that you can then share with your in store buyer: how many units sell per week; which skus are best performers; what other products are purchased with yours (how will you increase the retailer’s basket size). All this sales data can help you to make strong recommendations as to which of your products will perform best at the in-store location. Buyers want and need to hear your recommendations and the more sales data (proof) you have to justify your suggestions, the better.
  2. You can show that you have the infrastructure in place to make it happen. The major online retailers are going to have many of the same requirements that the brick and mortar retailers have: bar coded product, product liability insurance, product packaged in a way that arrives in tact, on-time fulfillment (or incur the wrath of vendor noncompliance fees), EDI, etc. By showing that you are capable of meeting these requirements, you will instill confidence that you have what it takes to be on the store shelf.
  3. You will feel more confident knowing that there is a market for your product before you invest in additional inventory that is spread out over many locations and in various warehouses (consider the amount of inventory, lead time, and financing necessary when product is in transport, sitting on various store shelves, and in a warehouse as back fill; which is all far greater than working with an online retailer).

If you do not have sales at a major.com, not all is lost. It does not mean that you can not go straight to selling in store at a major retailer. But, you might wish to tread lightly (for reasons explained in one of my prior blogs – see point #5). For example, you might want to do a test run – let’s say 25, 50, or 100 stores, not hundreds or thousands (while the rewards may get bigger, so do the risks). You can then use this sales data to build momentum to gain greater in store distribution (and then go land some major .coms while you are at it!).

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