Tips for Retail Success

From the Entrepreneur’s Perspective: What does it mean to be a good retail partner? Let’s start with: “Do NOT be a pain in the butt.”

You are responsible, agile, and pro-active. You are not a pain in the butt to work with (i.e. you balance reaching out, but not too often and your buyer enjoys working with you and/or your rep). You have a marketing plan in place and are executing on it so that you are driving sales to your product. You add value to the buyer’s category.

 

Buyers are charged with many objectives. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. Making as high margins as possible.
  2. Turning as many units as possible.
  3. Offering a product assortment that meets their customer profile/audience. This includes “growth brands” (typically the big branded name products; the “tried and true”) and/or “demand products” (niche products).
  4. Maximizing their and their colleagues time (obviously a finite resource) – thus vendor and sku rationalization is a consideration.

So what does this mean to you?

  1. You need to offer the buyers an enticing wholesale cost.
  2. You need to support the brand with marketing dollars – which means you are investing in in-store promos (yes, buyers are evaluated by this metric, too) and out-of-store opportunities. And, you need to be communicating with the buyer about what you are doing and when you are doing it. You can communicate this once per quarter (or even 1x/month, but not more frequently) – just keep them updated so they know you are “on top of it” and accessible. If they have concerns, they can then reach out to you.
  3. You need to NOT be a pain in the buyer’s butt. If the buyer can get your product, or close to it, from an existing vendor, they are likely to do so. Consider every step that this buyer must deal with from listening to your pitch, product evaluation, negotiating terms, and everything in between until your product hits the store shelf (and then working with you to make it successful so there is ongoing communication). If they can work with less vendors and accomplish their objectives, they will likely do so. It’s called vendor rationalization.

 

As such, you must find a way to differentiate your product from the competition. They must like your product enough – and you (or your rep) – to deal with all the above.

 

    1. If you are new to this retail path, you may be better served by working with a rep who knows what he/she is doing so they can get things done more efficiently and effectively. While we have been told that no question is stupid, the buyer only has so much patience. Worse, you don’t know what questions to ask. Thus, your inexperience may come back to bite you, costing you money because you didn’t know to negotiate xyz terms. Did you know, for example, that when you agree to a TPR/TPC, that there is a fee to participate in addition to the scan you are funding? Am I speaking gibberish to you? If yes, then hire Vanessa or me to help you and/or get yourself a rep. You will be better served having your ducks in a row when you know what you are getting yourself into.
    2. If you are working with a rep, consider that he/she has a choice about who they work with. In other words, they don’t have to work with you. For every second they spend on you, they are not spending it elsewhere. So, if you want a good rep, then be good to him/her. This includes being honest with them about your product and your company’s strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t have the means to ramp up inventory quickly and/or finance it, for example, then there is no point for the rep to ask for 10 skus to be chain-wide at 8000 stores. Maybe it’s 1 sku at 400 stores. Be clear about your capabilities so everyone is on the same page. Also keep in mind that your rep can damage your relationship with a buyer so choose him/her wisely. Tips for vetting a good rep will have to be saved for another blog topic.

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