TradeBeyond Article
July 1, 2021

How to Get Your Product in Stores

Learning how to approach retail stores to sell your product isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright hard. Getting into contact with retailers is something many suppliers dream about. Have you ever envisioned your brand on the shelves of a big box retailer or your products fitting into the retailer’s store brand? In this blog we’re going to explore how to sell your products to stores and provide tips on how to get stores to sell your products.

Before we cover the basics of how to sell to retailers, ask yourself these basic questions: Is there market demand for your product? Have you already found a retailer that’s a good fit for your product? What is the differentiation that would make a buyer take a chance on your product? If you land the deal, can your production handle the volume? Are you willing to sell your product(s) directly to the retailer, or do you want to license your product to a manufacturer who’ll then distribute it for you? If you can answer those questions, continue reading to learn the basics of how to get your products in stores.

How to Get Your Product into Small Stores

When a company tries to figure out how to sell to retailers, they usually mean large national chains. However, this will depend on the size of your business, the capacity of your production, and whether or not your product has been proven in the market. If your business is a start-up or if your product is new, I would recommend learning how to get your product into small stores as the first step.

Step 1

Look towards small local businesses or mid-sized regional retailers where larger manufacturers might ignore you because certain products are too expensive or complicated. Identify opportunities where your product fits and approach the business manager or owner and ask them how to get your product in stores. Don’t expect them to teach you how to get a product in stores, but expect them to share advice and give you the opportunity to pitch your product. In your pitch be sure to communicate why your product fits their store and why their customers will buy your product.

Step 2

You’ve made it. Your products are in a store or maybe more, and you have officially learned how to sell a product to a store. Next you’ll want to dig a little deeper and learn how to get stores to sell your product. Ask yourself, is your packaging clear, does it advertise itself to the consumer or do you need to train the sales associates how to communicate the great value behind your product? If your answer is the latter and you need to teach sales associates, chances are your product isn’t ready for big retail. However, if your packaging clearly represents the product and consumers will quickly identify with it, then let’s talk about the next step.

Step 3

Your products are in stores, consumers can quickly see what it is and what it’s used for and you’re getting sales. From here it will be very important to track the sell through rate and collect as much sales data as you possibly can from the smaller format stores. At this point you can even spend some time in the actual store and see if you can pick up direct customer feedback – why they liked the product, what caught their eye, what their intended use is, etc. Gathering this data will be key in learning how to get your products in stores, especially larger retail stores and national chains.

How to Get Stores to Sell Your Product – Sell-Through

Sell-through refers to the percentage of a product that is sold by a retailer after being shipped by the supplier, in this case, you. Sell through is usually calculated as a percentage and is often tracked for a certain period of time (usually one month).

Sell-through is a healthy way to assess how your products are selling. For example, a sell-through rate of 5 percent might mean you, the retailer, overbought, or that your suggested price is too high. In comparison, a sell-through rate of 80 percent might mean the retailer didn’t order enough or that the product is priced too low. In any case, if your sell-through rate is 80 percent, it’s time for the stores to place another order quickly – Do you have enough product on-hand, or do you need to ramp up production?

The reality is that sell-through rate is a very important metric to you as the supplier vs. the retailer. A supplier does not want to take on the cost of manufacturing until it absolutely has to. Tracking sell-through tells you how many months on hand of a certain product you have. Based on sell through at the smaller stores you can determine how to get your product in stores and plan for the larger retail chains.

How to Sell Your Product to Stores – Large Retailer and National Chains

How to get your product in stores (National Chains), step one – Research, Research, Research… Know more about your category of products than they do. You should be the expert in your market and when you are, walk into the meeting and sell them on your terms.

The buyer doesn’t have time to explore how they can grow their business. Their focus is on lowering prices and preparing for their next collection. Show the buyer how to be more successful or the buyers will decide for themselves. This should be your area of expertise. Buyers often have blinders on and don’t see changes in the marketplace. Retail buyers depend on you to be the expert, know how to sell a product to a store, know the facts and figures and convey the changes in the market. Bottom line, be the expert, have confidence and act like you know how to get your product in stores.

How to Get a Product in Stores – Top Four Steps

1.) Be a Leader

Understand the store’s need to carry choices. Don’t worry about the competition, don’t try to grow your business at the expense of the competitor, grow by helping the buyer grow his category, even if it means recommending how to best utilize your competitor.

2.) Be an Expert

Know more about the category than the buyer and your competition. Know who buys your product, when and why. Know what products are most commonly purchased at the same time as your product. Ask for access to store purchase transactions and study them to uncover regional and local differences. Identify stores that sell more or less of your product and use this information to improve your overall sales. Sharing this powerful research with the buyer demonstrates your leadership and expertise.

3.) Be a Go-Getter

Don’t wait for sales to happen, make them happen.

4.) Gain Experience

Next time someone asks you how to how to approach retail stores to sell your product, act like you’ve done it before.

How to Get Your Product in Stores – Building Trust

A lot of how to get your product into stores comes from building trust with the buyer. In this case trust involves dependability—Buyers want to believe their suppliers are reliable and honor their word. Buyers look for suppliers to fulfill orders, make sure products arrive on the ‘must arrive by date’ and they don’t want you to come back demanding additional concessions or to request greater support. It also works the other way around, if the buyers request promotional funds in exchange for preferred shelf positions, then the supplier can trust their products will be featured in those positions on subsequent visits to the stores.

Of course, honesty and dependability do not always promote trust. What really distinguishes trusting from distrusting relationships is the ability of the parties to make a leap of faith, they believe that each is interested in the other’s welfare and that neither will act without first considering the action’s that impact the other.

How to Sell to Retailers – Summary

By now you’ve read the basics of how to get your product in stores, whether that be small stores or the large national chains. Hopefully this blog will help set you up on a path to success. Getting your product on the shelf of a large retail chain is just months away. Next it’s time for you to track sell through and thinking about ways to drive sales.

Consider coming up with a promotion plan that may get you into the retailers advertising or in special display areas. Remember the packaging design is critical, make sure it’s clear and communicates to the consumer, and don’t leave it up to the sales associate to convey your message, as locating an associate on the floor is not easy.

When thinking about how to get your products in stores, keep trust in mind when meeting and building relationships with buyers. Trust is the social glue that holds business relationships together. Business partners who trust each other spend less time and energy protecting themselves from being exploited, and both sides achieve better economic outcomes in negotiations. And don’t worry about the competition so much, spend more time and energy on helping the buyer grow his/her category.

Now that you are learning how to sell to retailers it is time to check your retail prospects website and go through the vendor/supplier application process or join the popular new app that retail buyers are going crazy over.