Small Retailers – Selling to Small Retailers or Big Chain Stores First?
Some of you have been selling to small retailers for a while, however there are plenty of you who are still debating as to how to get started with your product. You are probably thinking, ‘Should I go after big chain stores first? Is that even possible Will a chain store even pay attention to me if I haven’t sold the product anywhere else?’ These are reasonable questions, so I thought I’d take a minute to explain the way it works at chain stores related to purchasing new products.
Chain stores are in the business of making money, so they are constantly looking for a balance between keeping products that sell consistently in their stores and finding new products that are interesting for their customer base. Their customers want access to new innovation, but the buyers would prefer to make their jobs easier by only purchasing products that they KNOW will sell.
So how does a buyer KNOW a product will sell? Well the easiest way is to show proven sales. Makes sense, right? If you’ve sold 20,000 units of your product to smaller retailers already you are probably less of a risk for a buyer then if they purchased a product that hasn’t sold anywhere before.
And its understandable! If being a buyer was your day job, wouldn’t you want to do well and only pick products that are going to do well in the stores that you are responsible for? Who wants to risk their job for picking a product that offer no guarantees? Now I’m completely simplifying the retail buying process and there are obviously other reasons a buyer chooses a product, but I’m hoping you get the point. It’s human nature – you pick the things that makes your life easier.
I guess at this point you are assuming what everyone else assumes when I tell them that buyers try and avoid risk related to purchasing products that have no proven sales. People instantly assume that you should start with small retailers. Well, here’s something else to think about… Buyers WILL test new products that have no proven sales if they think it will do well.
They do this because they still need to fulfill their customer’s need for new innovation. They can’t always just pick products based on their own needs. They have to keep testing new products in order to keep things interesting in their stores. So if you think the masses will buy your product, then going direct to chain stores is an option as well! If a buyer reviews your product, and they think it’s interesting, they will buy a small quantity of your product and will test it in some of their stores. The trick is to ensure that your product will sell in stores during the test. Either way, it’s absolutely possible to go direct to chain stores if you’ve never sold to small retailers before.
Now, professionals get mad at me for saying this to people. They think it’s wrong for me to tell people that you don’t have to have proven sales with your product before approaching chain stores because they think I am ruining your options of selling to chain stores in the future. They say you should do everything in your power to do things right…test, research, analyze, go slow, start small and grow. I get that completely but I also believe that you can’t ruin your option of selling to chain stores if you don’t do everything perfectly.
I believe this for several reasons. First of all, some products just do well once they are placed in front of the masses. Sometimes it’s such an interesting product that people will just buy. And anyhow, there are plenty of products that tanked at one retail chain and then did phenomenally well in another retailer. So there is no one particular way to go about bringing a new product to market.
Plus it really depends on your mindset. If you are committed to success and you are in a positive state of mind, you tend to explore all options and know it will all work out regardless of whether a chain store test went wrong.
Here’s another thing to consider, it takes time to sell to a large chain store retailer. It can take months or a year to get a product in their stores. Why? Because chain stores are large organizations and it takes time to get through all of the red tape. So why not go after large chain stores and small retailers all at the same time? My theory is…why can’t you have it all?
So I guess the bottom line is this…only you know what is comfortable for you and your product business. If you would rather be slow and methodical, then go after the smaller retailers first. But if you have the mindset that your product will do well regardless, then try it all! You never know! Either way, you will never truly ruin your chance of selling to a chain store if you messed up initially ie a bad test. All you have to do is be positive, be persistent, learn from your mistakes, go after another chain store, have a better test and show proof to the initial retailer that your product is now doing well. That’s the beautiful thing about persistence and a positive state of mind…you can get anything you want in life!
Food for thought…Either way, I hope this article helped!
To your success,