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How to Get Your Product in Stores

Updated: May 6

5 Proven Tips from an Actual Retail Buyer

As a retail buyer, one of the most common questions I get from brands is, “How do I get my product in stores?” Unfortunately, there isn't a one-size fits all approach to guarantee your product on the shelves on your favorite retailer. However, there a some proven tips to drastically increase your chances of getting your product in stores and on the website of your dream retailer. It you're not big into reading, checkout my YouTube video, above where I share these tips. For all my fellow "book nerds", keep on reading.

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Why Listen to Me?

Some of you may be wondering, "Who is this chick and why should I care about anything she as to say?" And that would be a very fair question. I've working the retail industry from my entire career, spanning over 15 years. I've had the privilege of having worked for some of the country's largest retailers across varying roles. However, majority of that time has been spent as a retail buyer. In that role, I set the assortment strategy and decide what brands and which products are sold in the retailer's stores and website. In other words, I'm the gateway between brands and retailers' shelves. With that being said, I have a first hand account of what works and what doesn't, as the decision maker.

Tip #5: Get Your Pitch Right

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More specifically, your elevator pitch. As a business owner, you should be able to effectively articulate information about your company and the product or services you offer in a way that hooks the listener and leaves them wanting to know more. Keep in mind, your pitch is not a dissertation. It should be brief and only a few sentences. If you need more guidance on how to write an effective pitch, checkout my YouTube video, "Why Your Pitch Sucks".

Your pitch is a valuable tool so don't underestimate its importance. Buyers can't resist a good pitch. There have been dozens upon dozens of brands that I've met at industry events and given them a formal pitch meeting because their elevator pitch was so strong. With that being said, your pitch should be etched in your memory. Furthermore, everyone in your company should have your company's pitch down and it should be consistent across each one of your team members.

Tip #4: Hire a Sales Rep or Sales Broker

how to get your products in stores

To be clear, I'm not talking about your internal sales team. However, a solid internal sales team is imperative. For most retailers, there are typically local sales brokerage firms that represent brands for one dedicated retailer or a very select number of retailers. Most of the time, these firms have worked with the particular retailer for several years and are very well versed in their processes and any nuances pertaining to that retailer.

But More importantly, they usually have established trust and very strong rapport with Buyers at the retailer. Sometimes even to the point where a Buyer might automatically give you a pitch meeting just because the rep asked. I know as a Buyer, I've done that quite often for my most trusted brokers. Additionally, the sales rep would have gone through several pitches with the buyers and are going to have a better understanding of what they are looking for, their expectations and are going to be able to help prepare you in a way that's tailored to that Buyer's preferences. That is truly invaluable.

If you are ultimately selected to be apart of the buyer's assortment, sales reps are going to be worth their weight in gold in helping get your company get onboarded to that retailer. Additionally, they'll be able to help facilitate things like new vendor setup and item setup and making sure you have an understanding of the retailers terms, compliance and so much more.

However this comes at a cost and the costing structure will vary greatly by each firm but typically they charge a percentage of sales and there maybe an upfront cost to take you on as a client. Again, to each is own but at the very minimum, you can expect to be charged a percentage of sales. Depending on where you are in your business and how much capital you have, this might not be feasible for everyone.

Tip #3: Attend Tradeshows

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Depending on your industry there are likely major trade shows that most retailers attend. For electronics there is CES, for food it's Expo West, for beauty there is Cosmoprof. A quick google search can help you identify the big ones for your industry. Buyers attend these shows and are literally hunting for the latest and greatest brands and innovation to add to their assortment. Again, another reason to have that elevator pitch down.

The cost to attend these shows are inexpensive, with many being free to attend. However, if you want your brand to have a presence via a booth or display, that does come at a cost and can be rather expensive. So that might not be an option for everyone, However, in the past I have seen some shows offer special programs to help with these costs for up and coming businesses, as well as, the option to share a booth with another company. If this is of interest to you, it's worth reaching out directly via the tradeshow's website to inquire about potential options.

Even if you don't secure a booth it's still worth going as an attendee. This is because usually there are seminars and other events held at tradeshows that Buyers and other industry professionals attend. This means that there is ample opportunity to network. Even if it's with other businesses in your industry or to simply scope out the competition.

Tip # 2: Ensure You Can Afford it

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Most new brands get so fixated on getting their brand in stores, that they fail to significant cost to doing business in retail. For most retailers, depending on their payment terms, you won't get paid for several months until after you ship them your product. On top of that, there are a multitude of allowances and discounts that are automatically taken off the cost each purchase order. These added costs will vary greatly by retailer so it's something you want to ensure you have a clear understanding up before diving in "head first".

Additionally, it's pivotal that you have the operational efficiency to fulfill retail orders is pivotal. Ask yourself, If you got an order for 5,000 units across every item in your assortment, could you fulfill that order on time and in full? And could you afford to not get paid for it for several months and still maintain your day to day operations?

Tip #1: Knowing the Brand Your Void Fills

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This by far is the most important of the tips shared within this post. Remember, where there is a void, there is a need and ideally your product fulfills this need. For context, I'm not referencing the void your brand fills at a broad level or specifying a particular target audience. Don't get me wrong, those components are important, and very much necessary. In fact, you should have that ironed out before even thinking about getting into retail.

In this instance, I'm referring specifically to the retailer you're pitching to. This means going into their stores, if they have any, and/or visiting their website and studying their assortment within your category. Gain an understanding of the brands they carry, attributes of like items that they offer and identifying what's called white space opportunity. Which is essentially identifying what void you'd fill within their assortment to drive incremental sales for the retailer. If you can do this in an impactful way, and the void you're product is able to fill is meaningful, you've found the golden ticket, and you've essentially, done a big portion of the Buyer's job for them. I am always appreciative of brands that do their homework and are able to provide this type of perspective. I can't think of any Buyer who would fault you for this, at least not a good one.

About the Author

Dria Janell has over 17 years of retail experience and has worked for some of the country’s largest retailers. Over half of her career has been spent as a retail buyer where she serves as the gatekeeper between brands and the retailer’s shelves. She is the founder of Ruby Ren Retail, a retail consulting firm specializing in helping historically underrepresented businesses prepare their business for retail.

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