One of the most common questions I get from brands, as a retail buyer is, “How do I get my product in stores?”. Typically the brand is inquiring about a specific retailer. Most times, I answer this question with a question…which I know…annoying. But hear me out.
Most brands, especially those just starting out, get so starry eyed at the thought of seeing their brand on the shelves of their favorite retailer that they don’t stop and think, “why do I want my brand in the stores of “x” retailer?”
At first, the answer may seem obvious. Your initial thought may have been, “Duh, to sell more product!”. If it was, then you’re thinking about it the completely wrong way. In fact, this way of thinking is likely to be a very costly one.
While, yes, at the end of the day everyone wants to sell more product, it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Not all retailers are created equal, just like not all brands are created equal.
As you look to position your brand within the market, you’ll want to be intentional when identifying potential retail partners and why you believe each would make an ideal retail partner. Hint, hint, it has nothing to do with how many stores they have.
One of your biggest considerations should be ensuring that the retailer’s target audience aligns with that of your brand’s. Keep in mind, the biggest benefit of getting your product in stores is to increase your chances of getting it in the hands of the end consumer (a.k.a: your target audience).
In order to do that, you’ll need to ensure your product is accessible to them, meaning that your product is located where your target audience is most likely to shop. For example, let’s say your brand specializes in luxury skincare with prices ranging from $50-$75.
Do you think that Family Dollar would be an ideal retail partner? Absolutely not…why? Because their target audience doesn't align with yours. Even though Family Dollar has thousands of stores, your product would undoubtedly tank in their stores. Think about how silly your $50 cleanser would look on a shelf next to $5 alternatives.
On the flip side, if your brand offers super affordable skincare with prices ranging $5-$10, do you think Neiman Marcus would be an ideal partner? No...why? Because their target audience is accustomed to luxury and indulgence and may associate the low price point with low quality.
While those examples are a bit extreme, you get the jest. Understanding your target audience, their behaviors (ie-where they shop) and the target audience of retailers, is imperative to your brand’s success. I discuss this topic, as well as identifying your target audience in more detail in my Road to Retail online course.
The key takeaway here is that you need to be strategic in selecting your retail partners. This is YOUR brand…your baby…so do your research! One of the easiest and cheapest ways (it’s free) to conduct research, is to go to the retailer’s stores and observe. Below are a few questions to get you started:
Who is shopping at their store?
How long do customers tend to shop within the store?
What are they buying?
What type of car do they drive?
Are they shopping alone?
What are they wearing?
What brands does the retailer offer within their assortment?
Does the retailer have, like, items within their assortment?
Are there items in their assortment that look picked over? If so, which items?
What is the retail range for items within their assortment?
There is so much insight you can gain just by going into a retailer’s store. Just as selecting the right retail partner can skyrocket sales for your brand, selecting the wrong one can be disastrous (and extremely expensive).
Instead of jumping at the first “yes”, really stop to assess whether the retailer would be a good fit for your brand. I know this is easier said than done, especially if you’re in a situation where you’re desperate for business. However, you’ve got to think long term. Sure, you’d get the short term benefit of getting an order. But that one order could be your first and last and depending on your financial positioning could threaten the health of your company. The objective is to find partners that can help drive sustainable growth for your brand.
So before you ask, "how do I get my brand in stores” stop and assess the “why”. Because after all is said and done, you may find yourself reconsidering the question.
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.