How to Get Your Product In Stores: Selling Wholesale to Retailers

Sarah Leung
June 11, 2015

For young brands just starting to get their feet off the ground, getting products into independent retail stores and boutiques can be a daunting first step. You have probably read dozens of articles about building a website and establishing your brand on social media, but do you know how to get your product in stores? Here are a few tips.

How to Get Your Product In Stores

1. Research Your Target

If you already have a product ready for sale, you probably have an idea of what kind of stores carry products like yours and which stores you’d like to see your product in. Think about the size of the store, the location and the type of buyer who will benefit from your product. If you have a very niche product, this may take a bit more research. Create a list of target stores. Be sure to actually visit these stores and see how their assortment is laid out and displayed, as well as how your product will fit into that assortment. This is your opportunity to take note of similar items on the shelves––where they’re placed, how they’re packaged, etc. Does your packaging meet the basic requirements?

2. Establish a Direct Contact

You hear it again and again--networking is crucial to success. Identify a contact person at each retail store and reach out to them directly. Sending generic letters, emails, or samples to an info@ email address will rarely yield results. Use Linkedin,Twitter, or other social media sources to track down a contact person. Even if this person is not the ultimate decision-maker, establishing rapport with someone in the organization can ultimately lead you to the right person. For example, once you’ve corresponded with a sales associate or store manager, they may be able to help you connect with the buyer.

3. Attend Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great way to build your network and check out the competition. They can also be pricey, especially if you are just starting out. With over 10,000 trade shows held in the U.S. each year alone, it is crucial to research your options to be sure that your product is relevant to the buyers in attendance, and that there's a high level of opportunity available to you. Don’t waste your time and money on shows that aren’t exactly within your target. To do this, you can check out the trade show website and contact the show's management to get statistics from past years' shows in order to see whether their usual attendees fit your customer profile. Once registered, a great way to prepare for the show is to look into the list of pre-registered attendees (you can usually get this from the show's management as well) and make a spreadsheet of the buyers you want to connect with and why you think your product is a good fit for them. You can also use the list to create a pre-show mailing notifying people of your brand, products, and booth number. Be sure to get a high traffic location on the trade show floor. While exhibiting, you may want to give out product samples and ask for attendees' feedback. Finally, always be sure to follow up with new leads after a show.

4. Craft your Pitch

Reach out to buyers with a pitch package that includes a cover letter, press kit, and samples. Once you land a meeting with your target retailer, you want to be sure you are going in with a pitch that will get them excited about your product. Get straight to the point and give them just enough information to gain their interest, but don’t waste time with just story-telling. Do your research on the company and tweak your pitch for each company you visit. A few things to consider:

  • Understand their needs and how your product will fit into their assortment.
  • Have your facts straight: product warranties, manufacturing capabilities and consumer needs.
  • Be sure you’ve thought thoroughly about how your products are priced. Know the true cost per unit––including not just manufacturing costs, but also shipping, packaging, UPC costs, etc.

5. Ask Questions

You can also gain valuable insight into the buying process by conducting informational interviews. Sit down with professionals from your target industry, offer to take them to lunch or ask them to meet you for a coffee. Come up with a short list of questions about the buying process, other products similar to yours, and their experience in the industry. Remember, you aren’t trying to sell your product to them: instead, you are gaining feedback on how to craft a killer pitch and build a network of connections in your industry. Have you had great success getting your product onto shelves of independent retail stores? We’d love to hear your story (and advice) in the comments. For more tips, check out this great post from Andreea Ayers at Launch Grow Joy, as well as her awesome post on publicity for growing brands!