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How to Sell to Retail Stores – Your Best Tips

How to sell to retail stores - 27 tips

Don’t be afraid to go after the big retailers early in the game.  This is a particularly good strategy if they have a supplier diversity program that you qualify for.  Although a lot of variables come into play when it comes to a buyer making a decision about including your product in their assortment, at the end of the day, it really boils down to whether they like your product or not.  The buyer that happens to love your product could work for Walmart, or a local mom and pop, so I recommend going after big and small retailers simultaneously.  Usually it takes a bit longer to secure the buyer appointment with the larger retailers, so while you are waiting for that appointment, you build your sales history with the individually owned and operated retailers where you can get your product in a lot faster.  – Thanks to Jennifer Zachery from The Bead Barrette

Niche marketing and doing PR via SEO, Facebook and all the avenues of social media is one of the most effective and cost effective ways to sell to retail stores. We took our product offering and tailored items to different kinds of people. We had things like The Wizard of Oz, Popeye, and Betty Boop which hit children, but was also retro to hit adults. We did a whole food themed line to interest people who love chocolate, people who love wine, BBQ, Cupcakes, Coffee, etc. We added KISS for the rocker group and even religious ones. Now we returned the rubber duck industry to America where it all began and are the only ones making them here again….once again…great niche and great PR opportunities! – Thanks to Craig Wolfe of CelebriDucks

The most effective quality I have found to sell to retail stores is persistence. One must call on established and new accounts via direct mail, email and phone on a regular ongoing basis. Use the buddy system! I have a colleague in Los Angeles, she and I stage a “contest” to motivate one other to call on new accounts (cold calls). We are not really competing although we challenge each other to see how many accounts we can call in an hour by staging the so-called contest. – Thanks Joy Light of Joy Hand Painted Silk

Our wholesale business has grown the most by exhibiting at select trade shows that deliver high volume qualified traffic, and then engaging prospective wholesale customers with passionate enthusiasm for our product. – Thanks to Julie Buzby of Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips for Dogs

Develop a distribution network for your products.  Depending on your product and its use, your distribution network may be retail establishments and or retail service providers that may use your product in their business.  By establishing a distribution network you will expand your products footprint and develop a sales force for your products without having to directly pay for the sales.  Offering a multi-tiered distribution program that rewards a distributor with lower wholesales prices based on the amount of product sold, can help to create incentives for the distributors to use products. – Thanks to Brian Smith Omni Containment Systems

Think Outside of the Box!  Because I have a very niche product, fashion accessories for medical walking boots, I can’t go any of the “traditional routes” of selling wholesale.  Instead, I went to LinkedIn and found the companies who already sell the boots to the orthopedic offices and pharmacies.  The products go hand-in-hand so it’s a win-win.  It gets me directly to the people who sell the boots and it gets the sales reps into their existing accounts or potential new accounts with a new product.- Thanks to Christina Daves of CastMedic Designs

Attending trade shows has been a great way to initially get wholesale accounts.  That way I knew what I was doing, but after a year or two in business I have found just calling up stores has been extremely effective!  People love to hear directly from business owners.  Have a great catalog and easy ordering system. – Thanks to Betsy Johnson of SwimZip

At the most basic level you need to understand the type of buyer who will benefit from carrying your products and focus your efforts toward that group when you sell to retail stores.  What industry are you truly in – are you apparel or souvenir resort wear for example?  Are you looking to sell to independent stores or larger corporate buyers?  These can be entirely different strategies. Industry trade shows are still perhaps the best way to get in front of store buyers, even though this can be very expensive.  There are also “online sales reps” for many industries that will sell your product for a commission.  Many of the wholesale accounts we have obtained have become excellent, long term buyers.  Many small and independent stores like to shop this way because they can order from many merchants at one time and each merchant gets a separate PO. – Thanks to Jon Kurtz of Dog is Good

To sell to retail stores, you should get the name of someone at the company you wish to sell to.  Sending blind letters, samples or emails rarely if ever, gets your product into the right hands.  It doesn’t have to be the right person.  If you ask politely, often someone will tell you who the right person is.  You can even use that “wrong” person as a reference.  For instance, “John in accounting told me I should speak to you”.  You can look online or just call and ask who you should contact.  Social media such as LinkedIn & Twitter are also great resources.  Once you’ve found the right contact, don’t just contact them once and forget about them.  Without being a pest, follow up periodically. – Thanks to Gary Castelle of Magnum Plastics Inc

The most effective way to get new business

and new accounts is to attend trade shows (like ENK Coterie and Intermezzo), combined with the use of Social Media to generate interest in our products. We have been attending these shows for the last several years and find that buyers in mass come to them to see whats hot, whats trending and to conduct business face to face with the manufacturer. Buyers like to touch and feel the clothes. – Thanks to Julie Brown of Julie Brown Designs

Develop relationships with the buyers. Give them small samples of something you think might do well at their store/dept. and ask for their feedback in scent choice etc. No one knows their customers like they do. – Thanks to Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc.

I’ve found that introducing your product to store level managers or department buyers leads to finding out who the state or region wide buyer is. If you can first succeed at getting an individual store to take a look at your product and then commit to spending the time and effort demoing your product, you will likely be granted the opportunity to present your products to the state or region.  Sometimes, larger chains only deal through their corporate/regional headquarters and in that case, do you best to gather support from the local stores. Try to get a number of local stores to say that they would be interested in carrying your product and take those comments to the regional buyer. Doing this will save the regional buyer a lot of work because you have already proved that there is potential support for your product at the store level. But remember, getting your product on the shelf is only the first part of the sale. You then need to have a plan to sell that product off the shelf to the consumers! – Thanks to Mike Schultz of Sedulous Foods

We only sell on-line, so getting notice on the web can be a challenge. Blogging has been a large factor in our company getting notice on search engines. We have also found that testimonials of our product are a huge contributor. As a result, we sponsor product giveaways from time to time on large lifestyle blog sites.  The owners of these sites have large loyal followings and their followers take their advise. So when a blogger tells their readership that they have reviewed the product and that it is a value, they listen. The blog writer also likes the giveaway as it is a way to give back to their devoted followers and gives them something to write about. – Thanks to Steve C of Vero Linens

The most effective way on how to sell to retail stores and get into a buyer’s office is through a referral or an existing relationship.  It is so important for the entrepreneur to put themselves in the buyer’s shoes.  They are usually inundated with new products, new companies.  Do you have something that is going to make the buyer “look good?”  Does it fit with the buyers’ business model, is it retail ready (good packaging and pop) is it in the right price range, etc.  Do some research on potential customer. – Thanks to Gail Sanders-Luckman of Kumfy Tailz

The most effective and efficient way for our company to sell our products wholesale is to be an exhibitor at one of the top trade shows in the country for our industry. The one we have been attending is called SuperZoo in Las Vegas. This is a trade show closed to only retailers, wholesalers, distributors and groomers. So instead of us approaching retailers individually and spending a lot of time and money, retailers come to our booth. Big box buyers who are usually very difficult to get hold of are there at the trade show too. So we managed to secure an appointment with one of them during the trade show which later turned into many ongoing purchase orders from them. We are not supplying to the TJX Corporation of companies which consists of TJMaxx,

Marshalls, HomeGoods, Winners Canada and Homesense Canada. – Thanks to Athena Yap of Jackboy’s Dog Bakery

We are a new company that launched our product last summer at the Americas Mart Gift show in Atlanta. It was a tough show for us as traffic was down from previous years and we were not sure that we were in the right location for our product.  We have been doing a grass root sales effort ourselves in order to sell to retail stores. Our best leads come from our current customers. We ask them to mention us to their colleagues or for their suggestions of other stores they think we should call on. Something else that goes along with this is that we look at our most successful stores and the lines they carry. We then will do research on other stores that carry the same lines and either call them or email them. These strategies seem to be the most effective for us. – Thanks to AnnDee Beckerman of Infinity Headbands

Direct contact to our best e-commerce customers to try to convert them into small-scale retailers if they are a stylist that owns a salon, beauty blogger, boutique owner, etc. Do you do trade shows, contact buyers in person, buy lists, contact buyers via email, etc:  We do most of our distributor trade shows (Jinny, Bens, Seven Dollar), we do beauty buyer outreach to open new distribution outlets via phone cold calls, mailings and emails. One thing that has been effective for you in getting wholesale accounts: Direct outreach to salons and e-commerce customers that purchase heavily.  Leverage their interest in the brand by giving them retail opportunities that will increase the profitability of their businesses. – Thanks to Angela McTair of Nutress Hair

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