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Big Box Stores (Continue Online Marketing and expanding Offline)

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Nik Krohn

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I am looking for some suggestions from the crowd about how best to branch out successfully into retail stores (Boutiques & Big Box) for our product(s).

I have a unique patented product that I licensed from some entrepreneurs/inventors and grew their product sales from $2000/mo to $12,000/mo. It is all ecommerce and has been wonderful since most of it is organic efforts with little marketing expense.

But I am slowly hitting a ceiling...

It has insane margins and is a perfect fit for retail. I have spent a crap ton of money on packaging and everything looks wonderful. I even had point of purchase (POP) displays made in China for boutique shops to present the product better.

I occasionally get boutiques to order/reorder and can build a team and grind on that end of things. But what I really want to do is get into the big box stores.

A little history: The product has been in some walmarts (regionally) and because of the patent that protects the product, they were quickly rejected after a very short life on the shelves.

I know the product will work well in retail.

Does anyone have recommendations on how to move from strictly online business to establish more of an offline business? Questions include:
  • What is the best way to get the correct contacts (buyers) for large stores (Walmart, target, nordstrom, buybuy baby, babies r us, etc.....)
  • What kind of frequency of follow up should I pursue after sending samples?
  • How to make a kick a$$ first impression when sending samples?
 

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KLaw

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I am looking for some suggestions from the crowd about how best to branch out successfully into retail stores (Boutiques & Big Box) for our product(s).

I have a unique patented product that I licensed from some entrepreneurs/inventors and grew their product sales from $2000/mo to $12,000/mo. It is all ecommerce and has been wonderful since most of it is organic efforts with little marketing expense.

But I am slowly hitting a ceiling...

It has insane margins and is a perfect fit for retail. I have spent a crap ton of money on packaging and everything looks wonderful. I even had point of purchase (POP) displays made in China for boutique shops to present the product better.

I occasionally get boutiques to order/reorder and can build a team and grind on that end of things. But what I really want to do is get into the big box stores.

A little history: The product has been in some walmarts (regionally) and because of the patent that protects the product, they were quickly rejected after a very short life on the shelves.

I know the product will work well in retail.

Does anyone have recommendations on how to move from strictly online business to establish more of an offline business? Questions include:
  • What is the best way to get the correct contacts (buyers) for large stores (Walmart, target, nordstrom, buybuy baby, babies r us, etc.....)
  • What kind of frequency of follow up should I pursue after sending samples?
  • How to make a kick a$$ first impression when sending samples?
Bump. @Vigilante
 
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Nik Krohn

Nik Krohn

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Thanks @KLaw for the bump. This might be outside most peoples experience; I know it is outside of mine (Which is why I posted). Most of the Fastlane stuff preached here is usually digital focused. I see working retail as a fantastic means of building residual cash for the business (you see it all the time on shark tank).
 

Denim Chicken

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Retail is great if you have the margins for it, which you do. And the production capabilities.

When you say it was in walmart but got dropped because of the patent, what do you mean? Was it a regional test? How did you get it on walmart's shelves in the first place?
 
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Nik Krohn

Nik Krohn

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When you say it was in walmart but got dropped because of the patent, what do you mean? Was it a regional test? How did you get it on walmart's shelves in the first place?
Sorry @Denim Chicken for the misunderstanding. The product that was in Walmart was a knock off of my product. The patent protected our product and therefor walmart was forced to get the product off of it's shelf.

The reason I bring this up is because this other knock off was on the shelves of Walmart, I should be able to get on the shelves of walmart. This brings me back to my original question: What is the best way to get the contacts for these buyers?
 

amp0193

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This brings me back to my original question: What is the best way to get the contacts for these buyers?

Here's a GOLD post by @Vigilante that should help answer your question:

GOLD - How To Find (Non-Public) Email Addresses

I followed his advice and have been in communication with the corporate buyer for a 200+ store chain over the past couple of weeks.

It might take multiple emails/calls to get an initial response from them, but once you get that response, the door is blown wide open, and you have a line of communication directly to the decision maker.

My biggest frustration with dealing with Corporate is the "out of office emails" that last for days at a time. These people are BUSY! You just gotta keep following up.



Also, check out this legendary Insiders post by @Likwid24 about getting his product into big box hardware stores:

https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/community/threads/insiders-progress-thread-the-paint-brush-cover.30969/
 

Denim Chicken

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Sorry @Denim Chicken for the misunderstanding. The product that was in Walmart was a knock off of my product. The patent protected our product and therefor walmart was forced to get the product off of it's shelf.

The reason I bring this up is because this other knock off was on the shelves of Walmart, I should be able to get on the shelves of walmart. This brings me back to my original question: What is the best way to get the contacts for these buyers?
In my limited knowledge of bringing products to retail, I know its a lot more complicated than people think so hope you're ready for that. Meeting with a big box sometimes they will want you to be able to fulfill initial store orders within 30 days. I also know they sometimes have penalty clauses for not being able to fulfill a certain amount or quantity, etc. based on whatever contract you sign. I'm sure you've done this already but if you haven't, I would highly recommend researching whether going into retail is something you really want and should do. Retail can kill a business, quick.

But going back to the question of how to contact the buyers. As a quick background, I worked as a top producer in B2B sales, been involved in trainings of other sales reps. This situation is no different than landing a contract with a client particularly a Fortune 500 account in a b2b setting. I'd start by learning how to appropriately write an email as well as how to find the emails and phone # of the people who may be the person you want to speak to. Purchasing Manager, buyers, etc. and which department is best suitable for your product, etc. Once you have that, use LinkedIn, cold call their directory, etc. and find out how to get in contact with the decision maker.

Google can also give you some insight from others who have tried to get into a certain big box name. I understand Petco has a monthly or quarterly meetings with new suppliers for new products to be introduced and you may try to get an appointment for these slots. It may also involve you flying out and bending over backwards a bit as the buyer has all the control and power. They also frequent trade shows so promoting that way could lead to connections.

I would start by figuring out which stores you need to get into, which are the best brand fit, and start googling and finding pieces of the puzzle on how to get there, the process for that particular store, etc.

Buyers are flooded with new products all the time. And this is really no different than an owner of a company getting countless emails and calls from SEO companies wanting to help them "get on page 1 of google". Learning to write a proper email that's direct, concise, with PROOF and quantifiable data is the best way to get a shot at it. Persistence is what gets you accounts you couldn't land before.

Email: Find out their name and email. Send from a company email address, not gmail or hotmail. Make sure to highlight data and proof of past numbers concisely, such as how much you do in revenue, where you sell and how successful you are, how a lower knockoff of your product was in Walmart and on the shelves in X department with high visibility and your product could do better for reasons a, b, and c. How you are the original patent holder, etc.
Pictures of your gorgeous retail packaging. Even mentioning that you have a very low return rate, you are doing X in revenue on your website and growing at Y%. Retailers want to see that you promote your own product and support is there. If people thought Amazon is picky, retail big box stores are 1000x times pickier.

If sales is not your strong suit, I'm sure you can hire someone to get you a deal and they take a certain %. I know there are brokers for this, people who do it all, have the connections, know how to pitch and present properly.

If it were me, I'd start hitting google, linkedIn, calling company directories, going to a local walmart and talking to the manager at downtime to try and get any kind of info (regional/district managers name, what time they'll be in next, their email, phone #) and start from the bottom.
 

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In my limited knowledge of bringing products to retail, I know its a lot more complicated than people think so hope you're ready for that. Meeting with a big box sometimes they will want you to be able to fulfill initial store orders within 30 days. I also know they sometimes have penalty clauses for not being able to fulfill a certain amount or quantity, etc. based on whatever contract you sign. I'm sure you've done this already but if you haven't, I would highly recommend researching whether going into retail is something you really want and should do. Retail can kill a business, quick.

But going back to the question of how to contact the buyers. As a quick background, I worked as a top producer in B2B sales, been involved in trainings of other sales reps. This situation is no different than landing a contract with a client particularly a Fortune 500 account in a b2b setting. I'd start by learning how to appropriately write an email as well as how to find the emails and phone # of the people who may be the person you want to speak to. Purchasing Manager, buyers, etc. and which department is best suitable for your product, etc. Once you have that, use LinkedIn, cold call their directory, etc. and find out how to get in contact with the decision maker.

Google can also give you some insight from others who have tried to get into a certain big box name. I understand Petco has a monthly or quarterly meetings with new suppliers for new products to be introduced and you may try to get an appointment for these slots. It may also involve you flying out and bending over backwards a bit as the buyer has all the control and power. They also frequent trade shows so promoting that way could lead to connections.

I would start by figuring out which stores you need to get into, which are the best brand fit, and start googling and finding pieces of the puzzle on how to get there, the process for that particular store, etc.

Buyers are flooded with new products all the time. And this is really no different than an owner of a company getting countless emails and calls from SEO companies wanting to help them "get on page 1 of google". Learning to write a proper email that's direct, concise, with PROOF and quantifiable data is the best way to get a shot at it. Persistence is what gets you accounts you couldn't land before.

Email: Find out their name and email. Send from a company email address, not gmail or hotmail. Make sure to highlight data and proof of past numbers concisely, such as how much you do in revenue, where you sell and how successful you are, how a lower knockoff of your product was in Walmart and on the shelves in X department with high visibility and your product could do better for reasons a, b, and c. How you are the original patent holder, etc.
Pictures of your gorgeous retail packaging. Even mentioning that you have a very low return rate, you are doing X in revenue on your website and growing at Y%. Retailers want to see that you promote your own product and support is there. If people thought Amazon is picky, retail big box stores are 1000x times pickier.

If sales is not your strong suit, I'm sure you can hire someone to get you a deal and they take a certain %. I know there are brokers for this, people who do it all, have the connections, know how to pitch and present properly.

If it were me, I'd start hitting google, linkedIn, calling company directories, going to a local walmart and talking to the manager at downtime to try and get any kind of info (regional/district managers name, what time they'll be in next, their email, phone #) and start from the bottom.

Great write up and info. Rep ++

@G-Man also has some experience in dealing with retailers and buyers.
 

G-Man

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Meeting with a big box sometimes they will want you to be able to fulfill initial store orders within 30 days.
Just got a rollout PO for a 400 store chain yesterday that was 50% more than anticipated, the SKU distribution was different, and we have to have it at crossdock on the east coast in 12 days... and we don't have the inventory... and our lead time is 4-6 weeks. Currently finding other customers to rob to make this happen. :wideyed:

For the buyers, I wish I could offer some sort of secret sauce, but it's basically what's been suggested above, plus a lot of persistence. Emailing, calling,... hiring brokers and having them email and call,.... going to trade shows, getting info for literally everyone you meet,... then calling and emailing. Then over time, you know enough people and enough people know you that the right connections happen. There are also some trade shows that have deals where you can pay like 10k and they'll bring you some buyers. Might look into that for your industry.

I will say, when you do finally get in front of a buyer: Take the time for a well researched and professional presentation. We even had ours printed into a hard bound book for a buyer at a national chain. It only cost $50/ea, and that thing was still sitting around in her office a year later when we came in for our line review. When the guy that works for a major national company comes in with a couple laser printed pages stapled together, you'll stand out.
 
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Nik Krohn

Nik Krohn

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Email: Find out their name and email. Send from a company email address, not gmail or hotmail. Make sure to highlight data and proof of past numbers concisely, such as how much you do in revenue, where you sell and how successful you are, how a lower knockoff of your product was in Walmart and on the shelves in X department with high visibility and your product could do better for reasons a, b, and c. How you are the original patent holder, etc.
Pictures of your gorgeous retail packaging. Even mentioning that you have a very low return rate, you are doing X in revenue on your website and growing at Y%. Retailers want to see that you promote your own product and support is there. If people thought Amazon is picky, retail big box stores are 1000x times pickier.
We even had ours printed into a hard bound book for a buyer at a national chain. It only cost $50/ea, and that thing was still sitting around in her office a year later when we came in for our line review
This was GOLDEN. Thanks @Denim Chicken & @G-Man . Very valuable.

Meeting with a big box sometimes they will want you to be able to fulfill initial store orders within 30 days.
Just got a rollout PO for a 400 store chain yesterday that was 50% more than anticipated, the SKU distribution was different, and we have to have it at crossdock on the east coast in 12 days
So this is an interest conversation here. I am working with a close friend that for his 9-5 he works for a company that gets products into home depot, lowes, ace hardware. What they typically do is create a sample, see if buyers are interested in the sample, and if they are, then they will go to china and get it mass produced. He says that even just setting up the account for large buyers takes 30 days not including orders etc.

So the approach was to get the buyer interested in the product (which would be a 3 pack in fancy packaging) and if they wanted it, then have the manufacturer do a 35 day turn around on the product. This also gives the buyer the ability to make packaging changes if they had any suggestions.

I've been nervous with this approach because I don't have the 3 packs produced. People buy the product in 3s (sometimes 5 packs) and Ill just ship 3 individual units. They don't care. But for retail, its do or die.

Would you guys suggest biting the bullet and having 3 packs produced ahead of time before buyers say yes OR stick with the current approach? Regardless, I know I will sell the product online (given enough time) if I go ahead and order it ahead of time. Thoughts?

PS - THANK YOU in advance :p
 

G-Man

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Would you guys suggest biting the bullet and having 3 packs produced ahead of time before buyers say yes OR stick with the current approach? Regardless, I know I will sell the product online (given enough time) if I go ahead and order it ahead of time. Thoughts?
Honestly, we lean toward the fire drill every time. I'd rather have an order an figure out how to get the stock than have the stock and be trying to get an order. Some of it is just general downside management. When you get a big order from a major chain, until you've survived at least 1 line review, you shouldn't relax. You can get pulled at any time. That's how people end up upside down with a bunch of inventory and no customer.

EDIT: I don't wanna downplay it: it is extremely stressful, and sometimes, you also take a chance and buy the stock, because the opportunity is so big that you can't afford to miss it.
 

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