Ask @RetailPhil: Why are Laundry Detergent and Dog Food Found on the Same Shelf?



Recently, we talked about 6 things to do to get on a retail buyer’s good side. Now let’s dig a little deeper – what are the 6 things a buyer is thinking about when you’re pitching your product to them?

A buyer is a general manager of their own section of products. The number of selling categories a buyer is in charge of varies by retailer, but it is normal for a buyer to have at least 5 different categories that they’re in charge of. That means a lot of vendors/brands to work with on a constant basis.

As a brand new vendor, a buyer wants to get to know you first and foremost. They want to know that you can ship product reliably, quickly grasp their priorities and understand their retail model.

Your product features should stand out on their own, but in today’s environment, it’s especially important to establish where and how your products are manufactured. Retailers don’t want to be in the news for selling substandard products or unethical goods so it’s important that you communicate how exceptional your product is.

This is important, so do your homework! A buyer will want to be assured that you both understand their customers and are bringing a product on board that reflects that. When we spoke to Candace Bingham, a buyer at Johnny Mac’s, she indicated how important and appreciated it was that potential vendors stopped in to check out their stores and understand their shoppers. A buyer needs to sell products that appeal to their customers. Don’t pitch how to change a retailer’s customers – pitch for potentially new customers.

Ever wonder why products share a section? Like dog food and laundry? While you’re pitching your product, a buyer is thinking about weight, how much of your stock they’re going to sell and how many times a consumer is going to come in a month to buy your products. Accompanying purchases (also known as “Shopping Basket”) are important to the buyer too. Dog food is heavy and a routine purchase. You need it as much as you do laundry detergent and almost just as often. The buyer is thinking about where in-store they would put your product, what items it would be adjacent to, and how it fits in with their assortment overall.

Buyers are constantly evaluating your packaging. Is the item flexible? Does it sit horizontally or vertically? Can it be hung? Does it stand up by itself? Is the packaging clear and concise? Will it stand out when it hits the shelf amid all the other products?

That last question is particularly important. To get your answer, try this exercise: head to any drug store and go to the skin care aisle of the store. Take 30 seconds (time yourself!) to scan the entire section. Now, try to remember all the different brands on the shelf. When you’re done, go through and actually count the number of brands. If you’re like most consumers, you will only have noticed about 1/3 of the true number of brands in that section. Will your product stand out and be part of that memorable few? A buyer has to take this into consideration.

Brands are always focused on what getting into a retailer means for them – more sales, more profits and of course, better brand recognition.

But what’s in it for the retailer? Make sure the value you bring to the table is made very clear. Your formula for success must include healthy profit for the retailer, strong sales numbers and a clear consumer benefit. A buyer is always looking for new products to make a splash or enhance their store experience. Otherwise, they’re doing just fine without your product.

The next time you’re heading in to pitch to a buyer, know that these are the most crucial in the long list of inquiries on their mind. Being able to answer these questions will get you one (huge) step closer to the goal of getting your product listed in their store.

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