The “Holy Grail” for consumer product manufacturers is getting their products onto the shelves of the popular, major retail chains and before the eyes of prospective consumers. This is much easier to say than do. Of course, long established companies such as SC Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, among others, have a huge advantage in terms brand recognition, sales-track records, established relationships and overall influence. For everybody else it is very difficult and expensive to get even one SKU onto a shelf, at one location to test a product. Even an opportunity to have a temporary point of purchase display is a challenge. The basic truth is that every inch of a store is hard to reach for manufacturers, especially smaller ones, but there are ways of “breaking through.”
One thing to think about is your sales channel. Yes, you may be the greatest salesperson in the world. If so, that’s wonderful, but can you be everywhere at the same time, promoting your product? In some cases, you don’t have to. Sometimes, just one opportunity at one store can snowball into success. Look at inventor and Spanx CEO Susan Blakely’s inspirational story.
Susan Blakely, Spanx, CEO
Susan developed a very innovative pantyhose product but she couldn’t get anyone to even consider producing it. Time after time, she was rejected by every mill she approached. They all thought the product didn’t make any sense and there was no market for it. This did not faze her and she persevered until one mill, after initially rejecting her, gave her a chance. When Susan asked why the manager had a change of heart, he said, "I have two daughters.” Turns out, they didn't think the idea was crazy at all. With product in hand, but still totally naïve about how the real corporate buying process worked, she drove to a local Neiman Marcus store to see if they would carry the product. A sale staff member said, “you can’t just come to one store, you need to call on our headquarters.” Again, unfazed, she did just that and believe it or not, got a meeting with the buyer and the rest is history.
This is one example of making a success for your product. Not everyone can be that persistent or perhaps, “that lucky.” One very effective sales channel solution is hiring a sales rep firm in your industry. They are usually niche industry sales experts, representing non-competing brands to specific channels of distribution, in specific zones of the country and usually on a commission basis.
One such success story is that of New Jersey-based StoreMaxx, makers of “Snap Pack,” an affordable brand of food storage containers. The winning combination was a great product, a hard working company and sales reps knocking on buyers’ doors that resulted in “Snap Pack’s” growing popularity with consumers shopping at Costco, Rite-Aid and other big name retailers nationwide.
We caught up with Deanna Maratene, VP/Operations, for a bit of insight into how these sales reps helped. “We have a commodity product and although ours is of superior quality, innovative in design and available convenient packs, our niche-market is very much about established relationships and our competitors are among the most recognizable brands and companies in the world. We immediately realized putting our best foot forward would be through sales reps.” She went on to say, “they have been great partners in our initial sales push and subsequent growth in our few short years in the market.”
And finally, although there are many paths to retail success, any consumer product manufacturer should think about utilizing existing product merchandising tools to get your big break at retail. One such tool is the Clip Strip® Brand Merchandising Strip invented in 1980 by Edward D. Spitaletta. You know the product, go into any store, whether a supermarket, drug chain, convenience mart or mass merchant and look for the potato chips, candy, lip balm, shavers, baby wipes, etc. suspended off the retail shelf or display appearing to be floating in air. Look closely at the store fixture device holding these products. Yes, that vertical piece of store equipment, in plastic or metal and with hang hooks, is probably a Clip Strip®.
The Clip Strip®, the first ever merchandising strip, has been helping entrepreneurs, established brands, manufacturers and retailers generate impulse sales for almost 35 years. A store chain buyer may give you the chance to prove your worth by testing your product out with a strip merchandiser. Being shy won’t ever help – if the buyer doesn’t bring it up, you can suggest a Clip Strip® Merchandiser program as well. If implemented, they will “hang” your product near similar items or possibly use it for cross-merchandising promotional opportunities. A successful debut on clip strips, can result in an offer of the fabled, “Holy Grail” – shelf space!
Edward D. Spitaletta of Clip Strip Corp. says “The Clip Strip® has been instrumental in getting tens of thousands of manufacturers their opportunity to show their retail muscle. We are so proud of being able, since our inception, to not only take dead space at stores and turn it into profitable centers, but we help brands become successful where they may otherwise have never had the chance.”
It is that simple. If you are interested in getting more information or free samples from Clip Strip Corp., contact them today. They come in plastic or metal with hooks and they recently introduced a version that uses adhesive mounting positions for packaging without hang holes, the Sticky Strip™ Merchandiser.
Whichever direction you pursue to get your product into stores, know that it’s going to be a challenge; but after all, you didn’t develop the product because you didn’t believe in it. So, take heart, put your shoulder to the wheel and good luck. You can do it!