Jul 29, 2014 Loren Heinzeroth

[Checklist] How to Sell Into to Major Retail Stores

Preparing for a product line review (PLR) with a major retailer can be a challenging process. In the early stages of planning, it's normally best to follow the outline of topics your buyer has provided in advance of the meeting. Still, if that outline is rather sparse, or you suspect there will be other important issues discussed, it's always good practice to have your bases covered if the meeting takes off in a completely different direction. Perhaps these ideas will help you do a pre-flight check.

Overall, be ready to discuss anything that addresses what most buyers are usually seeking: good, solid reasons how your product line helps them maximize sales, margins and customer satisfaction. You are basically being given the opportunity to present a strategy for improving the retailer's performance in your category. Anything is fair game if it reaffirms your position as an incumbent brand or helps you state a strong case to gain shelf space if you are the newcomer.

Important: If at all possible, make sure you know what the deciding factors are going to be. Are you invited to this PLR primarily to place pressure on current suppliers to lower prices? Is the buyer only interested in a couple of your items that are unique? Who else is presenting and what are your strengths in comparison?

Commonly Requested Documents

  • Company contacts and ordering information
  • Confidentially agreement
  • Product line assortment and net pricing
  • Other facts such as market share and advertising programs (varies by retailer)

Presentation Checklist

One caution is that you need to be flexible in presentation format. Some of our clients are finding that they are meeting in the aisle of a store or planogram room, not a conference room with Powerpoint projector available. If the presentation is to be at the retailer's planogram facility, make sure you have reserved space and time in the planogram room and that your products and POP materials will be on hand when you get there for setup. If you need to have the display rack beams (shelf heights) set beforehand, be sure to provide the facility coordinators with the beam heights needed.

Presentation Outline

  1. Brand* and company history. Include profiles of your company's leadership and commitment to DIY products.
  2. Total market size (by channel, if available)
  3. Your share of market. (with your view of competitors' positions if this information enhances your story)
  4. Major trends impacting the category (SWOT)*
  5. Your ability to service and grow the business for the retailer. If you are the incumbent, be ready to present information about your line fill rates and on-time statistics.
  6. Suggested assortments by region and pricing
  7. New products, innovations (and any exclusivity opportunities if you plan to offer them)
  8. Your products' strengths/weaknesses vs. competition (be specific with side-by-side comparisons)
  9. Suggested planogram and POP materials (renderings, actual setup), messaging rationale*
  10. Promotions (stackouts, end caps, special offers)
  11. Advertising plans (traditional, digital, social)
  12. How-to videos, other use of video to extend product exposure
  13. Planning for PK training, other support
  14. Ways to enhance online content (for the retailer's website)
  15. How you plan to monitor your line's performance with this retailer

Materials checklist (as applicable)

  1. Everything needed to set the planogram (cartons, labels, sign channels, sign mockups, aisle violators if used, any special fixtures or demos)
  2. Enlarged posters of regional planograms or other visuals not represented in the standard planogram. (including end caps or other visuals)
  3. Easels for those posters
  4. New product samples and packaging
  5. New product demo (video or actual demonstration)
  6. Notebook computer, appropriate connectors and extension cords

Other notes

Because Home Depot, Lowe's and other retailers do not allow photos to be taken at their planogram facilities, be sure to ask the merchandising team to arrange for photos of anything you need to document. They usually have people available to do that for you. Such photos are very valuable after the presentation as you begin the next process of responding to any requested changes, and if all goes well, you move into implementation phases.

Finally, and possibly among the most important checklist items, be sure to bring a drape to cover your planogram when you leave the meeting. Some retailers' planogram rooms have draping available, but not all do. Draping your presentation is no guarantee that competitors won't take a peak when they are in the facility, but it will help you maintain a certain amount of confidentiality going forward.

Published by Loren Heinzeroth July 29, 2014
Loren Heinzeroth