The local retail store is your best place to start trying to make money with your product. I was able to get my product in over 4,500 retail stores, but it all started with me walking into Orchard Nutrition, a small health foods store. The local retailer is the perfect place to test the market for your product, especially if you ever want to make it big.
1. Local stores love to work with local companies.
Your local store will most likely have the highest level of sales/month because you are able to put more attention on growing sales. In my hometown of Redding, CA, a homestyle mixes brand called Fabulous Fixins sells more product per store than competing national brands purely because it is a local company. The owners of this company have been attending craft fairs for decades, and they personally restock all of the local shelves. Retail store owners know this and love to resell their products.
2. Both locals and tourists love to buy local products.
There is a special community pride to shopping at your local mom and pop. Smaller companies have a hard time competing with the larger product companies nationwide. This can simply come down to the size of your marketing budget compared to theirs. So you need to take the fight to your home turf. The local store becomes your anchor point for a larger distribution plan. You will simply be more successful locally than you will be nationally because everyone loves to buy local. Larger chains have even started stocking local products regionally to take advantage of this positive branding effect.
3. You can find out if customers like your product.
I am not a big fan of focus groups. Want to know if customers will pay you money for your product? The best way to do this is to put it on the shelf and see if they actually buy it. Another good test market is to sell online but online sales don’t directly correlate with retail shelf sales. Your goal should be to shrink your feedback loop, from product change to customer purchase, as much as possible. You can directly talk with the owner or representative about sales and customer feedback on your product much more easily and quickly than out of town.
4. You can test market locally before you expand.
You can easily experiment with your product features, pricing and marketing strategy. There are too many brands that try to get meetings with a big box retailer before they are ready. This is why the big retail buyer is not responding to your meeting request. You need to get some market data under your belt first. Test your marketing plan before you tell a big retailer you are going to be successful in their thousands of retail locations.
5. Your local store is the first step in getting into big retail.
To increase your chances for nationwide success, you need to have stories that help you build credibility and momentum. Your broker or product representative needs to tell a retail chain buyer: “This product has been extremely successful in stores very similar to yours.” You need to convince the buyer that you are not a risk for them. They are afraid of committing to unproven products that might collect cobwebs on their shelves.
So to all of you who are starting out with your product, go meet with to the local store owners. Getting your product on their shelf is the best way start creating a nationwide brand.