So, you’ve got a CPG product. You are selling at retail. You have a distributor and you are getting into retail stores. Congratulations!
However, your sales could be better and you are worried that you may be discontinued for poor sales. You decide to go to the retailers and find out for yourself what’s going on. If you don’t do it right, you risk making matters worse!
Time your store visit to be when there is the least amount of traffic. Mornings before noon and afternoons between 1 pm and 4:30 are best for most retailers. They can spend more time with you.
When you get there, park as far away from the retailer’s front door as possible. Those spaces up front are for the customers. The retailer will notice and appreciate the thoughtful courtesy. Be sure to bring in your latest promotional materials and merchandising signs. That will help the store manager identify you more quickly and allow you to pitch for a display in the future. Don’t forget your duster! Make sure the retailer can see it.
When you enter, do not bother the owner or manager if they are with a client or another vendor. Wait your turn. It’s OK to let them know that you are in the store. Just say hello, I’m so and so from such and such a company and will check back when you are available. Even if they aren’t busy, it’s a good idea to use this greeting since you will have some important homework to do in the store before you talk to them.
Now that the manager knows who you are and that you will be in the store, you are pretty much free to do a survey. You will need this information before you talk to the manager. You are also free to remove the sales stoppers.
So, first, visit your product on the shelf or in the display. You are looking for vacancies. Replace your vacancies with backstock. While you are in back of the store, take note of how many cartons of each SKU are left. Perhaps the supplies you need to face out the shelves or displays will deplete the backstock. Make note of what the store needs to order to have shelf stock and ample backstock allowing for delivery time. Then replace your products on the shelf and displays.
As you are doing this, notice if anything is blocking the customer’s view of your products. It may be other company’s products. Take appropriate action.
Also notice if your shelf signage has been removed or is obsolete and replace it. How about the pricing tags? Are they accurate? What about the reorder code tags, are they up and correct? Look at your display, if you are fortunate enough to have one, and inspect for the same issues. If your products need dusting, dust them. If your products need pricing, price them.
Look around the store for a place for a display of your products or a better place for your existing display. Hint; a competitor’s products that are not moving (look for dust). Look for places where shoppers spend more time.
Now, after you have finished your merchandising chores and know the store’s inventory and needs, you can speak with the manager with confidence. Plus, by now you should know what products of yours are selling and which ones are not. Put your notes together so you won’t take a lot of the manager’s time.
When it’s your turn, start with what you have done to help merchandise your products in the store. That demonstrates that you are a team player. If sales have been slow, be the first to say so and voice your concern. Then suggest ways to improve sales including new signs you may have just installed, new promotional materials, etc. Now’s the time to suggest a display and identify the location you feel is the most appropriate.
Always ask for a display in the future or to be next in line for a particularly high trafficked spot. Even if its months away, you’ll be glad you did. You may also recommend an in-store display to make customers more aware of your products. These are the most effective and the most welcomed when they are seasonally themed to add value to the customer’s experience. If you have a temporary price reduction, now’s the time to present the plan. Offer to come in and build the display.
Then go on to the current inventories of your products and what they need. Ask for the order. If you have a distributer’s representative, take the order and call that representative immediately after the visit and relay the order so they can get it in immediately.
If you have any other suggestions that can improve overall sales for the store, not just your products, now is the time to make them. Lastly, let the manager know when you intend to return. Leave him or her with your card.
This is exactly the kind of hands-on merchandising work you can expect to do wherever your products are for sale. If you are the President or CEO, it makes no difference. Retail is physical. That’s its big advantage over online. Retail managers want products from vendors who physically help out. They want you to be part of their team! Did we say be sure they see your duster?