As a former Retail Buyer for Target, a CEO for a venture-funded food startup, and a CPG marketer for Neutrogena, Vanessa is now a sales strategy advisor for brands seeking to grow their retail distribution. She helps product companies in food, beverage, beauty and personal care strengthen their appeal to major retail buyers and retailers nationwide through her advisory firm, Retail Path. Retail Path provides sales strategy advisory and retail pitch development services. Vanessa's background includes new product development, brand strategy, marketing, and building startups. She has a passion for building mission-driven companies. While she focuses on Beauty and Food brands, her experience ranges across all CPG categories.
She has an MBA from Georgetown University and a B.A.from University of Southern California (Fight on!)
Her businesses have opened doors for emerging brands in stores like Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and many other retailers. Client list includes The Honest Company, ABC’s Shark Tank entrepreneurs, health & wellness brands embraced by millennial families.
Vanessa is has been interviewed as a retail buying expert on MSNBC’s Your Business. She has also been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.
I'm a former retail buyer for Target and worked in the Home Pyramid/Division.
In short, the easiest way to find buyers is to use Linked In. I have a short video on how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwbfUMRHiq0. And you can find corporate email formats at www.email-format.com.
Other ways: Trade shows are also effective; you can get the mailing address of retail buyers in attendance plus meet them face to face if they come to your booth. Also, network within your industry. You'll find your peers are wiling to trade buyer lists with you.
But most important in contacting a buyer is HOW you contact them. Don't just bombard them with information about your product. Everyone leads with their product. But the ones that lead with their sales history, current retail distribution and marketing plan are the ones that get responses. Why is this information important? It provides a sense to the buyer for how your product might perform in their stores and takes some of the sales risk out of working with your company.
As a former retail buyer for Target and product marketer at Neutrogena, I have some thoughts on this. Online-exclusive is not brand suicide. It's a strategic choice. Brands that are usually best suited for online-only are niche brands that don't have broad appeal. Brick and mortar stores carry products that have enough market size to warrant their real estate in stores. And a niche product just can't turn the same velocity as a broader product. Skin care does well in either channel, but if your skin care targets a very specific skin condition, you may be better off staying on-line where you have more room to educate consumers and show testimonials and before/after pictures (helpful in skincare!). Also, you may sell online and learn that your brand turns a lot of sales, more than expected, and at that time you might decide to enter the brick and mortar retail markets. My client, The Honest Company, first started out with no intention of selling in physical stores. But after their success out-the-gate and after retailers like Nordstrom, Whole Foods, and Target (and more) began calling them asking to carry their products, they then "pivoted" and decided to broaden their distribution to physical stores. So my advice, launch in online first and see what happens. The products-business is an iterative process. So test and learn and go from there.
I hope this email doesn't come too late... As a former retail buyer for Target, the best way of getting your product into stores is by focusing on telling the story of how your product benefits the retailer's financial and business goals. Most product companies focus SOLELY on how great their product is. But you know what? There are tons of great products out there. Retail buyers are not in short supply of great products. So to really differentiate yourself and pique the interest of retail buyers, you need to wow them with sales history. Knowing how your product sells in other stores (the more well known the store, the better) gives retail buyers a sense for how your product might perform in their stores. And sales potential is what really excites buyers. Additionally, telling them how you are growing brand awareness, creating demand for your product and your ability to funnel traffic into THEIR stores will be even more compelling. Focus on telling retailers how your product benefits their revenue and margin goals and how no one else can do so as well as you - and you'll be prime for getting your products in their stores. I'm happy to do a call for follow up questions.
How to sell to retailers? As a former Retail Buyer from Target, here's my suggestion. You need to first ready your sales communication and materials to explain how 1) You will drive sales at their stores (best told through sales traction and history in comparable or slightly smaller retailers than the one you are targeting 2) Demonstrate how you will support sales with a marketing plan. Marketing mitigates sales risk and that's a retailer's #1 concern and 3) Prove you will deliver flawless vendor execution. There are many hiccups that happen along the supply chain and it takes an experienced company to flawlessly deliver inventory to the right stores/DC's in the right quantity on the right day. The best way to prove this is by showing that you are currently working with retailers of the same magnitude. So in short, you have to scale up slowly - from small retailers to larger retailers - in order to manage risk, build sales traction, build brand awareness, and manage cash flow.
How to contact them and sell to them? Use Linked In to find retail buyers. I have a short video on how to do this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwbfUMRHiq0 Trade shows are also effective; you can get the mailing address of retail buyers in attendance plus meet them face to face if they come to your booth. Also, network within your industry. You'll find your peers are wiling to trade buyer lists with you. But in short, don't bother reaching out to a retail buyer until you have talking points that address those 3 things I mentioned above all.
I'm happy to do a clarity call if you have follow up questions.
The most critical attribute a high-end apparel brand can have is an aspirational brand with strong PR and media presence. Fashion sales are driven primarily by what's hot and on-trend. And PR and media presence is the key driver in creating an aspirational brand that people want to buy. Here is an online video on this topic: http://www.retailtable.com/bonus-material-online-video-course-how-to-create-a-brand-desirable-to-retailers/
QR codes are not typically compatible with POS systems, as POS systems scan bar codes (typically UPC codes). Perhaps you can program POS systems to scan QR codes, but having been a retail buyer at Target, there is no incentive for retailers to link QR codes to POS systems. Can you elaborate more on what you're trying to accomplish?