Five Tips for Startups Pitching Retail

A Retail Executive’s Point of View

March 4th, 2016   |    By: The Startups Team

For a growing product startup, there is no better triumph than seeing your product on the shelves and online store of a billion-dollar retailer. It provides incredible social proof, validates your concept, and shows you’ve got what it takes to scale into a profitable business.

Unfortunately, for many startup founders, there exists a veil of mystery over what it actually takes to stand out to retailers in a crowded sea of established product companies and competing product startups.

Fortunately for you, we have the inside scoop from Rick Rommel, a partner at Sprosty Network and founder of RetailXelerator. Rick is a former Best Buy SVP, and was founder of its Exclusive Brands private-label business. He spent a decade both selecting and developing “next big thing” products for Best Buy stores worldwide.

Here, five tips from Rick for startups looking to pitch major retail:

  1.   Know your audience. A retailer is very different than an investor. What do they need or want to know to make a decision about your product? Share your sales trends and/or customer satisfaction data to strengthen your case. Also, understand promotional calendars, and how your product fits in to boost traffic at key moments.
  1.   Know how your product fits into a specific retailer’s own model. Frame your solutions, because no two retailers are exactly the same. Buyers usually have a limited amount of space on shelves, but they can be creative. Is your product temporary or seasonal? Is it incremental, or will it replace a product already on the shelf?
  1.   Bring a multi-year view to your pitch… Retailers avoid “one-hit wonders.” Build a product plan that will provide increasing retailer relevance over a longer period of time.
  1.   …but also take low-risk first steps. Avoid the temptation to expand too quickly across one retailer’s entire footprint of stores and channels, or across multiple retailers at once.  Start small, and learn from the experience; it’ll validate demand and de-risk your future expansion plans.
  1.   Finally, be honest about your own capacity and expertise. It’s far more complex to manage retailer contracts and distribution logistics; do you really have the resources to deliver the volume for the need? Where can you outsource or partner?

Whether you’re an idea-stage company or getting ready to ship your first product to customers, Rick’s tips are a great resource for making sure you’re ready for your retail pitch.

If you are approaching the finish line for producing your product, you may be a good fit for RetailXelerator: We’re partnering with Rick and his team at Sprosty Network to launch the first accelerator that bridges the gap between product companies and retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Verizon or Sears. Learn more and apply to be a part of the inaugural class here.

More About Rick, Our Retail Expert

Rick’s career has spanned management roles in a $40B retail business; a $10M startup; and consumer product development for Best Buy and Kodak. He is a partner at Sprosty Network, a global business strategy and innovation firm with unmatched experience in bringing technology products to scale with major consumer retailers. Rick also serves as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s mediaX, and is a respected and entrepreneurial industry leader.

 

About the Author

The Startups Team

Startups is the world's largest startup platform, helping over 1 million startup companies find customers, funding, mentors, and world-class education.

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