The Unsung Reasons Retail is Tough

At Retailbound we work with consumer brands – both large and small – who are either launching a new product in retail or trying to position themselves more competitively in the space.

Some obvious topics most companies think about (and sometimes get right) include pricing, packaging, promotional strategies, and which channels they’d like to place their products.

This article is not about the obvious, but instead is an attempt to describe unseen challenges or the minutiae (as my boss Yohan would say) revolving around taking a brand from 0 to hero at retail.

Traction Takes Longer than You Think

Brands launching a new product in retail should be prepared to stick it out for 6, 12, 18 months before scaleable channel partnerships are in full swing. Every situation, product, and team is different – but it never ceases to amaze me how many young brands expect to get signed up with a sizeable retailer in a 1-4 month time frame.

It takes a lot of effort for retailers to plan and organize their assortments. For example, much of the spring and summer camping / outdoor retail decisions are already finished for 2019. A good time to start initiating retail conversation would’ve been around Q3 2018 or earlier.

Trying to get into some retail channel for the holidays? Better start before July…

Forecasting Sales with Limited Data

I’ve talked to many brands who get production finalized, establish a few retail distribution partners, and suddenly find themselves running out of inventory or sitting on too much inventory. Retailers hate surprises. You might assume communicating supply and demand expectations would be a top priority – but many brands stretched bandwidth drop the ball on this.

You might be happy that you sold out… but often times the retailer is not too thrilled (unless this was made transparent ahead of time).

Starting with some e-tail accounts, specialty, or a 20 store test can be a great way to gather data on sales velocity, supply chain, marketing effectiveness, etc. You’ve got to start somewhere. Just make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Marketing Awareness at Retail

Who knows your products best? Probably you!

Never assume a distributor, external sales agent, or retail partner is willing to commit time or energy to your specific brand or product. You’re not a Sony or SC Johnson – you’ve got to prove yourself continuously. And if you’re not willing to commit resources to do so, that partner will move on to another brand that can.

That means understanding the best times of year to promote and spend your limited marketing dollars. Measure the results. Understand what marketing “levers” are at your disposal and how competitors or similar products are utilizing them. Video influencers, print ads, online deal spots, bundles, POP displays, etc.

Overall Operations – What’s Your Time Worth?

This is the silent killer.

  • It’s not uncommon for a brand – startup or established – to spend 3-6 months developing a go-to-retail plan and taking a learn-by-doing approach (which is subject to burning bridges with potential retail partners).
  • It’s not uncommon for brands to take a “performance-only” approach with new sales partners only for the brand to realize they’ll have to commit marketing, training, and human resources to ensure those partners’ success. Without those resources implemented, it’s almost always a waste. I’ve seen a number of brands we work with waste 3-9 months in these “risk free” partner scenarios before bringing us on to turn things around.
  • It’s not uncommon for a brand to spend 1-3 months negotiating small details with a distributor when the deal should’ve taken only a couple weeks at best.

Before many brands know it, they’ve spent 7-12 months simply trying to get to the starting line due to something that’s intangible and often unsung >>> experience.

Feel Like You’re Wasting Time?

Let’s get in touch and see how we can accelerate your retail traction, save time managing operations, and position your brand competitively. Contact Benjamin Ertl, our Director of Business Development by phone at 715-820-3057 or by email at bertl@retailbound.com