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How to pitch to large retailers

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As many of you will know pitching your products to a large retailer can be very different from pitching to a smaller independent. I’ve had experience of pitching to a lot of them, so I thought I would share what I think you need to consider when trying to do a deal with one of the big guys; hopefully it aligns with your own experiences.

What constitutes a large retailer? For the purpose of this blog I would define it as a multisite retailer with a corporate buying function. And the bigger the retailer gets the more I feel these points apply.

Understand your market, not just your products

Buyers for a bigger retailer won’t just look at your products. They will look at how they fit into their wider range. So, it helps to be able to highlight why the addition of your lines will make a difference. If your product meets a growing market trend and they don’t have that trend covered in their range, highlight it. Don’t just hope or assume they will notice.

Data & Numbers

For bigger retailers it’s all about the numbers. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the product, they do. It means they need to see the market for the product, they need to have a high level of confidence it will sell. So, it is our job to show as best we can why we meet their needs.

Large retailers, large grocers especially, love market data. They will have access to a lot of it. You need to ensure what you are suggesting aligns with what their data is telling them.

Sell your product

Give them as many reasons as possible to want to list you. As well as the points above highlight everything that is going to convince them that the product will sell well for them. Awards, unique selling points, early mover in a break-out sub category, other significant listings, competitive commercials. Make it easy for them to pick you.

Understand what drives them

Supermarkets or large national chains are not the place to test a concept. Where a smaller retailer might be able to commit to a case or two to test something, large retailers can’t. On-boarding is expensive, involving teams of people from a number of teams from buying, finance, supply & logistics and compliance, to name a few. They need to ensure that you are set up to deal with joining their huge operation, so they will only do this when they know your products are worth it and that you as a business are Retail Ready.

How to package it all up

That is all good, but what is the best way to convey this? These guys are busy and in my experience aren’t going to want to take a lot of time to cut through a lot of background and scene setting. They are likely to want an overview of who you are, your products, why they should consider your products and clear commercials. If they want more details, they will ask, so don’t lose them in a thirty-page PowerPoint!

These are all generalisations of course. You will get buyers for national retailers who love a chat, who do want to hear everything about your background, but they aren’t likely to be the norm. That doesn’t mean check your personality at the door – I still think it is good to be yourself – you just might not get as obvious signs as usual that it is going down well.  

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