Mass merchandisers book about 40% of all U.S. retail sales, and discount retailers--chains with 50 stores or more--book 11% to 13% of all retail sales, eventhough they account for less than 3% of all retail establishments. How do you get your product into their stores? The road into the power retailers ispaved with common sense:
To start, ask around to identify absolutely the right contact at corporate headquarters. Marty Burks, a buyer for Sears, is blunt: "If they don't know whom toget the information to, they're not going to get any consideration from me."
When you call, leave your name. And expect to have to call again, and again. "You'll make six phone calls before you get a call back," warns Best Buymerchandising manager Bob Griffin.
Go to trade shows, where the buyers you've been playing phone tag with will be. "I like to see people we'd otherwise never be exposed to," says Targetbuyer Teri Kohler. When you make your pitch, says Best Buy's Griffin, the most important point to get across is that you know your customer and yourcompetition. "If you're not customer driven, nothing else matters."
When you promise to send something, send it, pronto. And then make sure you're ready, with promotional ideas and an advertising allowance, if one of themajor retailers calls back.