Giant retail chains can put even tiny manufacturers in the national limelight overnight. But getting onto the giants' shelves isn't easy, and staying there is harder still. Here are some tips for getting your foot in the door at superstores:

  • Get contacts. Identify the right contact at headquarters, but don't go above the buyer's head.
  • Go to trade shows. These are excellent places to meet buyers you've been trying to contact. "I like to see people [ there] we'd otherwise never be exposed to," says Target buyer Teri Kohler.
  • Be knowledgeable and opportunistic. Know the competition and the consumer. Be ready with promotional ideas.
  • Get a second order. An initial order is a test, but initial orders don't really count. "Product innovation and packaging got us in the door," says John Stone, president of Opus, a Bellingham, Mass., manufacturer of bird feeders. "What you do beyond that is what keeps you in."

Copyright 1998 G+J USA Publishing