If you’re new to the game of selling to major retailers, then you’re probably wondering how their buying processes work. It’s a question that comes up all of the time in my workshops and classes. And this important topic rarely gets discussed, so I thought I’d take a minute to review!
Let’s start by answering some of the most common questions Inventors ask…
1) Are major retail buyers responsible for purchasing only one type of product or a variety of different types of products?
The way it works at Major Retailers is that each buyer is responsible for a particular product line - and in the retail world, a product line is called a ‘category.’ So if a Buyer is responsible for toy products, his/her category would likely be “Toys” Although it may also be Toys & Games.
So think of the major categories of retail products, and those are the most likely buyers a retailer will have. However, like most rules this one has it’s exceptions and the most noted exception to this rule is “Checkout” or “Front End” buyers. These buyers are responsible for buying the impulse and feature products you find in the checkout lanes and the front area just prior to the lanes.
2) Is a major retail buyer responsible for purchasing products for all of their stores or just a few stores?
Typically, each major retail buyer purchases products for all of their stores. This is great for you! One buyer, one point of contact!
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Nordstrom, for instance, has regional buyers. In other words, they have buyers that are responsible for purchasing products for a particular region ie Northwest, Southeast, etc. However, in each region, buyers still have their own categories.
3) Are buyers located at a corporate office or are they dispersed throughout the country?
Most major retailers have one main corporate buying office. Although in the example above, Nordstrom has regional buying offices.
Additionally, some Major Retailers have local buying programs. This basically means that they give Store Managers the ability to purchase products for their individual stores. Wal-mart for instance, has a local buying program for some of their really high-traffic retail stores or for products made in the local area.
Although this is rare for Major Retailers to offer this, some do have local buying programs! So how do you know if your local store offers this program? Just ask the Store Manager! They will tell you!
4) How do I know find the names and categories of major retail buyers that would be responsible for purchasing my product?
The easiest way to get access to a major retail buyer’s name and category information is to purchase a list from companies such as The Chain Store Guide and/or The Salesman's Guide. These company's sell buyer's contact information either in book form as well in a database form. They can be a little pricey, so one suggestion is to check out your local library to see if they have these books available for free!
To your success,
Karen Waksman (Product for Profit,) is a Manufacturer’s Rep turned Author, Speaker and Consultant. She has written a step-by-step guide called ‘How To Sell Your Product, Invention or Craft to Major Retailers…No Sales Experience or Existing Buyer Relationships Required!’