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Well-prepared is half sold: How to get your product noticed

BY Dave Van Howe

Getting a product noticed by a retail buyer or a paying customer in today’s environment is difficult to say the least. Unless you are a Fortune 100 company or you are lucky enough to have a mega-media budget, just getting an appointment with a retail buyer can be difficult. Today’s buyers are so time-starved they have to be very selective in who and when they see new suppliers and products. Some of the best tools for getting in front of a buyer have been trade shows like ECRM, National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace, Global Market Development Center conferences and others. In those venues, you have a few precious moments to make a quick, positive impression. Outside of these shows, direct buyer contact can be more difficult and frustrating.  A recent SymphonyIRI insight study showed that less than 18% of the new products launched in 2010 failed to achieve sales of greater than $7.5 million. This illustrates how hard it is to break through to buyers who are charged with managing inventory turns, as well as sales and profit. Therefore, you will need a strategy to break through.

It is important to understand that relationships matter.  You may want to interview and hire a sales/marketing organization that has had success in bringing new products in your category to market.  Either way, you need to make sure you are prepared to make a lasting impression at that first meeting.  In preparing for your first encounter, there are three critical things you should have ready:

  1. Shopper insights.  Do your homework: understand what makes your product different from what is already available in the marketplace. Why is it appealing to shoppers?  How can it create incremental sales to the retailer?  Today’s retail buyers are looking for true category growth, not just shifting share among brands.
  2. Know the retailers.   You will need to understand how each retailer goes to market.  There are some pretty dramatic differences. Seek to gain an understanding of their merchandising tactics.  How do they approach retail pricing in the category?  How do they speak to their consumers?  What are their consumer dynamics?  Do they match your target consumer?  How can you illustrate that your product will be incremental to the category?  You may even want to go as far as creating a forecast based on syndicated data and your knowledge of the consumer.  Forecasts can be tricky, so be careful you don’t over promise and under deliver.
  3. Create the "wow" factor.  The "wow" factor must be a point of difference.  This can be accomplished in many ways without blowing the budget.  In today’s world of Internet messaging, social media and online shopping, there are a number of ways to reach consumers without blowing the budget.  You also should make sure you are prepared to participate in the retailer’s programs, such as weekly circulars, off-shelf merchandising and loyalty programs.

These three basic factors may seem automatic, but throughout my years of retailing, I was always amazed at how many new suppliers were less prepared than I thought they should have been.

Retailers expect and respect suppliers that are knowledgeable about them and the consumer, and who are well prepared to bring their product to market.


As VP and general manager of MPG Drug, a new division of Crossmark, Dave Van Howe and his teams are focused on supporting CVS, Walgreens and Duane Reade. MPG Drug/Crossmark provides industry leading headquarter sales and in-store retail merchandising services for the drug channel. Van Howe leverages his past experience from more than 30 years in retail to help retailers and manufacturers alike develop winning go-to-market strategies. Before arriving at MPG Drug, Van Howe was the corporate VP of purchasing and new business development at Walgreens. He was responsible for all merchandising, promotional planning and category management across every front end category. His resume includes years with Walgreens, CVS, Arbor Drugs and Kmart.

MORE ARTICLES FROM DAVE VAN HOWE >

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Target gives back to schools

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Target will donate $5 million to local schools nationwide as part of the company’s commitment to give $1 billion for education by the end of 2015.

Target has teamed up with "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and its viewers to select 50 schools in need to receive a $100,000 grant. Viewers are encouraged to submit the name of a school that needs help, along with a compelling story that explains why the school should receive a grant, to "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" at Ellen.WarnerBros.com/schoolgiving. Target then will select from these submissions the 50 schools to receive a grant that can be used to support an improved learning environment for kids. Schools will be selected based on a number of factors, the company said, and two of the selected schools will be featured on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

“Education is at the heart of Target’s giving which is why we look for innovative ways to give to schools in need while engaging our guests at the same time,” Target president of community relations Laysha Ward said. “We are proud to team up with ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ and its viewers to help us select 50 schools to each receive a $100,000 grant that can be used to purchase the resources that students and teachers need to excel in the classroom.”

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ComScore: Shoppers gave thanks for online deals this Thanksgiving weekend

BY Mike Troy

RESTON, Va. — Retailers who promoted their online presence as a way to avoid the crowds this past weekend were rewarded for their efforts with record sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, according to online measurement firm ComScore.

ComScore said Thanksgiving Day sales increased 18% to $479 million, while Black Friday online sales increase 26% to $816 million. Both figures are noteworthy as physical retailers also recorded a record turnout and sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Including the online sales from the weekend, ComScore puts online sales for the first 25 days of November at roughly $12.7 billion, or 15% more than last year.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce with more than $800 million in spending,” ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said. “With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, it’s clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels.”

Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35%, versus a year ago, and each of the top five retail sites (Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple) achieved double-digit gains in visitors compared to last year, according to ComScore.

“Amazon.com once again led the pack, with 50% more visitors than any other retailer, while also showing the highest growth rate versus last year,” Fulgoni said. “However, it is telling that the top multi-channel retailers also showed strong growth in visitors, demonstrating the importance of the online channel to the retail industry as a whole.”

The same traffic trends and record sales likely are to be evident on Cyber Monday with most retailers running online only specials and filling inboxes with email marketing promotional efforts. Last year, Cyber Monday was the heaviest day of online spending ever with sales exceeding $1 billion and ComScore expects a new record will be achieved this year.

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