Posted: Thu 30th Jul 2015
Over the past two years Enterprise Nation has hosted The Exchange events, connecting small businesses with buyers from big retailers. Events have been across the food, fashion, beauty and homewares sectors but one thing has remained constant; the advice from buyers on what they're after.
Big brands want to buy from you. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, you have a story and provenance, innovation and nimbleness. Over the past two years we've welcomed buyers from Sainsbury's, John Lewis, Boots, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, House of Fraser, Superdrug and more to The Exchange and here's what they say.
Do your research
Anna Rigby is head of household buying for John Lewis. Before potential suppliers approach her, she wants you to have been in store, strolled the aisles, and know where your product would fit and why it brings something unique to customers. After that, her advice is: "Identify the right buyer for your product, then in a succinct straight forward but engaging way tell the buyer about the product. Buyers love something new!"[Source: How to sell to John Lewis] Do the research on which retailer is right for your product, and why.
Come with a track-record
In most cases, buyers want to see you've started selling. This could be at markets, via a pop-up shop, at trade shows or via independent stores. Seeing the product in a retail setting will help the buyers conceptualise it in their own store and feel confident you have experience in producing and packaging at scale.
What's the story and selling point?
Approach buyers with a story and this will help capture their attention and imagination. Why did you start the business and are you making the product in a particular way or from a particular source that makes it different? Lily Child is the beauty innovation manager at Boots and says: "To compete in a busy market place, smaller brands must have something unique about them. Whether that be a fantastic new claim, stand out branding or packaging, an amazing new active ingredient or an innovative new technology, there must be something that stands you apart from the rest." [Source: How to pitch to Boots buyers]
Know the numbers
When pitching to a buyer, be prepared to be flexible on costs but know your figures inside out. Rekha Mehr is a former retail buyer and now advises small businesses on how to effectively pitch. When it comes to pricing, Rekha's advice is: "Factor all costs into your own margin like the cost of delivery (buyers will not like to see this as an additional cost), a marketing allowance to partake in their activities and payment terms, factoring in a discount for prompt payment." [Source: The five things you must prepare before pitching to a retail buyer]
Getting stocked is just the start
You've secured a deal and it's time to celebrate! But then it's back to work to do in-store sampling or 'meet the maker' sessions plus a dose of nationwide marketing to demonstrate you can attract customers in-store to buy. Doing so will ensure you stay stocked!
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