Interview with Vanessa Ting: "Getting Your Products into Retail Stores"

August 24, 2011

During a recent Blog Talk Radio (411 Voices) interview, I chatted with Antoinette, owner of Twooth Timer.

Tell us about your services!

Vanessa Ting of Retail Path

Retail Path offers services to help product companies build and expand their retail distribution with insightful strategies and approaches that are easy to implement. Some of the services Retail Path offers include:

  • 15-week Retail Coaching Program that guides clients from goal-setting through selecting the right retailers, to crafting the product pitch and presenting to buyers a solid business case.
  • Pitch It ™ gives you an opportunity to pitch your product line to a buyer in a real life simulation. Receive a critique and identify the potential feedback and challenges a buyer would give you.
  • Retail Pitch Presentation – Retail Path will create the retail pitch presentation deck for you complete with the product pitch, volume forecast projections and business rationale using retailer “speak” and concepts.

Why did you decide to start a business of your own?

Despite a promising career at Target, I left my buyer role in 2010 to return home to be closer to my family. It was during this time that I was invited to share my buying experience as a panelist at a women’s entrepreneur conference, Spark & Hustle. I kept in touch with a few women I met at the event to help them understand what buyers look for and how to put their best foot forward. With guidance, progress was made, barriers fell, more retail buyers said yes and I felt fulfilled knowing I made a positive impact for these women entrepreneurs. And best of all, friendships flourished in the process. It was at this time I saw the opportunity to turn my passion for helping women succeed and my retail knowledge into a business.

What are some of the stumbling blocks people make, when attempting to get their product line into stores?

a. Not building credibility or laying foundation for trust
b. Not building the financial/business case. Your product needs to make business sense to retailers.
c. Saying,“Retailer A is good for my product because…” instead of “my product is good for Retailer A because…”
d. Not understanding the difference between selling as many units as possible vs. selling enough to meet consumer demand
e. Not scaling up slowly
f. Not having incorporated the retailers’ perspective earlier in the game. Like during product development (e.g., packaging).

What 5 tips can you offer other women, wanting to get their lines picked up by retail outlets?

• Do your homework on that retailer and determine what is important to them. Shop their store. Nothing turns off a buyer than someone trying to sell them a product without being able to speak intelligibly about their store, assortment and strategy.
• Numbers matter. Retailers want to see a proven track record and a solid business case. What is your sales history? Where else is it sold? What support can you provide to ensure your product will sell many units on their shelves? Can you prove this will drive incremental sales and not cannibalize other products on their shelves?
• Can you prove there is consumer demand for your product? (Is it meeting an unmet need, how is brand awareness, is it selling well elsewhere?)
• Start planning now. You cannot get into Target or Walmart overnight. Often times you need to start small with distribution to a few stores. Then scale up slowly – both for cash flow purposes and because a bigger retailer will always want to see your sales in a smaller retailer first.
• Do not get discouraged if a buyer says “No”. It usually is not the end of it. Be persistent, sometimes it is a matter of timing. And sometimes buyers change roles. Listen. What is the feedback? Revise your presentation or product and ask for another chance. Keep your chin up! There will be a lot of hurdles along the way.