How to get your products onto retailer’s shelves

ABP Planning

Genuine innovation has a habit of finding its way onto supermarket shelves. However, the journey to this point can be arduous and challenging for high growth brands.

For this reason, unsurprisingly, one of the most common questions our team is asked by SMEs is: “Can you introduce us to retailers?”.

Our Sales & Commercial Team have more experience of scaling FMCG brands than anyone else in the UK, which means they understand the lever’s to make a successful business achieve mainstream scale. 

Jim Brinklow, YFs Head of Sales & Commercial, exclusively provides insight on his work with SMEs, and whether this is the right question brands should be asking.

“Can you introduce us to retailers?”

“There is no denying that it is an incredibly tough climate for high growth SME brands and getting through to buyers feels harder than ever.

Introductions are highly desired and there are instances where these can be mutually beneficial for both brand and retailer. However, the most common reason we are asked this question is due to a brand’s failure to reach a buyer, or they are looking to fast track a listing.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to securing retailer shelf space, but from my experience of working with many high growth businesses, here are some suggestions that often work.

1. Be patient and persevere

This might seem obvious and unhelpful but a simple introduction is not always the silver bullet you have been looking for. We hear first hand from buyers that they want to hear from you; nobody can match the knowledge or passion for a brand like the founder can. Keep persevering. 

2. Explore the retailer’s incubator or accelerator scheme

Incubators and accelerators provide intensive business support for cohorts of startups, aiming to get them ready, quickly, for the next step in their journey. 

Joining a retailer’s programme can often prove to be a quicker and more effective way of getting in contact with the relevant teams as you are already on their radar.

3. Ensure the fundamentals of growth are in place

Where YF is best placed to support you is ensuring the fundamentals of growth are in place. Ask yourself these three questions. 

  • Is your product ready for a major listing?
    Has the concept well and truly been proven? Will the ingredients, packaging and branding need changes? Launching into retail too early can be a huge mistake. Buyers want a simple life. If they are having to spend too much time challenging your performance, helping you navigate their business or processing endless amounts of admin, the relationship will suffer and it is likely you will face a premature delist.

  • Is your business set up for a major listing?
    Do you have necessary resources and the operational infrastructure in place to support the listing? It is very easy to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and feel like you need to rush in case the offer disappears. Be realistic about what you can achieve, there is nothing worse than over-promising / under-delivering and once you have lost that trust, it is very hard to get back.

  • Is the proposition right?
    It is important to review the proposition and ask yourself ‘Is this genuine, consumer-led innovation that warrants a space on shelf?’. Genuine innovation has a habit of finding its way onto supermarket shelves, so if you are certain the concept is the right one, then it could be something within your approach that needs adapting – such as sales pitch, category story, or commercial structure.

A Buying Director at Co-op once said to me ‘Buying isn’t rocket science, I just want a product at a good margin, that will sit on-shelf, and sell well for the next five years’.

If you are confident your product fits this bill, and can demonstrate how you will add value to the retailer, category and consumer – do not panic. Remember, things take time.

If you are less confident on this, or you are confident but are still not getting the traction you would expect, contact our team today to see how we can help.”

Can we help you?

Here at YF we offer Sales & Commercial advisory. Our team has over 30 years of experience working with customers from multiple RTM channels and we know the FMCG industry inside out. We can help you through common challenges and best position your proposition for growth.

If you are looking for further support, we are always open to discussing your needs and our solutions. Get in touch today.

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