The Gray Cat Blog

A comprehensive collection of blogs designed to assist small business owners and multiunit operators.

Getting Your Products Into Retail

Feb 06, 2023

Eureka! A new product is born!

Created in your kitchen or the garage, it is your dream, your vision. It’s your baby. Now what? How does one go about selling the product through the retail channel? Seems easy enough, I mean why wouldn’t everyone want your product? Well, there are plenty of reasons, so proceed cautiously.

Products are created every day – not every one of those products, though, serves a distinct purpose. For a retailer to want to bring it into their stores and sell it, it has to have a clear point of differentiation – be it a unfulfilled need or a pricing advantage. Without either of those, the product is not worth the hassle of on boarding it.

Crafting a strategy for your product launch is as critical as the product itself. Careful consideration should be made to the entry into retail and management of those expectations. All too often, entrepreneurs leap into to their launch without a plan-of-attack and become discouraged with the results. Here are a few points of consideration to understand in advance of your launch:

Walk Before You Run: Take no offense at this, but get over yourself. There, once that is said, your product stands a better chance of making its way into the retail channels. Trust me, everyone has the hottest new product since “sliced bread”. Category managers are constantly presented with new products and concepts – and although some have merit, with larger chains, you are going up against the big boys like Proctor & Gamble or General Mills. Not only will the leading manufacturers present a roadblock, but so will the category managers because they benefit from a consolidated category manager approach. It is better to focus on the smaller chains and build up your track record.

Create A Point Of Differentiation: So, if you are not P & G or General Mills, how does your product differentiate? Creating a distinguishable niche is critical for your success. It is not enough to have a “me too” product when you are going up against the behemoths, the category managers will not be compelled to bring you on to compete. Category managers are analysts at heart, so they seek the most gross profit dollars that can be delivered with their product assortment. Gross profit dollars are derived from both the consumer through sales and the manufacturer via incentives. Consolidating their products through fewer manufacturers, increases the likelihood of higher incentives for the manager.

Own An Industry: Pick an industry that suits your product best with consideration to the competitive nature within that industry. Get a list of retailers, then target the smaller ones – remember, walk before you run. Practice your pitch on the small retailers and hone your skills. There is nothing worse than finally securing the crucial meeting with the large retailer only to fall flat with your presentation and proposal. Along the way, you may get a few small retailers to bring in your product and then begin to gather traction with results.

Ride The Coattails: If you can’t beat them, join them. Broker networks are set up in almost every industry and they already have relationships fostered with retailers. They make calls on these retailers on behalf of manufacturers all the time. Ride the coattails of these brokers in order to get your products on their docket. It is one less call for the retailer, and although you have to share the spotlight with other products, your foot is in the door.

Try, Try Again: We are a nation of innovators, but we are also a nation of keeping things the same. Breaking into a new retail chain is half the battle of providing them with an innovative product and half the battle of making the transition seamlessly. Expect to hear “no” over and over and over and sometimes it has nothing to do with your product! Stay the course but spend as much time resolving the logistical issues of on boarding your product as marketing the product and that will give you a leg up.

Want more ideas?  For more information on Gray Cat Learning Series, visit:

John Matthews, President & CEO, Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc.

John Matthews is the Founder and President of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc. a Raleigh, NC-based management consulting company. Gray Cat specializes in strategic project management and consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and strategic planning. Mr. Matthews has over 30 years of senior-level executive experience in the retail industry, involving three dynamic multi-unit companies. Mr. Matthews experience includes President of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches; Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Real Estate for Clark Retail Enterprises/White Hen Pantry; and National Marketing Director at Little Caesar's Pizza! Pizza!