5 Tips to Help Keep Your Small Business Product in Big-Box Stores

How to Maintain Your Retail Contract

Getting your company’s product into a big-box store is no easy task, but the hard work, diligent planning, and hours of research will be worth it once you score that retail contract. Once you’ve succeeded in getting your product on shelves, brace yourself: there is still more work to be done.

Big-box stores want to see the products they take on perform as well as possible. If your products don’t perform as expected, or don’t meet set requirements, you may find your products off shelves before they have a chance to catch on with the public. If you’ve got a product in a big-box store, try these tips to help maintain your contract:

Be proactive & take ownership of your contract

Too often, suppliers get their products into stores only to find out the products don’t really fit the store’s customer demographic, which can be disappointing and expensive for the retailer and supplier alike. Take the time to get to know your retailer’s business. Each one will have a different marketing message and customer base, so it’s important to understand where your product fits within the store’s brand.

Some retailers may have different initiatives, such as minority-owned, women-owned, or “made in the USA” programs. Researching the retailer and what the company’s business values are may help you find ways to introduce your product through such programs, and may lead to longer lasting contracts, and even better placement in stores. Whether or not the retailer offers this information for free or at all can be an important factor to consider when pursuing a retail contract.

A supplier’s biggest mistake can be getting too comfortable.

One of the most important parts of doing your research is staying proactive. A supplier’s biggest mistake can be getting too comfortable – do your best to keep ahead of trends as much as possible. The more you can accomplish this, the more you can plan ahead and not get left in the dust by competitors.


It is not the retailer’s job to sell your products

Some suppliers believe it’s the store’s job to sell their product once they’ve gotten it on shelves. This may be the case if you work with specialty boutiques, but that’s not necessarily how it works when it comes to big-box stores. Suppliers aren’t just responsible for getting their products onto the shelves; they’re responsible for the performance of those products as well, so it can be important to have a marketing plan developed ahead of time.

Create your packaging to be clear and self-explanatory, and in sync with your selling strategy. Some stores may not have vendor training available, and might not be equipped to inform customers about your product, so do as much as you can to sell your product on your own.

Business credit scores and ratings may be key

Having a healthy business credit file can be important when dealing with many retailers. Most representatives that approve contracts will want to make sure they’re helping set the store up with credible suppliers, and you should be able to show them that you have what it takes to succeed. Some representatives may specifically look for a D&B® Supplier Evaluation Risk rating of 6 or lower to do business with a company, and some continue to monitor their suppliers’ scores during the life of the contract. Make sure your business credit scores and ratings reflect your company’s credibility by monitoring and helping to impact your business credit file.

Stay innovative

Many retailers are starting to look at different sales formats (such as home delivery), to try to get an edge in the industry. Find out what progressive initiatives your retailer may want to take in the future and come up with ways your products can adapt to those changes. Making sure your product’s packaging is safe for delivery, for example, can help your retailer transition smoothly and may go a long way when it is looking to re-sign contracts.

Consider your business partnerships real relationships

If you want to go above and beyond your professional relationship, and possibly help increase your chances of keeping your contract, try treating your retailer/supplier as a partner.

  • Don’t just communicate with your buyers via email; give them a personal phone call.
  • Find out who the person you’re dealing with actually is and try to form a personal relationship with them.
  • Take a trip to meet with the buyers or invite them to visit your facility.
  • Do small but kind things such as sending a card on birthdays or for the holidays.

Let them know that your company cares – you may be surprised at how much making an effort in that regard may affect your business relationship.

Also, consider partnering with your retailers on a variety of marketing, social media, and PR initiatives to show your support. It could go a long way for your business if you try to show your retailers that you’re not just a supplier – you’re an important and part of their business. Consider this: An initial order can be just the first step toward a long-term, successful relationship.

When it comes down to it, keeping your contract with big-box vendors is up to you. If you put in the effort and push for success, your chances of keeping your contract and creating a mutually beneficial relationship may increase significantly.