Companies like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Sears, K-Mart, and Target are all mass merchants-large chain stores that carry many types of products for nearly all types of people. These are the merchants with the highest sales potential for you, but at the same time are most difficult to get in to. But, inventors and small producers do get their products into the mass merchants all the time, they just need the right hot product and be ready to move.
Mass merchant buyers almost never meet you if you try to see them cold at their office. You can meet them though by exhibiting at trade shows or if you can have a successful in-store trial how to sell credit card processing. Trade shows are the quickest route to meet buyers. They will stop at your booth if they feel you have a red hot product that can’t miss and it fits into the category they buy for. They also might not stop at your booth-you probably have less than a 10% chance to have even one mass merchant buyer stop and look at your product.
You can find the top trade show by doing a Google search for the industry and the word trade shows, for example I did a search for cell phones accessories trade shows and the CITA trade show came up, among several others, and after doing about 20 minutes of investigation, I decided the CITA trade show was the one I should attend. The cost of doing a major industry show can be $15,000 and up, including a good booth, advertising and promotional materials, sample product, and your travel and hotel expenses.
A second way to meet buyers is to participate in the stores local buying programs. Not all mass merchants do this, but many do. This allows the local store manager to try a local product out in his or her store. Sometimes the program might be controlled by the district or regional manager and it might cover 8 to 12 stores. You just need to talk to the local manager and convince him or her to try your product out. You can offer to do publicity with the local papers to get some articles published to help launch sales.
Managers will be very picky about what products they put into the local buying program. Any sales you make prior to entering the program will help you. Sales to mail order catalogs, QVC or other home shopping networks, smaller retailers, even sales at consumer shows such as lawn and garden shows will help you convince a manager to try you out with their local buying program.
Another route to take is to find an independent sales representative to sell your product to the mass merchants. The reps can sell the product directly if possible, but they can also set you up with a distributor or another manufacturer to act as your marketing arm to help you get your product into the mass merchants. You might have to give the distributor of other manufacturer 30% of your sales price but at least you will be in the door.
Finding sales representatives can be difficult. You can find sales reps by searching on Google for mass merchandiser sales reps, or by looking for sales reps to Wal-Mart, or sales reps to Sears. You can also find trade magazines for your industry, such as drug store trade associations and look to see if they have a resource for representatives. Another tactic is to look at exhibitors for the last trade show in your industry and look for a list of exhibitors. Then you can go look at each exhibitor site to see if you can find a manufacturer who lists who its reps are and then contact them.