[Guest Post] Hello, my name is Jane Arthern and I run FMCGenie. Having ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ many times over in FMCG (industry jargon for fast-moving consumer goods, products that are sold quickly and at relatively low-cost – usually food and drink!), here are my 3 top tips for getting your food and drink products into large and small retailers.

It was a long time ago that I started working in FMCG. Kwik Save, Somerfield and Safeway were buoyant high-street retailers languishing in the top 10 UK food retailer slots. Lidl and Aldi were continental newcomers with just a handful of stores clipping the heels of the mighty Tesco and Asda. Christmas shopping was done on foot. There were queues at the Post Office to send Christmas cards. The Inter-what? Amazon who? That’s a river in South America, right?

Retail is detail…

A lot has changed since. But I often reflect on something I was told by an industry stalwart way back when, which has stood the test of time. Retail is Detail. Pah! I thought, what ridiculous nonsense. As an energetic go-getter with something to prove, I just wanted to get the job done, and quickly. But as time went by, I realised that the old-school buyer, well-respected in his field, and my boss for a good spell, was indeed right. “Ignore the detail at your peril, young Jane”, he’d say in his broad Glaswegian accent. But ‘Mr. Old-School’ was right.

A little way down my career path I became a Merchandising Manager and cut my teeth in space planning. In doing so, it laid the foundations for a proper heavyweight understanding of how retail ticks. I learned a quite a few things along the way, and here are my 3 top tips….

1. Your USP – shout about it!

It is great to have a Unique Selling Point (USP). Of course it is. We all know that. It sets you apart from the rest. The crowd. The mainstream. It’s what makes your brand special. It’s what made you think you have a great business idea. And you should be shouting it from the rooftops – from your branding to the t-shirt you’re wearing to your Facebook page and beyond.

Your product is new, it’s unique and people will be queueing to get their hungry hands on it. Which is exciting and totally going to get you heard and elevate your industry profile.

However, whilst pushing the boundaries and challenging the accepted norm is radical, insane and out there (or whatever means cool these days), you may also be creating some challenges further down the line.

2. Have a USP but don’t get too clever with it

This is where others have fallen before you. Consider the category you are in:

* Does your product already exist in some form and does your product have synergies with others around it, thus presenting a perfect little home for your product to showcase?

* Or are you inventing something so radical that it does not have a logical home in any part of the shop?
Don’t expect the buyer to create a space for it or indeed take the risk on something mind-blowingly avant-garde! Plus buyers have very little time to even grab a cup of skinny mocha soy latte these days.

Create the solution, not the problem. However that manifests itself.

He/she will expect you to acknowledge the issue and to suggest merchandising solutions to the problem. This may take time, effort, lateral thinking, and that ol’ chestnut, thinking outside the box. Be patient though. If it’s a good enough product, there will be a way through it.

3. Retailers have elastic shelves and other myths

However fantabulous your product is, there is only a finite amount of space on any shelf. With the exception of online retailers who have the luxury of being less restricted by shelf space (but still have the same challenges with picking points in the warehouses), most retailers do not have elastic shelves. Nor, sadly, do they have ‘spare’ space waiting for something exciting and shiny to come along and fill it.
Indeed, every last inch is accounted for and monitored closely and more often than not, targeted on their DPP – Direct Product Profitability – yikes I hear?! Don’t fret.

Your offering will just need to blow the rest of the range out of the water to justify the effort of the buyer/merchandising manager taking the risk of putting yours in at the expense of another line.

Be mindful though that ‘that other line’ could well be an own label line where they will be making a bigger margin than you can offer on your branded product. We just need to make sure your sales pitch is compelling and one not to be missed. Other brands have done it. There is no reason why yours can’t do the same.

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Pretty much anything to do with the set-up of your products and getting onto the shelves of retailers big and small. Your needs will be unique to you and your brand, so I’m happy to discuss anything that is important to you.

This is an ongoing free offer, no matter how far into the future you’re reading this post!

If I can help with anything, please holler! I can’t wait to hear your story. Email me, pop over to my website and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you’re looking to grow your business, check out these blog posts written by other food industry experts, full of tips for entering the travel and leisure sector and exporting abroad.

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