So you’re serious about getting your product into a retail store environment? That’s great! I would love to share with you a few tips about how to make that happen! But first, a short story about a recent experience of mine…

For the last few months I’ve been frustratingly trying to find a specific new product for my store. It was a fairly simple pet product… One that will not yield a lot of profit for our store, but something nice I wanted to carry for our clients. And one of the major criteria I had when sourcing this product was that I wanted it to be locally made. Seems simple, right?

Not so much… The first struggle I experienced was FINDING these local makers! Google turned up next to nothing for my area which was weird because I know from following them Instagram and Facebook that they did exist! But, of course my brain can only hold so much info so I could not remember their names when the time came to find them. Which brings me to tip #1.

1. Have an easy to navigate, clear and concise website with good SEO.

I am going to be honest with you… if you don’t have a website, I am probably not going to place an order. The absence of a website indicates to me that you aren’t serious about investing in your business, so why would I be serious about investing in it?

Are you going to drop off the face of the Earth in a few months? Are you going to fill my orders in a timely and professional manner, or is this just a fun side hustle you don’t take too seriously? Sorry to be blunt, but these are all thoughts that cross my mind.

I know a lot of makers have Etsy sites or Facebook pages, but they just aren’t as easy to find or navigate as a well planned out website. You’ve got to invest some time and energy into ensuring your site has good SEO (search engine optimization). What good is a great site if I can’t find it on Google? One easy way to do that is to blog or frequently update your website with new information. Google loves active websites. 

Creating a website isn’t that hard and is usually not that expensive. Sometimes all you need are a few simple pages! If you aren’t inclined to hire a web designer, there are many site builders on the market to make it easy for you to build your own: SquareSpace, Wix and Shopify to name a few. To get started you’ll need:

  • Home Page (what do you do? who are you for?)
  • Product Page (what do you offer?)
  • Contact Page (where are you, how do I reach you?)
  • About Page (who are you?)

That’s it! The first thing I do when checking out a new brand is go right to their products page(s). I like to flip through all the offerings, and then click and dig deeper on the products I like most. Which brings me to the next point…

Dog Eating Frozen Dessert

2. Invest in good or GREAT imagery that includes “lifestyle” imagery.

Have you ever visited a restaurant that has a menu with bad photography? The food looks really unappetizing, doesn’t it? It doesn’t get you excited about your meal… at all.

The same goes for your product! It needs to look amazing, so I get excited about bringing it in! If you take the photos yourself, you need a nice soft, natural light source. Make sure the photos are in focus, and the colours represented in the photos are true to life.

Take individual photos of each product from a few angles so I can get a good idea about what to expect. You’d be surprised how many sites don’t have product photos at all! Would you order something online if you didn’t know what it looked like?

I also like to see the products being used in real life! These photos are often referred to as “lifestyle” photos. Lifestyle photos help me see the scale of the product too. I ordered cookies once based on a product photo, and they arrived about half the size I expected! If that cookie was in a photo with a dog or a hand, I would have had a better idea what to expect. 

It also may be a great idea to include some photos of your favourite retail displays so I can start to imagine how the products will look in MY store. 

If you are looking for a professional photographer to help you with your brand photography, look no further! I am here to help. Make sure you sign up for my email list (at the bottom of my homepage) and be the first to hear about my brand story sessions coming soon!

3. Have an easy to understand catalog to make placing an order quick and easy.

I have seen websites (lots!) that list products, but don’t show corresponding photos so it makes placing an order a nightmare! THIS is the point where I usually give up on a brand. I sit down to place an order and get overwhelmed. It’s very unlikely I’ll reach out to ask for help unless I REALLY want that particular product but it may take me weeks or months to get around to it. More than likely I’ll just set it aside and probably forget about it. 

Please also be clear about ordering quantities. Can I order just one, or do I need to order 6 or 12 at a time? What is the wholesale price, margin, and suggested retail price? If the products have ingredients, list them too. Also be clear about your order minimums (ie do I need to spend $500 to get free shipping?)

What I see often from the bigger brands is a catalog with professional images, product descriptions, ingredients, etc, with a stand alone spreadsheet with product names, product numbers, descriptions, wholesale and suggested retail pricing (with markup calculated), and order quantities and case sizes. These spreadsheets can also double as an order form if you leave a column for order quantities. 

These spreadsheets can be easily changed and redistributed without having to change your lovely catalog if pricing changes for example. Just make sure your product names are consistent so I can find the products in the catalog easily on the spreadsheet.  

4. Don’t make me compete with you for business.

One of the first things I check before bringing in a new product is check how much brands are selling their own products for online. For instance, if you have a product with a suggested retail of $49.99 (to make my margins more appealing), but you are selling it in your own shop for $39.99, I can’t compete with that. 

Having frequent sales with heavily discounted offers means that customers are going to shop with you, not me, and I am going to be stuck with a whole lot of inventory and lost money. That’s not super appealing. If you make the decision to go into retail stores, please consider and support your retailers!

5. Support your product.

If I bring in a product, I need to know you stand behind it. If I get cookies that mould over before the expiration date, or leashes that fall apart too soon, I need to know I can take these products back from my customers, and I’ll have a credit or replacement provided by you.

Customers expect this level of service, and if I am to provide it, I need to know you have my back! One of the first things an upset customer says when you reject a return is, “don’t you stand behind your products?” And it’s very hard for me to say “yes”, when I know the maker will say “no”

happy shepherd dog laying on bed in studio

BONUS TIP: Offer a delivery or shipping option.

Believe it or not, I have carried local brands that won’t deliver or ship and eventually had to drop them because the inconvenience became too great. I cannot emphasize enough that retailers are BUSY people. Most don’t have time to pick up their orders. Some businesses may if given the choice, but most don’t have the time and personally, I don’t want to spend my days off picking up inventory. No thanks! I am happy to pay for this convenience!

These are just a few tips to help you get on your way to seeing your amazing products on the shelves of your favourite retail stores! MAKE IT EASY for retailers to say YES to your offerings and they will!!

If you are a dog business doing good and you are looking to give your product photos a little upgrade, give me a shout

Boxer Snuffle Mat