A woman recently called about how to sell products to stores. And more importantly, she was concerned about selling her products to chain stores. Her concern was that if she decided to sell to chain stores, she might not be able to take on the huge quantities that they order, so she wanted to know how much they typically buy. This question comes up all of the time in my workshops and classes, so I thought I’d take a minute to discuss.

Chain store buyers can buy 100 units, 1000 units or even in some cases a million units of a product. So there is no way for me to give you a clear answer on exactly how much quantity they buy. However, here are some things to think about…

Chain store buyers will typically test your new product out first prior to buying large quantities. Usually they test new products in their most popular stores (ie stores that get the most amount of foot traffic). Therefore, they buy fairly small quantities initially (unless your product has already been proven to be successful at other retail chains). And since they will usually always start with a smaller test, small companies have a shot of selling their products to the big chain stores!

And if you think about it, the reason that a chain store tests out a new product concept first is because they need to ensure that the risk will be minimal on their part. So they would actually prefer to start small with a new product concept. This is great for you!

So how much do chain store buyers typically buy for a test? Again, who knows…but I’ve had buyers buy as little as 100 units of a product. This is pretty manageable for a small company, right?

Obviously quantities purchased for a test varies based on your product, but the thing to think about here is that you can actually help dictate how much a buyer will buy from you initially. Let me explain…

A buyer’s worst nightmare is to have you go through the buying process, agree to their terms and then not deliver the goods. Empty shelf space is unacceptable in the chain store world. So if you are concerned that you cannot deliver the quantities that a chain store buyer is requesting, then you should speak up!

People do not realize that if a buyer gets to the point that they want to buy your product and are talking quantities, then they are interested in working with you! And they will rarely change their mind if you ask to start small. I’m not saying that you tell them that you are not capable of delivering the goods, rather tell the buyer that you would like to start with a smaller test to ensure the success of your first order.

A huge mistake people make is that they do not share their concerns with a chain store buyer because they don’t want to lose their business. But this is how most small companies get themselves in trouble! So ask the buyer to start small if you are concerned about quantity. They will listen!

One last thing to think about…if you have units in stock then let the buyer know. They love testing items that are in stock because they can test easily and quickly. So if you have 500 units or 1000 units in your garage, tell the buyer! Selling in stock goods can help ensure that you start with a small, more manageable test. Ultimately, this will help set you up for chain store success!

To Your Success,

Karen Waksman

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