Guess how long it takes a new product to get placed on the shelves of a nationally renowned retailer? The answer may surprise you, but on average from the time a product is shown to a retail buyer until it is actually on the shelves usually takes a minimum of six months and often as long as a year!
Why? Well, think of it this way. Tens of thousands of inventors and companies submit product ideas to the buyers at any one major retailer over the course of just a year. With the sheer volume of those inquiries coupled with the retailer's need to first ensure their current vendors’ products are situated, can they only then consider looking at and placing new products in the stores.
For most inventors, they often believe that they can gain entry in just weeks. I only wish! However, the sheer amount of work to review and approve a new product and the very busy schedules of buyers makes it very difficult to accomplish a tall order in a short period of time.
So, when is the best time to submit your product if you wish to have it in stores by the end-of-year holiday shopping season? For most major retailers, their buyers review and choose products for this most busiest time of the year starting as early as January and almost always complete that process by April or May!
I know, it sounds unbelievable but these buyers actually need that amount of time to carefully review the product, set you up as a new vendor, and prepare a space for your product on their shelves which occurs during pre-arranged “planogram” or store layout review period. If you think about it, all retail stores only have so much shelf space. It's different than the internet where space is seemingly endless. With retail stores, they can only hold so much product, and so the buyers need to carefully plan out their selections and get everything organized so they can include your product in this new assortment.
I suggest that if you have a product to sell to a retailer, here is a timetable for each major buying season and when you should present your products in order to be carefully considered. Keep in mind that many retailers vary in their approach and timing, and some actually can request that you submit products even more than a year in advance!
- Christmas/Holiday shopping season – submit products starting in January and no later than April
- Fall shopping season – December to January and no later than February
- Back to School – November to December and no later than January
- Summer – October to November and no later than December
- Spring – August to September and no later than November
For special holidays such as Father's Day, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day, you will want to present your products at least six months prior to that holiday
When presenting a product to a retailer, it is critical to ensure it is truly “retail ready.” This means that the product must not be a rough prototype, but a fully developed and working product that is fit to sell today. This includes having a package for the product that is also fit for the shelves. Remember – buyers can't buy an unfinished product! So, while it can be ok to show a prototype to a buyer to gauge interest, in the end they cannot buy a product unless it is truly ready to go.
Learning the power of patience will be your biggest asset…and knowing WHEN to present your product so that you don't miss key opportunities will give you a leg up and increase your chances of success! Don’t wait until the last minute. Plan ahead to ensure you get shelf space at major retailers during the main shopping seasons to maximize your sales.