Will You Be Caught Waiting for a Spot in the Plan-o-Gram?

Thinking ahead about packaging can save you time, make you money and relieve frustration in getting your product to market.

So, you have this great idea or invention you have spent time nurturing and developing. You are confident it will be successful because you have determined that there is a real need for the product in the marketplace. You may even have had success in securing a patent or trademark to protect your idea, as it truly is unique and different. It’s time to start moving ahead. That much-awaited meeting with the targeted retailer is scheduled. The buyer is very interested in putting your product on the shelf. However, he/she will not be redoing the plan-o-grams for another 6-9 months. Do you just say thank you and wait? If you do that, will you miss a key selling season? Will the buyer still be interested, or even still around? The key is to be able to strike while the iron is hot. What if you considered various packaging and merchandising options prior to this meeting?

If you can imagine where your product could be sold, you can imagine and learn how those retailers sell products. In addition to a regular shelf set, what other opportunities are there? Do the retailers run truckload sales? What would a pallet display look like for your product? Would they agree to a pallet display? Do they do weekly or quarterly ad features? Featured products are often be found on end aisle merchandisers and floor displays around the store and may even be in-and-out items. What about seasonal or themed promotions like Back to School or Dollar Days? What will you need to do to have your product fit in to the range of opportunities in the targeted retail environment?

What I’m also talking about is being able to provide alternative configurations of units or price points for your products. Take the time to walk the various types of stores and imagine where your product could be in the store and how it should be packaged to present itself optimally. What other products are around it and how are these items merchandised and priced? If you do not initially imagine a configuration that seems to fit, try walking around a store in a different industry to help you brainstorm and borrow a few ideas.

Remember, the buyer previously told you he is interested, but the shelf set will not change for 6 – 9 more months. Large retailers work towards schedules and it’s not practical for them to change their shelf-sets for every new opportunity they see, even yours. Are you prepared to recommend a small display unit that could be placed at the register or a counter until there is an opening in the plan-o-gram? This is an excellent ideal and actually provides greater visibility for your product. Are you prepared to recommend a display or shipper that could be placed on the floor or in another promotional area, until there is room in the shelf set? You already have an idea of quantity, costs and lead times because you did your homework. If you do not do your homework, you risk brainstorming on the spot from scratch and getting excited about an option that you later learn will take more than 6 – 9 months to have ready. You are disappointed, again. The buyer is also disappointed.

I am not suggesting that you fully invest in the development and production of multiple packaging ideas and materials upfront without a strong commitment. What I am suggesting is that you spend the time learning and thinking about different packaging and merchandising alternatives. (There are great firms that can provide samples, mock ups and visuals so you have more to show than an ideal). For that register display what would it take to have a rough idea of what would be required to produce it in 2 weeks, 6 weeks, or 12 weeks? Imagine how great you will feel when you already know exactly who you will call when you leave the buyer’s meeting to tighten up the estimate. You can say with confidence that you can confirm an answer with the buyer by the end of the week. The buyer will be impressed because you have done your homework.

Retailers want to work with vendors who are reliable and proactively thinking about how to sell more products. Help make their job easier. By the way, there is the added benefit of the extra sales and profit you earn because you were thinking ahead

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