Securing Retail Facings for Your Products as Competition for Space Heats Up
A couple of years ago, retail store shelves were mostly empty. Today, as manufacturers, we face a much different problem: shelf space for household consumables is shrinking. To make their brick-and-mortar locations more appealing, retail outlets continue to expand the footprint of prepared foods, fresh offerings, and other ancillary offerings designed to deliver convenience, value and excitement to their shoppers. They're adding in sushi bars and coffee shops at the expense of tried-and-true products to attract back the shoppers who tried out meal delivery kits during the pandemic.
Further limiting shelf space is the rise in private label offerings and the fragmentation of products into natural and sustainable product lines. This is leading to a constant battle over the remaining shelf space between these new entrants and CPG giants.
So, how can brands overcome these challenges and secure their spots on retailers’ shelves?
Getting the Space is Hard — Keeping it is Even Harder
The days when a new SKU or brand had one year to two years to prove itself are gone. With reduced footprint, each linear meter of shelf space must work harder for retailers. Each SKU’s ranking in both dollar sales and productivity is evaluated earlier by retailers, and decisions to cut products are made faster than ever.
Today, reduced shelf space for items and pressures to limit SKU counts (to achieve supply chain cost benefits) means that new products often have only three months to six months to succeed before they're cut by a retailer.
To stay competitive, brands are falling back to investing more in price promotions, especially during this period of severe inflation, to attract back customers. Brands are also partnering with retailers’ performance media groups to give themselves advantages both in the eyes of shoppers (i.e., with reduced prices) and retailers (i.e., with more sales at lower prices).
When a trusted brand expands its line, it's usually easier to achieve distribution on retail shelves. If the buyer knows and trusts the brand and the accompanying sales support plan is robust, then the retailer will lean in and give new products from the established brand room in-store.
For example, when Jelmar launched two new products, Everyday Clean and Active Clear, the sales team leaned heavily on the long-standing strength of Jelmar’s other flagship products to assure retailers that these new SKUs would live up to the strong sales of its previous products.
How to Get More Products on Retail Shelves
Over the past few years, there has been a shift in how successful products go from the research and development lab to retail shelves and into consumers’ homes. Consider these strategies to secure your spot on retailers' shelves and in consumers’ carts:
1. Create a compelling product.
Retailers want to know that you've completed the usual research involved in product development so they can be confident that your product will sell before giving you space in their store locations. However, it’s no longer enough simply to have a winning concept in consumer focus groups.
There are two people involved in purchasing a product, after all: the consumer and the retailer. You need to entice both groups by showcasing your product’s “sellability” and appeal for consumers. What sets you apart from other brands vying for shelf space? How does your product meet a consumer need? What incremental consumer want or need will your product deliver to the consumer that will put another SKU in their basket?
2. Test the product’s design.
To get your product on store shelves, you need to test the look and feel of it. Ask yourself questions such as: What compels a shopper walking the aisle to pick up your product? Is the packaging engaging? Are the claims highly visible and meaningful to the shopper?
When I worked with Joel Kashuba, who is now the head of design at Nike Valiant Labs, he broadened my knowledge and understanding of the power of design in the household consumables space. Through storytelling, trend tracking research, and consumer engagement, Joel taught me that although the juice inside is important, the vessel the product comes in is what entices shoppers to pick it up in the first place. The right design can keep products on consumers’ counters rather than under their sinks or tucked in closets. This drives product usage and, therefore, the productivity that retailers seek — ultimately helping you maintain your position on shelves.
3. Provide a robust support plan.
You need to create a strong support plan for retailers tailored to their specific store and the individual needs of the shoppers at that store. Your support plan should include ideas for loyalty programs, which show retailers how you plan to get your product off shelves, and digital sales, which show how you can support retailers’ growth.
Ultimately, distribution is king. Having a product on the shelf is the top driver of volume and profit growth. If you can’t achieve meaningful shelf placement and hold that space with a productive SKU, then the investment made to create that SKU is lost.
No brand has a 100 percent hit rate. Most have less than 50 percent, in my experience. It takes time and money to seek new consumer needs and innovative ways to serve them. Having a stable shelf position is critical to being able to invest in innovation and keep up with consumers’ ever-evolving needs and wants — and, in turn, secure more shelf space in the future.
Sarah Chadwick is the chief of retail sales at Jelmar, a respected leader in the household cleaning products industry.
Sarah Chadwick is the Chief of Retail Sales at Jelmar, LLC, a respected leader in the household cleaning products industry. Chadwick leads all retail sales efforts on behalf of Jelmar, including developing and executing new sales strategies and managing business activities and goals. Chadwick has over twenty years of success and experience in the CPG industry. Over the years she has held multiple positions in Brand Marketing, Customer Marketing and Sales Account Leadership and has a proven track record of delivering sales and sharing growth.