Selling to Chain Stores and Large Retailers

Carolyn Edlund, author of the Artsy Shark blog and website, is writing an informative series of articles on Selling to Chain Stores and Large Retailers.  Excerpt from part one:

How to Survive and Thrive Without Losing Your Shirt – Part 1

I received a phone call a while back from a gentleman who wanted a consultation about developing his greeting card line and launching it into the marketplace. At one point he mentioned, “I’d like to sell to Walmart.”

This was a bit of a leap for a newbie, but since there is a lot to know about dealing with national retailers and chain stores, I’d like to take some of the mystery out of it. While I’m not recommending that you approach Walmart, I’d like to address the process of selling to large retailers, and how you may be able to do that to grow your business.

Having been approached by producers SAYING THE SAME THING, makes me realize how important this Selling to Large Retailersinformation is for product based business!  Although selling to Wal-Mart (or any other large chain store) is a lofty goal for a newbie, it is not impossible to reach if you follow some important strategic plans to get you there!

Carolyn summaries the steps as followings:

First, get ready. Before you even start thinking about soliciting large retailers, you need to have a solid product line that is priced profitably at wholesale.

Simply put, you need to be in business for awhile with a proven product line that has sold well in the marketplace.  It is nearly impossible to jump from craft show sales to selling to big box stores without selling to smaller stores first – the step in the middle!

What about your existing business?  If you have existing wholesale accounts, it probably won’t surprise you that they might not be pleased to hear that your work is selling to large chain stores.

I can assure you that your smaller stores will not be happy to see your products in big box stores!  As a sales rep, I have lost several accounts because the buyers saw the line they brought into their store – thinking it was new and unique – selling in the large retailer in town.  This move can be the kiss of death for your smaller stores; so be aware!

Corporate Buyers.  Chain buyers also meet with sales reps who give them presentations on different product lines

National reps (vs. territorial rep, which is the type of rep that I have been) is one of the route to pursue to get the attention of Corporate buyers.  These are the reps that have the relationship (which is half the problem solved!) with the buyers who purchase items for large chain stores.


Personally, I have seen and heard horror stories about smaller producers going out-of-business because of selling to big box stores without doing their homework first.

I highly recommend reading Carolyn’s articles:

How to Survive and Thrive Without Losing Your Shirt – Part 1

How Chains Work and How You Can Work with Them – Part 2

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