Get Your Product into Brown & Cole

Mr. Checkout is a network of independent wagon-jobbers and full-line distributors. We distribute product to over 35,000 independent stores around the country and have built relationships with hundreds of retail buyers. We are always seeking the next hot new product. If you have a product, we want to hear from you!

How To Get Into Brown & Cole 

Founded in 1909, Brown & Cole Markets was founded by the Cole and Brown Family. The Bellingham-based company operates mostly in Northwest and Central Washington under several names including Cost Cutter and Food Pavilion. Brown & Cole has quite a number of retail outlets.

Brown & Cole is the oldest supermarket chain in the state of Washington. It is commonly referred to as “The Markets”. The supermarkets sell an array of products including fresh produce, fresh meat, and canned meat.

The company utilizes the money-saving strategy by renting or purchasing store locations that have gone out of business. As of 2011, the company had about 18 locations and 2100 full time employees. Its annual revenue as at then was over $200 million dollars.

In 2006, the company was forced to file bankruptcy when its debt totaled more than $100 million, according to filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Seattle. In 2006, with about 27 grocery stores in the state of Washington, the retailer filed for bankruptcy protection citing competition from larger chains including Wal-Mart. The retailer had to close locations around the Yakima, Burlington, and Arlington area.

As a way of furthering mutually beneficially relationships with its employees, the company provides health insurance and union benefits to its employees. This is one benefit not so many retail employees enjoy.

The company has a tradition that is replicated in all its stores. It merges the conventional supermarket with a traditional market and this has turned out highly innovative and has gained wide acceptance by the general public. There is a usually a department specifically for spices, which allows the customers to smell the spices before purchasing them for home cooking. There is usually another section where the staff cooks food in front of customers and allows them to take the recipe home with them.

The moves of making shopping more enjoy are in line with the retailer’s mission of making weekly food shopping more fun and enjoyable. The stores are arranged in ways that allow customers and employees interact – this sets a high standard of customer service. The market element comes into play with the décor and the facts that all products are locally sourced. Each item in the store is marked with a rating showing how local they are to the store.

Distributing to this type of retailer can be very beneficial. This is because an established retailer like this with long lasting reputation would have dedicated customers who would prefer to do their food shopping there. The innovative methods of sustaining business relationship with customers are also very laudable. Customers who are looking at trying out new recipes for special family occasions, or foodservice operators looking at offering a different taste to their customers can source new spices from this retailer.

Despite the stiff competition faced with bigger retailers like Wal-Mart, Brown & Cole has shown resilience in staying in the market. The strategy of renting store spaces was helping in selling some stores in raising funds when it filed bankruptcy.

If you have a product, we want to hear from you!

Mr. Checkout is a national association of independent wagon-jobbers and full-line distributors. We distribute product to approximately 35,000 independent stores around the country and are always seeking the next hot new product. If you have a product, we want to hear from you!

How to get your product into Brown & Cole

  1. Understand you client: Before you spend a lot of time and money creating a product, you should know if anyone will want to buy it. Learn more about Market Research
  2. Learn if it’s protectable: Know if you can defend your product against cheap copies if it gets knocked off. Learn more about Copyright and Patent your product
  3. Test your product: Make sure that there’s a demand for your product and the customer understands what you are selling when it’s on the shelf and nobody is there to explain it. Learn more about Product Testing
  4. Perfect your pitch: Before you speak to decision makers, know your numbers, know your retailer and know your logistics in and out. Learn more about Pitching Your Product
  5. Don’t do it alone: If you haven’t been successful in retail before, a secret of success is that you can’t do it alone. Having great sales staff, customer support and marketing partners can take you from zero to success faster than if you tried on your own. Learn more about Retail Partnerships

Contact Brown & Cole Buyer

Do not trust any “list” of buyers.

Typically retail buyers change either companies or positions every few years. This strategy helps retailers know that their buyers are not taking “kick-backs” and are selecting the very best product for the very best position each time.

Buyers are typically held to a very rigorous standard of sell-through volume that they must hit and because of this they are risk averse. Your job as a supplier or vendor is to convince them that the buyers going into the stores not only know about what you’re selling but are actively seeking the product in the store currently.

  • Step 1

    Contact Brown & Cole Buyer

    Sometimes easier said than done, however you must get on Brown & Cole radar.

    Call the Brown & Cole corporate phone number and ask for the names of the buyer and assistant buyers in your category.

    Always leave voicemail with whomever the dispatch will connect you.

    Use that information to connect with them on LinkedIn, RangeMe and any other professional social platform.

    Ask your representative at your trade bureau to connect you to the Brown & Cole buyers as they will potentially have a better history.

  • Step 2

    Get On Brown & Cole Radar

    Use advertising, public relations and marketing to make your brand known to Brown & Cole buyer through 3rd party websites & industry media sources.

    Be everywhere that they look, the key is to position your brand as the obvious choice when Brown & Cole is looking to either refill a slot or create a new category.

    Latch on to the news of the day and any trend that will make your product fill that niche whether that be Non-GMO or Vegan Leather for example.

    Investing in your brand can only benefit your opportunities in the future. As being “top of mind” will have a ripple effect when you physically present your product at a Brown & Cole buyers meeting or trade show in the future.

    Step 2

  • Step 3

    Use Hard Facts

    Brown & Cole buyers typically got to their position by picking “winners” and know how to see through the fluff.

    Focus on the numbers, know your bottom dollar during a negotiation and how fees and chargebacks may cut into your position.

    Know that long term success may outweigh short term sales, however financing large purchase orders from Brown & Cole when the net result is negative is not sustainable.

    Understand the playing field and the other brands that are in your space, what they are offering as promotion and pricing and how you can stand out against them.

    By knowing that each buyer at Brown & Cole probably knows more than you do, take an active listening approach to sales and understand that no is a perfectly acceptable answer that may have saved you millions of dollars on the backend.

How to Submit a Product to Brown & Cole

There are several ways to get a product placed in Brown & Cole. However, most entrepreneurs only dream about getting their product distributed to major retailers, few actually do it. We have experienced a significant rise in interest since the show Shark Tank started airing on NBC. Mr. Checkout has had the pleasure of working with a few Shark Tank success stories such as KISStixx and 180 Party Cups which are now currently being distributed around the country to stores like Walmart, Target, Kroger, 7-Eleven and more.

If you envision your product would be a good fit for Brown & Cole, we have a few steps to help you get your product on their shelves.

Here are the 6 steps you need to take to have your product placed in Brown & Cole.

1. Start with the right questions.) Before you try distributing your product to Brown & Cole, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions. Do you need to build demand for your product, or is there already a demand for it? Do you know that Brown & Cole would be interested in selling your product? If you can strike a deal with Brown & Cole, can you handle the production volume? Do you want to sell directly to Brown & Cole, or do you want to license your product to a manufacturer that will handle distribution?

2. Be prepared to profit.) Does your product offer enough of a profit margin for Brown & Cole? Can you sell your product at a reasonable enough profit to cover the packaging, shipping, commissions, marketing and wholesale distribution? Check Brown & Cole guidelines for other fees that you will have to build into the cost of your product in order for you to be able to turn enough of a profit to make the effort worth your while. If you work with a discount retailer, they will try to strip your profits down to zero in order to keep their prices as low as possible.

The typical breakdown of margins are: If a products costs $1 to produce, that product will retail for $4. That product that retails for $4 will wholesale for $2 to distributors and stores that purchase direct. Big box retailers like Brown & Cole may offer to pay $1.25 to the manufacturer if the product costs $1 to produce. That is the typical profit margin.

3. Determine if Brown & Cole is the right store for your product.) The relationship between you and Brown & Cole starts with you browsing their store for competing products. If Brown & Cole already has a similar product, it is going to be very difficult to get your product picked up. Spend some time at your local Brown & Cole to see what kind of products they are selling, speak to the manager and see if he thinks your product will sell well in their store. Picture in which zone your product would best fit on the shelf and keep in mind that the most precious asset that these big box stores value are their shelf space. Keep this information in mind when you are preparing your presentation to Brown & Cole.

If your company is minority or women owned, check Brown & Cole website and see if they offer specific opportunities for those designations.

4. Pitch your product to Brown & Cole.) Decide whether it will be you or a representative to present your product to Brown & Cole. Your presentation depends heavily on your strengths as a businessperson as they will most likely ask financial questions and logistics questions.

It’s common for companies to hire a broker to pitch their product to Brown & Cole, as it will be more likely that your product will make it to the next stage if the individual pitching your product has industry knowledge or a personal relationship with Brown & Cole. The percentage of commission verses, however generally a broker will take around 5% to represent your product to Brown & Cole.

We at Mr. Checkout have experience dealing with brokers and know that there are several retail brokers that have poor business practices that can potentially damage your brand. If you are seeking a legitimate Brown & Cole broker, please give us a call for a recommendation. It could save you a huge headache and a lot of money.

5. Complete the required Brown & Cole paperwork.) Often Brown & Cole will have you go through an application process. However, before submitting the paperwork required by Brown & Cole, you should contact a buyer at Brown & Cole and let them know your intentions. Having a contact inside of the company will potentially move your application more smoothly through the process.

6. Anticipate the need for increased volume.) Having Brown & Cole agree to stock your product will most likely mean a significant increase in volume. You should be prepared to ramp up your production and informing your manufacturer of this opportunity.

Having production, logistics and distribution to sync is not only difficult, it requires a significant amount of time invested in customer relations. Also, Brown & Cole may have stipulations in the contract that may penalize you for delays in shipping and production. Have an attorney explain all contracts to you if you don’t understand the terms.

If you’re looking to sell your product to Brown & Cole, be sure to thoroughly assess the marketplace, carefully prepare for production growth, and take full advantage of resources available to help you grow your business.

Submit Your Product Now

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