How to get into GNC
Founded in 1935, GNC Holdings Inc. (General Nutrition Centers) is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based American company selling health and nutrition related products, including vitamins, supplements, minerals, herbs, sports nutrition, diet, and energy products.
GNC stores typically stock a wide range of weight loss, bodybuilding, nutritional supplements, vitamins, natural remedies, and health and beauty products, in both its owned brands as well as third-party brands.
GNC is a specialty retailer of health, wellness, and performance products, which include protein, performance supplements, weight management supplements, vitamins, herbs and greens, wellness supplements, health and beauty, food and drink and other general merchandise. The Company’s operations consist of purchasing raw materials, formulating and manufacturing products and selling the finished products. It operates in three segments: U.S. and Canada, International and Manufacturing/Wholesale. Its U.S. and Canada segment generates revenues primarily from sales of products to customers at its Company-owned stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, through its Websites, GNC.com and LuckyVitamin.com. Its International segment generates revenue primarily to its international franchisees.
As of December 31, 2018, GNC had approximately 8,400 locations, of which approximately 6,200 retail locations are in the United States (including approximately 2,200 Rite Aid licensed store-within-a-store locations) and franchise operations in approximately 50 countries.
According to the company, “GNC is a leading global specialty retailer of health and wellness products, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplement products, sports nutrition products and diet products
GNC sets the standard in the nutritional supplement industry by demanding truth in labeling, ingredient safety and product potency, all while remaining on the cutting-edge of nutritional science. As our company has grown over the years, so has our commitment to Living Well. In fact, GNC is the world’s largest company of its kind devoted exclusively to helping its customers improve the quality of their lives.”
For a distributor, this is an established health supplement retailer that can get your products to move as fast as possible. With the awesome varieties they offer and the established customer base, it can be easily deduced that there are customers already dedicated to what they sell. However, this is a big retailer and there is a high standard for the products they take and thus, procurement for the company may be centralized and pitching may need to go beyond the usual RangeMe platform method. You can create a buzz in the local market by offering awesome products and ensuring that you are known for every move you make in the market.
Being a vendor may require some form of distinctiveness from other suppliers. Look at your products and see what you are offering differently. If not different, go back to the drawing board and see how you can rebrand or bring out a distinction.
How to get your product into GNC
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 GNC 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.
Sometimes easier said than done, however you must get on GNC radar.
Call the GNC 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 GNC buyers as they will potentially have a better history.
Use advertising, public relations and marketing to make your brand known to GNC 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 GNC 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 GNC buyers meeting or trade show in the future.
GNC 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 GNC 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 GNC 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 GNC
Here are the 6 steps you need to take to have your product placed in GNC.
1. Start with the right questions.) Before you try distributing your product to GNC, 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 GNC would be interested in selling your product? If you can strike a deal with GNC, can you handle the production volume? Do you want to sell directly to GNC, 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 GNC? Can you sell your product at a reasonable enough profit to cover the packaging, shipping, commissions, marketing and wholesale distribution? Check GNC 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 GNC 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 GNC is the right store for your product.) The relationship between you and GNC starts with you browsing their store for competing products. If GNC already has a similar product, it is going to be very difficult to get your product picked up. Spend some time at your local GNC 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 GNC.
If your company is minority or women owned, check GNC website and see if they offer specific opportunities for those designations.
4. Pitch your product to GNC.) Decide whether it will be you or a representative to present your product to GNC. 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 GNC, 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 GNC. The percentage of commission verses, however generally a broker will take around 5% to represent your product to GNC.
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 GNC 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 GNC paperwork.) Often GNC will have you go through an application process. However, before submitting the paperwork required by GNC, you should contact a buyer at GNC 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 GNC 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, GNC 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 GNC, 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.
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