How to get your product into Staples
- 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
How to get into Staples
Founded in 1986, Staples Inc. is an American office retail company. It is primarily involved in the sale of office supplies and related products, via retail channels and business-to-business (B2B)-oriented delivery operations.
In addition to selling office supplies, business machines, and tech services, Staples also offers a copy and print center for photocopies, digital printing, faxing, custom business cards, custom rubber stamps, promotional products, binding, lamination, folding, cutting, and engraved products. While many products can be produced in-store, larger, more complex jobs, or jobs requiring special materials such as PVC signs are routed to production facilities in various locations through the country.
Most locations have a limited service UPS shipping center offering air and ground services, (DHL in the United Kingdom stores; and FedEx, Purolator in the Canadian stores), which is open during store hours. International shipping is only offered to Canada and Mexico from retail stores in the US. UPS services in US-based stores are not capable of handling AT&T or Dish Network returns with a label or QR codes from Amazon returns.
Just like the gradual shift in everyday technological appliances, there has been an ever-occurring shift in the office technology and equipment items. It was, some decades ago, the period of typewriters and the need to get ribbons. However, fax machines, printing machines, and photocopiers are the norm in offices. This is just how evolving the workspace has been and still is.
Staples has been able to follow the trend and establish itself successfully in that niche. Being a product of necessity, it has ensured that it does the thinking for the average consumer. This, the retailer, has done by coming up with several innovative products that have been very instrumental to the workplace.
As a vendor, you need a unique selling point. This is what strikes you different from other vendors. Your offerings are seen differently when you have uniqueness to your market offerings. If you don’t have one at the moment, look at what you offer in products and services and see how you can make it better. It could be a payment service, or the large varieties you present, or the extra-special freshness of what you offer. Just do something differently.
Staples has a reputable brand and its retail offerings are quite large. It sells thousands of products and can be a profitable retail outlet. If your products are quite popular in the local market, it will be easy for you to easily pitch to this retailer. You have to bring your product to top quality to help you with the pitch of the product. More, you have to ensure that your products conform to regulatory standards. Staples has remained in the market because of the trust its customers have in its product. Thus, its supplies must be of top quality.
Contact Staples 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 Staples radar.
Call the Staples 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 Staples buyers as they will potentially have a better history.
Use advertising, public relations and marketing to make your brand known to Staples 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 Staples 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 Staples buyers meeting or trade show in the future.
Staples 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 Staples 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 Staples 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 Staples
There are several ways to get a product placed in Staples. 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 Staples, 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 Staples.
1. Start with the right questions.) Before you try distributing your product to Staples, 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 Staples would be interested in selling your product? If you can strike a deal with Staples, can you handle the production volume? Do you want to sell directly to Staples, 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 Staples? Can you sell your product at a reasonable enough profit to cover the packaging, shipping, commissions, marketing and wholesale distribution? Check Staples 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 Staples 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 Staples is the right store for your product.) The relationship between you and Staples starts with you browsing their store for competing products. If Staples already has a similar product, it is going to be very difficult to get your product picked up. Spend some time at your local Staples 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 Staples.
If your company is minority or women owned, check Staples website and see if they offer specific opportunities for those designations.
4. Pitch your product to Staples.) Decide whether it will be you or a representative to present your product to Staples. 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 Staples, 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 Staples. The percentage of commission verses, however generally a broker will take around 5% to represent your product to Staples.
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 Staples 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 Staples paperwork.) Often Staples will have you go through an application process. However, before submitting the paperwork required by Staples, you should contact a buyer at Staples 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 Staples 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, Staples 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 Staples, 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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