Four Tips on Becoming a Supplier to a Big Box Retailer

RFxConnectWinning a contract to supply goods and services to a big box retailer such as Macy’s, Target or Wal-Mart is like winning an Oscar. It will improve your brand recognition, improve your reputation, increase profits and give you the opportunity to expand into new markets.

Because of these benefits, competition is great.  For example, Wal-Mart alone receives over 10,000 new supplier applications each year.  Of those, only about 200 or 2% are ultimately accepted.  (Gwendolyn Bounds, “The Long Road to Wal-Mart Shelves”, the Wall Street Journal Online, 2004).

This article gives you four simple tips on becoming one of the chosen few.

1.   Visit the retailer’s stores

Information about your local stores can be invaluable, especially if you’re interested in becoming a local supplier.  Even big box retailers try to offer a product mix that accommodates local buying preferences.  This is the reason Wal-Mart offers more Hispanic products in Hispanic markets and Asian products in Asian markets.  Further, don’t just look at the product mix, look at the employees.  Is customer service a priority?  Does your product require employees to explain its benefits?  Next, sit in the parking lot and observe the store’s customers.  Do people shop alone, as couples, or as families? Do they drive expensive cars, mini vans, SUV, or economy cars?  Does the store receive foot traffic? What is the demographic profile of the shopper?

2.  Compare your product or service to existing ones.

Look at the types of products and services the store sells.  Do they have a makeup department with experienced sales associates?  Are food vendors located in the store, like Subway or McDonalds? Does your product or service seem like a good fit?  In other words, would your product be purchased in combination with other products the retailer currently carries; like milk and cereal.  Further, would your product be appropriate on the shelves? To better understand this question, ask yourself what does Macy’s sell that Wal-Mart doesn’t?

3.  Make sure you understand their shoppers’ needs.

When retailers choose new items to stock, they try to select products they believe their customers will want.  How would your product or service benefit the customer? Remember, the best salespeople are the ones who can explain how their products will improve the customers’ lives.  To be successful at this, you have to understand the customer.  For instance, ask yourself, do people shop a Macy’s to buy necessities or to purchase things that will improve their social status?  Do Wal-Mart shoppers need or expect the highest quality?

4.  Finally, it’s important to understand the retailer mission statement.  Let’s take a look at a few.

Macy’s states that, “Our goal is to be a retailer with the ability to see opportunity on the horizon and have a clear path for capitalizing on it. To do so, we are moving faster than ever before, employing more technology and concentrating our resources on those elements most important to our core customers. ”

Based on this mission statement, Macy’s is less concerned about bargains and more concerned about identifying new buying trends with high profit margins, like designer handbags.  Indeed, Macy’s underscores this priority by telling us that they are employing technology and resources to identify these trends. Accordingly, if your company offers emotionally driven products, like $500 handbags, you may have a good chance at becoming a supplier to Macy’s.

Wal-Mart’s mission is “to help people save money so they can live better.”

This mission statement indicates that Wal-Mart does not focus on trends.  Instead, they concentrate on delivering basic household items at the lowest possible prices.  Accordingly, if you offer a product that meets these goals, your company will be a good fit for Wal-Mart.

Target’s mission “is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise. To support our mission, we are guided by our commitments to great value, the community, diversity and the environment.”

Target’s mission statement is interesting on several different levels.  First, they make it plain that they want to deliver products to its customers that are an “outstanding value” and cost less than expected.  In other words, they want to deliver products that are above basic quality and make people feel like they bought them at a bargain. If your company can offer products that fit within this framework, you may have a good shot at becoming a Target supplier.

After you collect and evaluate the information described above, use it in your written and oral presentation with the retailer.  It will significantly improve your odds of becoming one of the chosen few.

This article was published by RFxConnect.  Our Mission is to make more connections between major Buyers and Suppliers than any other organization in the world! Our system is as easy to use as CareerBuilder, Indeed, or Monster. Please visit is as

The author of this article, Herman Garner, holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an M.B.A. He has also worked as a research analyst at a leading law firm specializing in employment discrimination. He can be reached at (216) 647-0146 or

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