How To Get Your Invention Into Wal-Mart
A famous violinist was once asked: “What’s the best way to get into Carnegie Hall?” The answer was: “Practice! Practice! Practice!” Just like there is no quick and easy way to make it as performer on the stage of the world renowned Carnegie Hall, there is no quick and easy way to get an invention on the shelves of Wal-Mart. It takes time, hard work and a dose of good fortune.
Assuming that you’re the typical inventor, the goal is to get your invention on the shelves of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer. Saying it is one thing, but actually doing it is another thing entirely. Even if you have a good product, there are a lot of hurdles to jump over. The good thing is that Wal-Mart has an open submission policy as well as a local test market program. Getting into Wal-Mart for an inventor is like getting into the major leagues for a baseball player. And just like a ballplayer has to first exhibit success through the minor leagues, an inventor should try to build sales momentum with smaller retailers before approaching Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart has a strictly defined submission process before there is ever a chance to meet face-to-face with a buyer. But even before that step, the inventor will have to have production and packaging worked out with a real product. The inventor can choose to be in charge of production themselves or join forces with an existing manufacturer. Once that decision has been made, and there is product and pricing, then in order to get involved with Wal-Mart’s National Program go to: www.walmartstores.com/suppliers and download the online submission package. It is best to include current real-life sales data with the submission form. What’s next? You wait for the buyer to respond.
Another option with Wal-Mart is their Local Buying Program where at least one local Store Manager must be convinced to stock your product. This program requires completion of a Local Supplier Questionnaire and approval of a District Manager. This option can be used while waiting for the national buyer to respond. On the surface, this seems like something doable but getting the face-to-face appointment to pitch the Store Manager is not so easy. So the first job is to sell the Store Manager on granting an appointment followed by selling the Manager on the salability of your invention product. This normally will take months, so it would be best to try every store manager in your area.
When you get your appointment either with a local store manager or with a national buyer, you will have one shot so be ready. Here are 10 items to have ready to present with a business-like approach when the time comes:
- Sales records especially re-orders (if the product is already on sale)
- Pictures of the product on retail shelves or on-line sales page
- Testimonials from satisfied buyers
- Copies of display ads and PR
- Product testing results
- Point of sale promotional materials
- Demonstrate the ability to ship large quantities on time
- Sharpen your pricing but be ready to make some cuts
- Have bar codes
- Have product liability in place
Although Wal-Mart has two ways to get your invention product onto their shelves, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have an easy time getting an appointment with either a national buyer or a local store manager where you can make your presentation. You might be shut out and never get the chance. But there is another avenue, establish a working relationship with an existing manufacturer or a distributor for companies with only one or a very few products. A company with more products, including a more established business history, will stand a better chance. If nothing works at first, go back with what you have learned and try it all again.
Getting your product into Wal-Mart is difficult, but people do it. I’ve had a couple clients be successful. It wasn’t easy and there were some bumps afterwards too, but there’s nothing like seeing something you created on the shelves of the world’s largest retailer.