Most indie beauty brands are striving to have their products sold in retail outlets, and we attended a 2-day summit on just this topic. We heard from retail buyers for national and international stores all the way down to individual spa managers. Here we outline the key takeaways from the numerous retail buyers and share their top tips for getting your products into the retail market.
Commit to online presence and aesthetic
One of your best chances of getting into a retailer is by demonstrating your brand aesthetic on social media. Online retail buyers were asked how a brand can stand out online, and every panelist recommended a strong internet and Instagram presence. Although not the only method, a beautiful Instagram profile and/or blog was enough to catch an eye and elicit interest. Take the time to curate a beautiful online presence that showcases the heart, soul, and beauty of your brand.
Packaging and visual brand identity
Although not always a deal breaker, ensure you have great packaging that matches your brand and your target market. Occasionally retailers are willing to help you redesign packaging, but you can’t rely on that. Instead, do research about what your target customer is looking for, the feeling they want from a product, and create packaging that matches that aesthetic as closely as possible. It’s wise to be aware of what type of look your target retailer wants, but don’t let it completely dictate what you do or else you’ll end up with a copy of existing products and labels.
Ingredients, natural and organic products
Hero ingredients help differentiate a product and rely on consumers already understanding the key benefits of your star. If it is a new or less-common ingredient, be prepared to provide easy education for consumers. Even if it takes time to educate your market, a unique hero ingredient can also help you stand out to retail buyers looking for the next big thing.
A growing trend in skincare is of course natural and organic products, so if your product fits that bill be sure to let consumers know. Perhaps organic turmeric is the base of your new scrub, so be sure to show off whatever vibes with your brand: its origin, benefits, organic certification, anything!
Retail contract is a big commitment
All the points so far are leading up to the actual contract between your indie beauty brand and a retailer, online or brick and mortar. The contract can be your best friend or an enemy, depending on your level of preparation and the relationship you have with your target retailer. Here are a few specific pointers on how to handle and prepare for your new retail contract:
- Negotiate. You have the power to negotiate. Perhaps you cannot negotiate price, but you can instead adjust lead times, Net 30 vs Net 90, how orders are fulfilled, percentages for late fees, etc. This also means you must understand the realistic balance of power: you still have some because online retailers need you, but expect to take it or leave it for retail giants like QVC.
- Scale up. You need to be ready to scale up production of all facets of your business, so make sure you have the staff and facilities to cope.
- Cash flow. You’ll be making bigger batches than you’ve probably ever made before, so cue up lines of credit if need be. You’ll have to buy more of everything but potentially wait 30-90 days to get paid.
- Supply chain. All that cash will be going down through your supply chain. You’ll need to buy more ingredients, more containers, more labels, and more boxes. Make sure your suppliers are ready and capable of keeping up with your new wave of big orders.
- Timeliness. Missing delivery deadlines for retailers is a fast way to fall out of favor and incur huge fines (or chargebacks). Typically 1-2% of the entire order price is deducted from every day a shipment is late!
Communication, and Working with Your Retailer
If the contract portion scared you, take solace in the possibilities that excellent communication can afford you. What this really means is that if you have a new product launch coming up, or your supplier is delayed, or anything else happens, let your retailers know as soon as possible. This gives them a chance to adapt and plan, and potentially lesson the penalties that might be on the horizon.
Retailers are also looking for brands that are willing to work with them for events and promotions. If you can partner with them on a major sales event, it helps build a better relationship. Can you supply extra product? Fantastic. Can you be in store to tell the story of your brand on a special ‘green beauty week’? Excellent. This mattered to almost all the retailers, so be prepared to help them (which helps you, too!).
Some degree of exclusivity
Because retailers are constantly striving to differentiate themselves, they may request some degree of exclusivity. Everyone on the numerous panels we heard acknowledged that complete exclusivity of a brand with a retailer is rare, so they’ll accept perhaps exclusivity for a period of time, like 6 months or a year. Alternatively, perhaps one line in your brand remains exclusive to them. Or maybe one of your star products.
It may be tempting to accept your first retail contract with full exclusivity, but down the line you’ll likely have outgrown that one retailer. By then you’ll be bristling for a chance at a larger market that is now hidden from you. Either way, make reasonable concessions and moves to protect yourself during the negotiating stage.
Samples & Training
Every retailer mentioned the importance of providing samples and training. Without these two, your brand will not launch well and it will not thrive. For samples, provide some for retail staff. Provide more for customers to try, and the retailer will decide if your samples are free with another purchase or simply gratis. It is worth the investment to offer samples, so budget that in as well.
Whatever your product, the people actually selling it need an education on it. Prepare to send clear materials, perhaps a video, and even yourself or a representative to explain exactly what the product does and how to use it. You need everyone on board and enthusiastic, so take the time and money to ensure this is the case.
We learned so much about entering retail as an indie beauty brand and we’re excited to share many more blogs in the coming weeks. In the meantime let us know your questions!
Need to know more about the current market? Please check out this blog on the 11 indie beauty trends from the conference.