J+H Insights:

Be Your Retail Buyer's Hero


First let’s talk about the buyer’s job. This tends to be a high-pressure position. Buyers tend to place their focus squarely on their performance, and understandably so. Often, their bonus (or even their job) is dependent on getting it right.

  • How many other brands?
  • Understand that you are not the only brand they are dealing with. Your buyer could be dealing with anywhere from 20 to over 100 vendors, each one of them vying for attention and shelf space.

  • Are there shelf space constraints?
  • Your buyer is likely under pressure to use less shelf space. The goal of the retailer is to maximize the number of dollars that a category can do in sales with the least amount of shelf space. Your buyer is encouraged, and at times pressured, to reduce his or her in-store footprint. This is part of SKU rationalization, and it continues to place pressure on both brands and retail buyers alike.

  • Are they new?
  • Your buyer may be brand new to this category. Many major retailers rotate buyers on a fairly regular basis, so the buyer you are meeting with may not have any experience with your product or category.


  1. Be Prepared
  2. You need to know not just your business; you need to know their business. What are the store’s overall initiatives? How is the category doing? Is it up or down compared their peers? Are there competing products on the shelf that are doing poorly and could be cut in place of yours?

    What intel do you have on your competitors? Are there any manufacturing issues? Do they have too many consumer complaints? Are there open trade or legal suits?

    TIP: Respect their time, send them relevant information that can impact their business, but don’t inundate them with information overload.

  3. Make it easy for them to say, “Yes”
  4. Show them, with clear proof, how your brand will expand or increase revenue for the category. Present the buyer with an easy-to-understand advertising plan, make it simple enough that they have the ability reexplain it to their boss. Present such a compelling offer that their boss would also say “yes” to you.

  5. Do what you say.
  6. Buyers are used to being lied to. So many brands promise to do all kinds of grandiose advertising, only to do little or nothing once they get on the shelf. Do not go in and promise an advertising campaign if you do not intend to follow through. Buyers have access to Kantar Reports. Similar to IRI or Nielsen, Kantar lets the buyer know what you really spent/the dollar value of what you spent in advertising.

    Just as you can’t fake sales, you can’t fake advertising spend either. Even if your sales are not what you hoped for, your credibility is still intact and your chance of continuing a relationship with the buyer is much higher.

  7. Buyers are human.
  8. Remember that buyers are human too, and are consumers themselves. So, great packaging, strong advertising messages and compelling stories and offers work on them just like they do on your end user.

While sales are ultimately what really matter, there are other things you can do to tilt the scale in your favor if they aren’t where you need them to be: Build rapport, find common ground, look for honest opportunities to relate to them, and for places that you can add value to their life.
Just like with any human relationship, if we like someone, we’re more likely to buy from them.