How to Time It Right to Get Your Products into National Retail Stores

03 Nov 2011

Jim Debetta

Jim DeBetta’s product development and sales experience has amassed millions of dollars within the retail selling world. Known nationally as a trusted coach and mentor to thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs, he knows how to take new ideas from a sketch on a napkin to selling the final product to major retailers worldwide.

Jim’s career in retail began at an early age with the family business – a fireplace and home hardware company. After graduating from college, Jim went home to help expand the business from a small successful operation into a multi-million dollar business and became one of the most recognized and respected store of its kind on Long Island. Jim stimulated new business, purchased products from all over the world, and ran the overall daily operations.

Jim decided it was time to grow and joined a start up firm that imported binoculars, telescopes, and optical products for children. His retail customers included a “who’s who” in retail such as Target, Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, Sears, Michael’s, Cabelas, Home Shopping Network, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Discovery Channel Stores, Costco, and many others. Jim employed nearly 20 people inside and had dozens of sales reps all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Ultimately, Jim helped expand the company from virtually no significant revenue to a leading brand in the industry that has sold more than 50 million dollars of product since the mid 1990′s. When Jim was ready for a new adventure, he left the company as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Jim decided he was ready for yet a bigger challenge and joined a leading premium incentive company as their National Key Accounts Manager. Jim represented major national brands for this $100 million a year premium incentive firm such as Toshiba, Sony, Nikon, Nautilus, Movado and others. The products were used to create various incentive programs for fortune 1,000 companies around the world.

Jim’s experience has reached far and wide working with various products, retailers, manufactures, and factories. He knew it was time to help those that had a product in mind or ready for production. His goal was to teach others the process without unnecessary expense, time and red tape. That is how DeCavi Corp was born.

As the founder of DeCavi Corp, Jim has helped thousands of inventors and start-ups learn how to get their products developed and sold to major retailers. Jim then merged his firm with the renowned Slingshot Product Development Group which employs a team of 35 engineers, designers, and marketing experts who help individual inventors and Fortune 500 firms alike. Both are recognized as leaders in the inventor product development and commercialization arena. Today, Jim continues to broaden his reach into the world of consumer products and has formed DeBetta Enterprises which is a private consultancy that coaches and advises inventors and entrepreneurs on everything from manufacturing to sales and marketing of consumer products. Jim also heads up the Retail Distribution arm of Kevin Harrington’s TV Goods corporation which today is fueled by the hit ABC reality show Shark Tank.

""Jim teaches inventors how to create sales and marketing strategies, understand the world of licensing, develop a product using CAD design, raising money to fund a business, and locating factories overseas to produce products. Jim is now reaching out to individuals who want to learn how to do it for themselves. Learn how he does that by clicking here.

Jim is a Professional Member of the United Inventors Association, a member of the Georgia Inventor’s Association, Rocky Mountain Inventors Association, and was the former co-host of the Launch Hour – a popular radio program for inventors and entrepreneurs. He is also the author of The Business of Inventing and has written hundreds of articles for industry publications, newspapers, and websites such as Inventor’s Digest, Georgia Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine. Jim also appears as a guest speaker for leading trade and consumer organizations, speaks at international conferences, and hosts forum and blog discussions on prominent invention and entrepreneurial websites.

Guess how long it takes a new product to get placed on the shelves of a nationally renowned retailer? The answer may surprise you, but on average from the time a product is shown to a retail buyer until it is actually on the shelves usually takes a minimum of six months and often as long as a year!

Why? Well, think of it this way. Tens of thousands of inventors and companies submit product ideas to the buyers at any one major retailer over the course of just a year. With the sheer volume of those inquiries coupled with the retailer’s need to first ensure their current vendors’ products are situated, can they only then consider looking at and placing new products in the stores.

For most inventors, they often believe that they can gain entry in just weeks. I only wish! However, the sheer amount of work to review and approve a new product and the very busy schedules of buyers makes it very difficult to accomplish a tall order in a short period of time.

So, when is the best time to submit your product if you wish to have it in stores by the end-of-year holiday shopping season? For most major retailers, their buyers review and choose products for this most busiest time of the year starting as early as January and almost always complete that process by April or May!

I know, it sounds unbelievable but these buyers actually need that amount of time to carefully review the product, set you up as a new vendor, and prepare a space for your product on their shelves which occurs during pre-arranged “planogram” or store layout review period. If you think about it, all retail stores only have so much shelf space. It’s different than the internet where space is seemingly endless. With retail stores, they can only hold so much product, and so the buyers need to carefully plan out their selections and get everything organized so they can include your product in this new assortment.

I suggest that if you have a product to sell to a retailer, here is a timetable for each major buying season and when you should present your products in order to be carefully considered. Keep in mind that many retailers vary in their approach and timing, and some actually can request that you submit products even more than a year in advance!

  • Christmas/Holiday shopping season – submit products starting in January and no later than April
  • Fall shopping season – December to January and no later than February
  • Back to School – November to December and no later than January
  • Summer – October to November and no later than December
  • Spring – August to September and no later than November

For special holidays such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, you will want to present your products at least six months prior to that holiday

When presenting a product to a retailer, it is critical to ensure it is truly “retail ready.” This means that the product must not be a rough prototype, but a fully developed and working product that is fit to sell today. This includes having a package for the product that is also fit for the shelves. Remember – buyers can’t buy an unfinished product! So, while it can be ok to show a prototype to a buyer to gauge interest, in the end they cannot buy a product unless it is truly ready to go.

Learning the power of patience will be your biggest asset…and knowing WHEN to present your product so that you don’t miss key opportunities will give you a leg up and increase your chances of success! Don’t wait until the last minute. Plan ahead to ensure you get shelf space at major retailers during the main shopping seasons to maximize your sales.