How to Get Goods Onto Retail Shelves — And Why It’s Still Important
At first glance, it might seem strange that one of today’s biggest e-commerce success stories, the athleisure brand Gymshark, is staking out brick-and-mortar space. Until now, Gymshark has run totally online — and it’s served them well. Today, the brand’s valuation is more than $1.3 billion. But with ambitious goals to grow, the brand is seeking to further boost sales and brand awareness with a recently-opened, 18,000 sq ft flagship store in London.
Although e-commerce is a dominant force in brands’ modern strategies, brick and mortar stores are still key parts of an omnichannel distribution strategy. And even amid the pandemic’s online shopping acceleration, physical stores are staging a modest comeback. In the US, for example, in-person retail spending rose by 18% in 2021.
So how can your brand cover all its bases and make its way into retailers? Follow our guide to get a grasp of need-to-know terms and typical protocols.
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What is retail logistics?
Broadly speaking, retail logistics refers to the entire process of getting merchandise from its original source (usually a factory floor) to the end consumer.
You’re likely to see retail logistics divided up into two categories: inbound logistics and outbound logistics. Let’s break each one down.
- Inbound logistics involves shipping your company’s goods from the factory to a fulfillment center, warehouse, or retail store. At this point, they will then be either shipped or sold directly to the end customer in a retail setting. Most commonly, this is the form of logistics taking place for B2B (business to business) operations.
- Outbound logistics is the entire process of getting your goods directly to the end-user, most commonly routed from a distribution or fulfillment center. Outbound logistics covers DtC (direct-to-consumer) operations, meaning considerations like last-mile transport need to be taken into account.
As we’ve covered on our blog, there’s a great deal of nuance involved with ensuring your customers have a satisfactory shipping experience. However, that doesn’t mean inbound logistics — and, specifically, getting goods into the world’s biggest retailers — is easy.
Is a big-box store right for your brand?
Navigating inbound logistics means keeping a close eye on not only consumer demands, but the requirements of your target retailers.
Perhaps you’ve already conquered your e-commerce goals and want new visibility. To keep growing, you may want to tap into a demographic that prefers the convenience of in-store shopping, too. Polling shows that more than 65% of both Millennials and Gen Xers still place value on the in-store shopping experience. And, after all, there’s no stand-in for the exposure that comes with appearing in a Tesco or Woolworths.
But before you make the leap, it’s crucial to understand that getting your product into a major retailer means you play by their rules.
The first steps come down to business basics. In addition to offering a unique product, many stores will look for suppliers who offer a full line of offerings. Why’s that? Well, as we’ll outline soon, it takes a lot of legwork and a serious investment (of both time and money) to facilitate long-term relationships between stores and the brands they carry. If you’re able to offer a range of products, there’s a better chance you’ll sign a deal.
Then comes pricing and packaging. In order for those stores to boast the lowest prices in town, they need to ensure the brands they stock agree to the right terms — both in cost and volume. That means you need to ensure there’s enough flexibility in your pricing model and packaging options to stay one step ahead.
Finally, if you’re aiming for retailers located abroad, you’re left to figure out customs and maintain compliance standards across borders. While the benefit of new visibility in foreign markets can pay off, it usually requires a significant up-front investment.
Making it into retailers means getting every last detail right
Let’s say you’re a brand looking to reach as many North American in-person shoppers as possible. You might look to Walmart—and for good reason. Every week, Walmart gets nearly 230 million visitors. That’s a lot of foot traffic.
But they also have high standards. Below are just some of the specific criteria you’d need to meet as a supplier when getting your goods into Walmart:
- Proof of adequate insurance: Your brand (the supplier) will need to provide proof of financial responsibility. This normally comes in the form of adequate insurance to address legal costs or other potential liabilities related to your product.
- Certifications and testing: Depending on the type of product you offer, you’ll need to obtain inspections and tests that meet a retailer like Walmart’s standards. These could be lengthy (trust us, these types of brands have done their legal due diligence). All products also need to meet the state and federal regulations of where they’re sold.
- Preparation in case of audits: For major retailers like Walmart, audits and certificates encompass product safety, responsible sourcing, and supply chain security.
Every store has its own regulations — and following them to the tee can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. You might be surprised just how many details need to be right for a brand’s product to be accepted at a retail distribution center.
Whether it’s labeling, product positioning on pallets, how trucks are stacked for unloading, and ensuring quantities are exactly what have been ordered, every piece has to be exactly in place. If standards aren’t met to the tee, you pay the price of lost time and a huge missed opportunity for exposure.
Suffice to say, it takes serious organization and a well-documented supply chain to ultimately grace the aisles of major retailers.
Whether it’s e-commerce or brick and mortar, CBIP is on your side
As a trusted 4PL firm working in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region, CBIP’s team of experts has experience working with brands of all sizes. We’ve also facilitated brands’ entry into the world's biggest retailers, and have the know-how and deep industry knowledge to help you ensure you hit every last detail.
We understand what it takes to bring your business to new markets — whether it’s maximizing your e-commerce operation or upping your in-store footprint. From customs clearance to warehousing and distribution, we give you full visibility at every step of the process. We understand that today’s most innovative businesses are dynamic and always seeking out new channels. That’s why our business model is built on adaptability, meaning we evolve with you — especially as your brand navigates the ins and outs of international retail.
Ready to take the next step in bringing your brand to the world? Chat with one of our specialists today.