General Merchandise

The Meat of What We Do

Eby-Brown offers five tips to consider when vendors call

NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- New products keep a store from getting stale. They give a retailer a point of differentiation and give consumers a reason to return to a store again and again. But with the small footprints convenience retailers typically work within, it is a challenge to know which new products are worth the shelf space.

Thus, retailers my want to consider the criteria a successful distributor use when considering whether to add a new product to its lineup. Executives from Naperville, Ill.-based Eby-Brown Co. discussed just that, among other things, [image-nocss] during a recent CSPNetwork cyberconference titled How to Sell Me: Eby-Brown.

Toorder an on-demand rebroadcast of this cyberconference, click here.

We have the ability to secure new items and put them out across multiple distribution points very, very quickly and efficiently, said John Scardina, vice president of merchandising for Eby-Brown, which serves 12,000 retail locations from eight distribution centers.

Scardina outlined the process the company uses when considering which new products to add, noting five key attributes:

Items and vendors need to be relative to the c-store channel. We're a unique channel in that a lot of what we do. It's immediate-consumable stuff. It's stuff that has to fit an on-the-go, in-a-hurry lifestyle, Scardina said. People don't usually walk into a convenience store and look to buy detergent for clothes. They're not looking to buy 50-lb. bags of dog food or produce. Those things exist in convenience retail, but really the meat of what we do are items that are foodservice oriented and meet someone's busy lifestyle. Does the product fit convenience store consumers' needs? [We're looking for] immediate consumables like candy, beverages and cigarettes, Scardina said. If the item that you're bringing to the table fits that arena and that retail environment, that's a critical piece. Does the vendor have representative coverage in all the states we serve? It's great that someone can walk into our Naperville office and present a new item to us, but what we want to know also is: What type of other support mechanisms do you have out in the states that we serve? said Scardina. Are you represented by a broker? Do you have a direct-sales force? How deep are they into this channel representing your item to the retail partners that we have there? Also, how close can they work with our direct-sales forces that work out of those distribution centers? Does the vendor offer merchandising options that fit our needs? Referring to the retail environment of c-stores, Scardina said he asks the vendors a variety of questions, such as: When you put the display in place with some promotional activity, is it a small footprint? Does it fit conveniently on a counter or on the floor or on a coffee bar? Is it something that's not going to take up a lot of space and yet merchandises your product adequately? He also quizzes the vendor about package size. We're not looking for items that are 288-count or 486-count. We're looking for 12-, 24- or 36-count, items that we can put at retail that can turn rather quickly so we can keep the product at retail fresh and the turn moving in the right direction. Scardina also asks about additional support mechanisms. What type of permanent display vehicles do you have? Do you support your items with permanent wire fixtures? Are you willing or do you have the tools that we could bring to retail that we could put a whole category on, not just your items? Are you willing to support our efforts with racks that we can assign to a category, divide up evenly, put other vendors on and put those at retail? Are the proposed products innovative items that offer a differentiation? We're not looking for me-too items. While me-too items are great to review because there are some profit opportunities for the retailers, really we're looking for items that can bring incremental growth to a category, Scardina said. Is it new? Is it different? Is it exciting? What can we go out and tell the retail partners about your item that's going to get them excited, that's going to make them want to put that product on their retail space?

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