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RaceFit Focus: Retail Strategy

This month we are delving into Retail Strategy. We invited Helen Miller of Helen Miller Consulting, to share her insights. Helen Miller spent the best part 20 years buying beauty brands for Boots UK. Now as a management consultant she advises brands and retailers on business strategy, business models and profitability, brand development, retail assortment, distribution strategies and negotiation.

To succeed with retailers the basic premise is that it’s all about them.

It’s about understanding the Buyers agenda – working out what’s important to them

Understand that most retailers manage categories, not individual brands, and unless you are one of the categories power brands whose performance will affect the whole category, brands are rarely talked about.

If your brand spans several consumer categories, it may be split up across the store and lose brand identity.

Also understand that retailers can be more focussed on each other – responding to what their competitors are doing because their over-riding objective is to get customers through their doors.

What those customers buy when they get there is of secondary importance – and selling own label is usually better than selling a proprietary brand because the margins are higher.

Make sure that you visit a good cross section of potential retailers for your brand – and study them carefully;

  • Do they actually have a category for your brand? – if it’s a really new idea they might not have in which case the retailer doesn’t know where to merchandise you.
  • Where does your price point and market positioning fit within a category? If you are far higher or lower than the current ranges – you don’t fit.
  • What brands / product are occupying the space you want to occupy now?
  • Why would the customer want to buy your brand instead of what’s there now – because the retailer will probably have to discontinue something to fit you it.
  • Have you got a USP, (Unique Selling Point) and can you say it in one sentence? Buyers and consumers have a short attention span.

With this information decide on which retailers you want to be stocked by and prioritise them based on what you see as the potential size of the prize – their sales level, and premiumness. UK retail tends to work top down, not bottom up. If your early distribution is in discounters, that’s where you will stay. Start higher up the chain with say department stores or upmarket chains, then you can move more mass later.

Understand the retail timetable. They vary but generally the bigger they are the longer their planning lead-times, so you may have to be presenting to them in January for a Christmas season launch.

Then prepare a SHORT retail buyer presentation. The most common mistake brands make when meeting a retailer is to prepare a 50 PowerPoint slide presentation for a 1 hour meeting with the buyer – which is 45 minutes by the time the buyer arrives, and you settle into your seats. The average length of time spent on a slide is 2 minutes so with 50 of them you present the first 15 properly, the next 10 are rushed and the last 25 never get presented – which are probably the 25 that the buyer needed to hear.

When I go to a retailer, I go with 12 slides!


Our RaceFit™ Focus series is a programme of content exploring the seven key building blocks that underpin a successful brand. The Red Tree’s innovative RaceFit™ programme launched earlier this year to help brands evaluate their fitness level. Easily completed in 25 minutes via an online platform, in an industry first, feedback is instant via a detailed, bespoke report full of expert advice, precisely engineered to get a brand RACEFIT™

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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