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How Do You Know if You’re Ready for Mass Retail?

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Part 5 of the Stuffies Story: Filling a Pocket in the Plush Toy Market

If you’re in the stages of developing a product or you’ve already stamped off on the final prototype, chances are you’ve thought about selling in stores someday. And that makes sense. Why? Because it requires A LOT of planning. So, how do you know when/if you should consider pursuing retail partners?

This is the question our team at Marketing Architects asked as we were developing Stuffies—our own direct response product line of adorable stuffed animals with secret pockets. Here’s what we learned as we moved from selling our own products to working with specialty retailers and big box stores:

  1. Learn from your sales spikes. Nothing will test your capacity to manufacture, ship and box your product like a sales boom will. We knew toys were seasonal; what we didn’t know was just how popular Stuffies would be as Christmas gifts during 2012 after an obviously successful marketing campaign. At that point, Stuffies were not yet sold in big retailers. And we were lucky because we found that our fulfillment centers weren’t prepared for the level of production that would be needed for those sales.

    Not only did we gain insight that prompted us to upgrade our operations processes, our first big sales boom also offered us a chance to get real-time consumer feedback. We had opened a mall kiosk during the holiday season to test the waters and we came away with reliable data about consumers’ reactions to the product designs (the fantastical characters were a favorite!) and the product displays (how interactive they were, did they entice kids to play, etc.). This was all beneficial information as we began to plan our entrance into the retail world.
  1. Decide if you’re truly prepared for mass retail. This is really an extension of the message above. Do not try to enter the mega retail stores without ensuring you are ready for the responsibilities and requirements of selling on a bigger scale.

    We made a strategic decision to delay entry into mass retail with Stuffies because we needed to make sure we could meet the large inventory requirements (businesses have to warehouse inventory until retailers submit purchase orders) and manage concessions in profit and price variability. We also wanted to make investments in the Stuffies displays to combat against losing control of brand presence as a result of poorly displayed products.

    Basically, everything needs to be buttoned up by the time you go into mass: fulfillment, display, pricing, messaging, offer—everything.
  1. Figure out how to be DIFFERENT. Yes, this is one of the fundamental matters you should tackle as you’re developing your product…but it is also critical when considering product displays.

    In addition to our creative direct response marketing campaigns, we wanted to distinguish the Stuffies brand with its store display. That meant paying attention to the quality, size and seamless brand messaging. With this in mind (and consumer feedback from our retail kiosk and trade shows), we came up with a massive display that could carry our whole line of Stuffies for specialty retail stores. The display was designed to allow customers to have a hands-on experience with each character—no constricting packaging. The display was free to our retail partners and relatively easy to set up. We also developed another version for big box retailers that included a full endcap display

    By investing in displays, we were not only able to set Stuffies apart from other plush toys in the bricks and mortar shops, we experienced higher turn rates and sales for those stores that used to the display.
  1. Don’t underestimate the fact that kids are awesome marketers. This is especially important to toymakers. The turn rate in the retail stores you’re selling in can be directly influenced by how powerful your product’s presence is in the physical retail space. This goes back to ensuring that what people see on your product ads match what they see in the stores. The more obvious your retail display conveys your brand message, the better chance you have at engaging your target audiences.

    Stuffies retail displays engaged kids, educating them about the characters and their benefits. In turn, they educated their parents…over and over again.

Want to make sure your product is flying off the store shelves? Make sure you have a fantastic marketing plan in place. Marketing Architects can help you today.

Read more in our series about how Marketing Architects created one of Amazon's best-selling plush toys:

Part 1 – 3 Unexpected Realities About Developing a Product

Part 2 – Product Developers: Did You Start With "Why"?

Part 3 – 4 Manufacturing Problems All Toymakers Face (and How to Conquer Them)

Part 4 – How Do You Make People Love Your Product


Katie Scheetz

By Katie Scheetz

Chief Business Development Officer

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