There are generally two ways to get your product into stores. One is to contact the stores' buyers yourself and set up appointments to pitch your product directly. The other is to hire a manufacturer's rep firm to market the product for you. Because manufacturer's reps already know the major chain and department store buyers in your industry, they can secure appointments easily and get your product on the shelves more quickly than you can. The other advantage is that rep firms typically work on a commission-only basis, which means that you don't have to pay them until they make a sale. The downside to working with reps is that they carry many companies' lines, not just yours, and often insist on minimum order quantities before they'll agree to take you on.
Rosalind Resnick is a New York-based freelance writer, entrepreneur, investor and author of The Vest Pocket Consultant's Secrets of Small Business Success.