Better With Age

There's nothing new under the sun that doesn't scare retailers.

Who wants to be the first retailer to buy a new product from an inventor--the first to have the next Pokémon or Beanie Baby on his or her shelves? Most inventors will tell you the answer: nobody.

Not surprisingly, retailers are reluctant to buy from new companies. For starters, they don't like to take on small, one-product businesses because of the work involved in setting up and maintaining new vendors. But the main reason is that retailers don't want to get stuck with left-over inventory. Though retailers typically send products back to their suppliers when they don't sell them, they worry about not receiving rebates from smaller inventors.

It's a Catch-22 inventors often find themselves in: Once they've showed a few years' stability, retailers will open their doors--but inventors need retailers to let them in so they can build that credibility. How do you get around the problem? By clawing out a small initial sales base and hanging tough until the big retailers are ready to buy.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant who has introduced new products for more than 20 years. He is the author of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley & Sons). Questions may be sent to him at

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Better With Age.

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