Each retailer is using his own buying systems which often is hard to understand for new suppliers. It is our experience that many modern retailers are quite open and if you call them you will often be told in short instructions how to present yourself and your products to the retailer and who to address. Bear in mind, of course, that retailers are under constant attack of many manufacturers and not easily motivated to seek new suppliers. From a strategic perspective they often want to reduce, rather than increase the number of suppliers. On the other hand, they do not want to miss the opportunity to buy products that can increase their performance or image. Approaching retailers via sending Email to the general Email address is a total waste of time. Even if you do have the buyer's Email address and the buyer does not yet know you, the mail will be filtered out before it reaches his desk. Try and prevent that your company's Emails will land on the retailers spamlist. It will block you completely.
It is important to identify the role that your product can play in retailers' assortments: is it because it is unique, low cost, fast supply due to high manufacturing flexibility or whatever other particular reason. Use that specific argument immediately in your first contact and try to get a short appointment or clear request for samples. Only send samples when you know the name of the person who will do the first screening, deliver personally or use a logistic tracking code and send that as well to the contact person at the retailer. Call or mail within two days after they have received it. Check that products are received properly, ask for a first impression and when follow-up contact can best be made.
The decision to accept a new supplier is generally made by other people than the day to day buyers who in return have to accept the assortment guidelines of the category or sector management. This seems to be a blackbox at most retailers and can be different for every product category. Increaslingly retailers seem to understand how effective it can be to give suppliers clear guidance in the process and also to cut off the process immediately if unviable. They are using a supplier qualification system that can even begin as an invitation for suppliers at the website of the retailer.
One of the best exmples is found at Walmart, as they have outlined their standards for suppliers.
We are sure there are many more and we keep looking for these "supplier guidelines". Do not hesitate to send us a mail when you found a good one.