Getting a listing with Harrods was my dream. A goal that I’d set myself very early on when setting up my food business. In this series of blog posts I’m going to tell you all about my journey with Harrods.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to show you, through my experience, how there are very few overnight successes when it comes to business. But how, with commitment and determination, you can achieve amazing things in your food start up journey. So, find a comfy chair, grab a cuppa & let’s get started.
Contacting the Harrods Buyer
Summer 2014. A friend of a friend of a friend knew someone who worked at Harrods. And after a bit of digging around, I was able to get the name of a food buyer. No phone number, no email address. Just a name.
I tried google and Linkedin, but didn’t get anywhere. In the end, I rang the Harrods switchboard and pretended I’d tried emailing the buyer and it had bounced back, so could I please check her email address? Amazingly, they gave me the buyers email address and phone number.
I felt really nervous about contacting the buyer myself. I was so scared I’d make a complete fool of myself and mess things up. (I’m so much better at it now). I had engaged a PR company to do some work for me, so I had a chat to my PR rep and asked her to send the email. She sent off an email introducing my brand and products and invited the buyer to come and meet me at a trade show I was doing in September.
The buyer replied the very same day thanking us for getting in touch and asking for samples. (This almost never happens). I sent in some samples and heard back within a few days from the buyer who explained that she’d loved the samples but wouldn’t be able to attend the trade show as she’s be on holiday, but would ask another member of the team to attend.
Meeting the Harrods Buyer
In September at the trade show, a Harrods buyer popped by and I introduced myself, the brand, and showed her some of my products. The buyer agreed to send me the Valentine’s/Easter biscuit design brief that they would be looking to sign off early October.
After the show, I rushed to send in Easter and Valentine’s designs by the deadline. The samples never reached them. Luckily, I had a spare set so quickly sent these in. They loved the samples and we emailed back and forth with pricing, packaging, specification type queries. I was nervous but allowed myself to get a tiny bit excited.
Then it went really quiet. No replies to my messages.
A few weeks later I got a message from the buyer, to say that they’d loved my designs but as the quantities they were looking to order were so small, they didn’t think it was worth putting me through the onerous Harrods supplier audit. But that I should submit samples for Christmas and they’d be in touch in the following January. And, by the way, she was leaving so was handing me over to her replacement.
I was devastated to have come so close and to have missed out. At the time it didn't feel like it, but in hindsight I can see that I learned some valuable lessons from this experience:
➡️ Sometimes you do the work, you jump through the hoops but it doesn’t lead to anything. It’s goes with the territory. You have to be in it to win it. It's always worth giving it a go.
➡️ In the beginning its okay to feel nervous or uncomfortable with approaching buyers. But don’t let this stop you. Maybe you can get someone else to make some calls for you. It’s always easier when you’re less emotionally attached to an outcome.
➡️ You are absolutely the best person to sell your brand. Buyers will always want to get to know the founder/creator of the business. At some point you need to get comfortable with stepping into this ‘sales’ role, otherwise you’ll never move forward.
➡️ Buyers move on. You get to know a buyer, take time to build up a rapport, get them behind your brand. And then they leave. And you have start all over again with the new buyer.
➡️ Sometimes things don’t always go to plan. Try to be prepared - have spare samples, send important deliveries with tracking, make your samples stand out. Often, its not what happens but how you deal with it (and how quickly and professionally you respond to any issues) that matters.
Luckily, my Harrods journey didn’t end there.
Would you like to hear what happened next? Click here for the next instalment.
If you're a food entrepreneur looking to gain listings with premium retailers like Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, I can help you to hone your pitch, coach you in negotiations and generally be a sounding board to help you to achieve your listing. I can give you much needed insight into the process which will save you time and money, and vastly improve your chances of becoming a supplier.
Contact me here to arrange a free 20 min call to discuss coaching packages.
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