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The Retail Ready Lab

My name is Angela, and I am a part of our Purchasing team. We are responsible for product selection for all of our locations. One of the biggest requests we see from customers is for more local options. 

There are difficulties involved with bringing in more local products, and they are not only about space; often local vendors are very small companies that are newer to selling to retail stores and can face a lot of challenges getting into the market. It might be their packaging, prices, or telling their story. We may end up saying “not yet” to a local vendor because some of these pieces are not finessed, or because we don’t feel we can justify the space on the shelf until we can discern if the product is a good fit for our Owners. These issues have had us scratching our heads for a long time, and we realized what we needed to do was to devote time and physical and mental space to focus on small local companies. 

Enter the Retail Ready Lab—this creates the space and time in a structured way to work directly with local vendors to get their product in the door. 

What is the Retail Ready Lab (RRL)? 

The RRL is an opportunity for small local vendors to sell their products in our stores for a full month and receive beneficial feedback from customers and staff. 

How does it work? 

Potential vendors apply for the program by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will respond to that email with instructions on how to access the application. The Purchasing department looks through applications and chooses a few local vendors to feature for each month. During that month, we will work directly with the vendor in one-on-one meetings, feature their products prominently in the stores, set up live vendor demos with them so folks can meet them and try their products, feature them in the Reader, and tell their story on social media. Most importantly, we will gather feedback from customers and staff to help the vendor improve. 

If the feedback we receive is great, and sales are what we’d like to see, we’ll bring the vendor’s products into our stores. If the feedback has some actionable steps the vendor can take, we’ll give the vendor that feedback. 

What we need from you

Your feedback! Please come check out the Retail Ready Lab Station and come to the vendor demos. Give us your feedback either via the paper questionnaire that will be at RRL Station or the website version (coming soon). Think about what you would like to hear if you were an entrepreneur— remembering that these are your neighbors. Things like: “The font on your label is challenging to read” or “I’d love to buy this in a larger bottle” are helpful, whereas “Your product stinks” or “I hate hot sauce” are not as helpful. Get it? 

When does it start?

The program is launching in September for Eat Local Month! We are finalizing our vendor picks for September as of this writing­—in the next edition of the Reader we will reveal who we chose! 

What if I want to apply? 

Fantastic! Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for instructions. 

 

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