BBC has a new "business" program: Britain's Next Big Thing - launched last week. MR RETAIL himself, Theo Paphitis follows a group of small businesses, some working from their own kitchen or workshop, when they try to have their products accepted on the shelves of 3 big retailers: Liberty, Boots and Habitat
This week's episode showed 10 hopefuls venturing in to Boots HQ. The one that amazed me most, just by one single revelation, was Tracy Wood, producing eczema ointment in her own kitchen in New Haven.
(Her story could have been my mum's story. Not that my mum created a natural product to ease eczema and walked into a big retailers HQ, more her story about also having a very young baby - me - with atopic eczema and the natural remedies she tried to ease this skin problem with. Sea salt and soft soap (groene zeep) for years and years. Boy, these remedies didn't half sting! But they did ease the eczema: sea salt - swimming in the North sea every single day during the summer holidays - and soft soap, rubbed - really rubbed! - in my skin during the winter months.)
During a quick take showing Theo and Tracy she revealed she was already selling the product, due to existing clients recommending her product to others.
"I've must have sold around 70.000+ jars from my own kitchen already."
Holy-smoke, that's a big buzz - even Theo was impressed.
I understand the image of having your own product on the shelves of one of Britain's biggest health and beauty care retailers gives - and at this point in the series it is still not known if Tracy will succeed in this - but 70.000+ sold already without any noticeable branding is IMHO quite an achievement.
(Looking at Tracy's website, which loads terrible slow and is kind of off-kilter I don't think this site generates many new contacts - Quirk SearchStatus only shows back links from her own domain and a single one from 123people, Google doesn't list a single link coming in. Her Facebook page has 2 posts and 30 members and I guess she just started on Twitter, first tweet of the 26 in total was 16.03.11, so hardly any Social Media presence at the moment).
Quantity in products or quality in profit?
So even without a decent web presence her natural products have created such a buzz among her clients, she's managed to sell 70.000+ single items.
Of course, this on its own does not make a new product Britain's' Next Big Thing - having 100 units of your product in every Boots shop would mean you have to at least produce 200.000 units. And of course there's economics in producing big quantities but how about the quality in profit on those same 200.000 units? My - and I think anyone's - guess is that Boots would take the biggest profit from it.
Tracy is only one of the many persons working from a small unit - kitchen, workshop, bedroom - nowadays. And not many will make it "on to the shelves" of Britain's biggest retailers. But in these days of the long tail, easy internet access and free software programs to help you market and sell your products online I'm wondering why many would still opt for increased quantities versus reduced profits in absurd large numbers of units?
Last night's broadcast gave me an extra incentive to create this new guide I have had in mind for the last few weeks "Selling Online Basics" with a bit more haste ;-)
There's a lot of people out there with great products that could do with a simple but effective step by step guide showing them how to keep the full profit in their own pocket.