What's Your Problem?

What's Your Problem? Is Retail Right for Me?

Welcome to Highway1's new hardware advice column, What's Your Problem?, where we take questions from our startups and pose them to our amazing community of staff, mentors, partners, and suppliers.

Today’s question is about retail strategy. For our answer, we asked Highway1 advisor, investor, and mentor Madeline Duva to answer Aiming for Target’s question below.


Dear Madeline, do you see any downside in going after big-box retailers with my product right away? I'm itching to see it on shelves.

Madeline’s Response to Aiming for Target:
I’d advise extreme caution when thinking about going out to retail right away — in other words, don’t do it.

A typical Target store has between 40-80,000 SKUs (stockkeeping units, industry jargon for distinct sizes and version of products sold), so getting in the store does nothing for you if you don’t already have demand or a clear plan to create it. In short, your product won’t sell.

Take Target, for example: they have 1800+ stores. Filling that channel is an expensive venture, and if it doesn’t go well, you’ll be responsible for buying back the inventory.

“With a hardware product, you must do real alpha and beta testing with your target customers before going to retail. ”

Madeline Duva, Mentor - Highway1

I see too many startups compressing or skipping these steps, in effect launching with a beta. That might work in software, but not in hardware, and not directly into retail.

So at a minimum, don’t launch your beta in retail! And even then, start with selling your product direct to consumers or via Amazon.

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