An Entrepreneur Seeks The Holy Grail of Retail
This case examines the experience of two young entrepreneurs as they work to gain entry into the world’s most powerful retailer, Wal-Mart. The path is full of obstacles—from thousands of competitors to one skeptical buyer. Even as the entrepreneurs are granted a trial period in the store, challenges continue: the giant retailer may have the most efficient back-end operations in the world, but that doesn’t mean that product always gets to the shelf.
This case can be used to demonstrate the challenges of gaining distribution for a start-up operation. Getting a new product to market requires thinking outside the box and patiently building the market. In addition, the case demonstrates the value-add of the supplier in store operations. Most students assume that once product is delivered to Wal-Mart’s distribution center, the supplier’s job is over. Nothing could be further from the truth. Diligent investigation of store operations by supplier is critical for product sales.
The case can also be used successfully in conjunction with a reading from the Wall Street Journal about the experience of another team of entrepreneurs, Mark Fleming and Bill Hall of the Charleston Tea Company, with Wal-Mart: Kortney Stringer (2000), “U.S. Tea Grower is in Hot Water,” Wall Street Journal, September 13, B1.
Together, these two readings can produce an interesting contrast of what it takes for a small company to work successfully with the world’s largest retailer.