What Is A Shelf Potato?

By Ben Smith

The term “Couch Potato” has made it into pop culture, with its own wikipedia listing.  So when my friend Doug Garnett mentioned a concept he kept coming back to when describing dud products at retail, “Shelf Potatos”, I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I figure that anybody who is reading this retail oriented blog can start to get the picture.  Here is the concept, in Doug’s own words:

For years I’ve written about a type of retail product that my agency calls a “shelf potato“. It’s a well loved product — loved by the manufacturer, loved by the retail buyer who brought it in, and loved by the consumers who buy it. Except, the product mostly lounges on the shelf instead of rushing out the door.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Communication can bring shelf potatoes alive – especially communication with direct response television. (That’s DRTV – short-form and long form.)

There are many important examples of shelf potato success. Grills identical to the Foreman grill sat on shelves for nearly 20 years before that infomercial brought them to life. The Drill Doctor drill bit sharpener was languishing on retail shelves until our half hour made them into a superstar and a brand. The Kreg Jig sold well to cabinet shops, but came alive at retail once a half hour infomercial showed homeowners what they could do with it.

For more, read my article with tips for finding those shelf potatoes that communication can bring alive. The article was published by Home Channel News on May 5, 2010 as part of their Hardware Show Daily at the National Hardware Show.

Maybe your shelf potatoes can come to life if you put them on the right program for retail fitness.

What do Shelf Potatos have to do with Retail Leverage?  Well if you’ve had experience with Shelf Potatos, you know that they are enemies of gaining leverage at Retail.  They can stop you in your tracks, or set you back to square one, all the while sucking time and resources away from your primary mission, which is to drive growth for retailers and improve your standing at retail.

From time to time, I will syndicate content from The Shelf Potato Blog.  I think you will find it to be retail infotainment!  Let’s be realistic – if you are reading a retail blog, you think about what makes some products fail and some products succeed.  If we can save one spud from being a dud, then it was all worth it.

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