Join us at The Whalies • April 10th
Get Your Ticket
Simple Modern’s Simple Strategy for Breaking into Retail Sales

Simple Modern’s Simple Strategy for Breaking into Retail Sales

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

When it comes to drinkware, you’re probably familiar with the big players like Stanley - the trendy tumbler you see absolutely everywhere these days. The virality of Stanley tumblers started in 2019, thanks to an Instagram account called The Buy Guide. In the years that followed, Terence Reilly led a new strategy at Stanley that leaned into influencer marketing, as well as following customer advice to diversify their tumbler color offerings. 

And now, those limited edition color offerings are causing sheer havoc inside of Target stores across the country

While Stanley has people getting into physical altercations over the latest color variant, Simple Modern is ever so quietly raking in over $100 million in sales per year, with just as many color variations in their drinkware that many argue is better than Stanley

When Simple Modern launched in 2015, many thought they were crazy to compete with brands like Yeti and Hydro Flask. But competition is healthy, and according to Mike Beckham at Simple Modern, you “don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you do need a different strategy than your competition.” 

In a recent Twitter thread, Mike Beckham stated that Simple Modern will sell several hundred million dollars worth of hydration products with retail partners like Target, Walmart, and Costco. And then, he unfurled a simple strategy and outline for exactly how he got to this point after having zero experience with physical retail when Simple Modern was founded eight years ago. 

We’re here to break it down for you. 

Image: MamaShops

Buyers Make or Break Your Retail Relationships

You’re not going straight to the CEO of Target to ask them for shelf space. It’d be cool if you could, but that’s not how it works. 

Mike says the most important person to build a relationship with is the buyer for your category. Buyers are assigned to a few categories in the store, and they choose what products will be offered on said shelves. 

So, here’s what you need to do:

Get yourself a meeting with the Buyer in your category

Sounds easy enough, but you can’t get a meeting with a buyer without a strategy. Buyers have gigantic buying budgets, which means they’re absolutely inundated with emails and calls from people who want to sell them something. We’re talking several hundred cold emails on the daily. 

Best way to break through? Get a broker. 

Brokers assist brands with selling to retailers. They’ve got the buying background, and most importantly - they’ve got the relationship networks. But the best brokers are picky; they won’t work with you if they’ve already got a partner in your category (which is great for the partner that’s already secured). If you find a broker that’s available, you still have to convince them your product will succeed at the scale of mass retail. 

That means you need a good story. One that’s compelling and backed with good data. But, more on that later. 

If you can’t land a broker, then you really need a good story. You can try cold outreach or participate in pitch opportunities. Companies like Walmart host an Open Call where prospective suppliers can pitch their products. 

Make the meeting with the Buyer count

Getting the meeting is a life-changing opportunity: don’t waste it by being unprepared. 

Here’s Mike’s advice for how to make the meeting work for your business:


You should know what the buyer currently has on their shelves, from brands to sizes to colors of products offered. Your pitch should answer the question: “which of these products could my product outperform?” Besides knowing which product will win over current offerings, you should also know what the average % gross margin the retailer expects in your category, and build in a proposed wholesale cost that puts the retailer either at or above that margin. Don’t forget to account for other fees like payment terms, defect & return allowances, marketing accruals, and brokerage commission. With retail margins being razor thin as it is, these kinds of costs can destroy your bottom line if they’re not planned for. 

One product in, one product out:

For you to get the shelf space, that means someone else has to lose it. You need to clearly demonstrate how your product will perform better than what’s currently on the shelf. 

When selecting products, buyers want to either:

  1. Select items that drive traffic, or
  2. Select items that maximize sales and profits

A good pitch shows them how they can get both of those things in one product (yours). 

Pitch how you can drive traffic:

  1. Brand loyalty: if you’ve already got a loyal following in your DTC sales, you can pitch that these customers will make purchases in-store 
  2. Functionality: Your product offers a special feature that’s not currently available to consumers. 
  3. Differentiation: What makes your product different than the others on the shelf? How does it solve the customer’s problem?
  4. Value: Your product is offered at a better price to the customer, therefore it would be chosen more often based on cost alone.

Support your argument with data:

  • Social followers on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook (depending on the demographic)
  • Search data on Google and Amazon
  • Actual growth numbers
  • Other successful launches in physical retail locations
  • Product reviews
  • IP/Patents
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Product demos

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to clearly show how you can help the buyer achieve their goals, which are usually some combination of 1) selling more product, 2) selling products at higher prices, and 3) selling products with lower costs. A true winner of a pitch accomplishes all three. 

Image: Walmart

How Simple Modern Pitched for Retail

Simple Modern was built by selling on Amazon, and within a few years they built the company to around $20 million in annual ecommerce revenue. Using affordable prices, style, and premium quality, Simple Modern understood their core demographic was women aged 25-45. And we know exactly what women who are between 25-45 love: Target (I fall in this demographic, so I’m both allowed to make this joke and verify its accuracy). 

Trying to reach Target via cold outreach didn’t work, so Simple Modern moved on to a brokerage partnership with Bluebird Group, who got them the meeting. 

So, how did they win Target over? 

At the time that Simple Modern pitched Target, retailers were looking to compete more effectively with Amazon/ecommerce-at-large. So it came down to a simple statement: 

“Your customer is already buying Simple Modern. But today, they buy it at Amazon instead of Target.”

Talk about FOMO. 

If a retailer is already worried about Amazon taking the lion’s share of sales, they don’t want to hear that they’re losing potential customers. They want to carve their own slice out of Amazon, and rightfully so. 

The concept is simple and true if you want to sell online or at a retailer. Ultimately, nobody cares about you or your product. They care about making money. Your pitch needs to get the buyer what they want, whether that’s money, a promotion within the company, or a move to another position. You need to appeal directly to what that buyer wants, and in this case, they wanted a proven winner in the drinkware space.

Simple Modern also said they believed the hydration category would eventually be like shoes: a functional item that also serves a fashion purpose (boy, were they ever right). The product offerings were already built around style, they had a system for launching and testing new product ideas, and they knew they could bring Target the proven winners. 

The combination of a compelling pitch and excellent timing landed Simple Modern on Target’s shelves. They then took these learnings to pitch to other retailers, and it became the foundation for all of their future success in physical retail. But they learned that getting into mass retail is just the beginning. At the end of the day, you’ve still got to perform. With over $100 million in annual revenue, Simple Modern is certainly doing just that. 

© Triple Whale Inc.
266 N 5th Street, Columbus OH 43209