What is a Shelf Potato?

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.

Sometimes, this is the result of problems in the product itself or a reality that it simply doesn’t offer purchasers enough value.

But that’s not always the case. Very often, communication can bring shelf potatoes alive – especially communication with direct response television. (That’s DRTV – short-form and long form.) At other times, critical changes in retail support, shelf location, or packaging can dramatically affect sales.

There are many important examples of products that started as shelf potatoes then transformed into dramatic successes. 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. So this blog is dedicated to shelf potatoes. To learning what you might do with ones you have. To deciding which ones might come alive with communication.

But perhaps most importantly, this blog is dedicated to learning the lessons that will increase your product introduction success by avoiding the errors that result in shelf potatoes.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

  1. Emanuel
    February 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Really liked what you had to say in your post, What is a Shelf Potato? The Shelf Potato, thanks for the good read!
    — Emanuel


  1. July 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm
  2. July 26, 2010 at 1:30 am
  3. July 3, 2013 at 5:41 am

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