The Shelf Potato Problem

This blog is dedicated to increasing the success of new products; to preventing Shelf Potatoes (all kinds of products, all kinds of distrubtion) and to bringing new life to products already in the market.

Retail is plagued by a particular type of problem product — products I call “shelf potatoes“. These are products loved by the the manufacturer, retail buyer, and the few consumers who buy them.

Despite this the product lounges on the shelf instead of rushing out the door.

Shelf Potatoes aren’t only a problem at retail. Far too many business-to-business products suffer similar fate.

Shelf Potatoes, as well as those which avoid this fate, need to be investigated because they always result when the customers don’t perceive enough value to pay the price. This happens for four broad reasons:

  • The product doesn’t offer significant value. This problem is rife, for example, among IoT products.
  • The product offers value, but the value hasn’t been communicated. When customers don’t know why they should care about the product they won’t buy it.
  • The product lacks specific features outside the core value OR lacks features needed to generate sales. In this case, the product’s core value is good but the total package isn’t.
  • Customers can’t justify the price of the product based on the value they believe it delivers. A big iron computer exec once observed that while it’s easy to make a computer that costs $1M it’s hard to make one that’s worth $1M. A price problem may be a problem in the product, a cost problem in engineer/manufacturing, or missing communication.

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

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.

©2018 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

  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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