The 5 keys to success with retail buyers — from a Walmart Supplier of the Year

Joe Botts, VP of Sales - Walmart at Moose Toys

Moose Toys may be family owned, but that doesn’t mean they’re small time. The toy company — which built its brand on innovating and reinvigorating the way children play — scored a top honor earlier this year at Walmart’s annual supply chain conference where they were named Walmart Toy Supplier of the Year

We sat down with Joe Botts, VP of Sales – Walmart at Moose Toys, to understand how his team built such a trusted, collaborative, and mutually beneficial partnership with the world’s largest retailer. And to hear his advice for other Sales and Supply Chain teams looking to do the same. 

Botts runs a four-person Walmart Sales team based in Bentonville, AR, handling every aspect of the Walmart relationship from working with the buyers; handling quotes, templates, forms, and samples; to overseeing the supply chain side of the relationship which includes replenishment, managing POS, the NOVA and AIMS systems, and working with the replenishment managers and planners.

I go and work with my leadership, with our product development teams and make sure that we're taking care of Walmart and bringing them innovation, bringing them exclusive items that they can get excited about.
-Joe Botts, VP of Sales @ Moose Toys

Alloy: How has your job changed in the last three years or so?

Joe Botts: I’m able to be much more strategic now. When I first started off in this role, I was doing all of these functions. I was a one man team and working through all templates, forms, replenishment, quotes, etc. With Walmart, you own your business from start to finish.  I’ve been able to get to a more strategic role and really be able to push the Walmart agenda internally. I go and work with my leadership, with our product development teams and make sure that we’re taking care of Walmart and bringing them innovation, bringing them exclusive items that they can get excited about.

A large part of why we won “Vendor of the Year” was that in the last two years we’ve really been able ramp our game in terms of making Walmart  special, and giving them things that they can own — marketing-related as well as product-related. And I think that’s been a big difference maker for us. 


Alloy: What’s the secret to Moose Toys’ success when it comes to your “Walmart Toys Supplier of the Year” award? 

JB: Here are the main ways we’ve built a trusted relationship with Walmart:

(1) Attention to Detail – One of the key things as a supplier you don’t want to do, is create extra work for Walmart. And filling out a form incorrectly, putting a decimal point in the wrong spot — any of those small things can add up to big issues later down the line. Because you may not catch it until it’s an actual issue in store or it’s an issue once you’ve got items created and shipped. So I think attention to detail across the board. It’s an easy one to say but a hard one to execute.

(2) Consistency – The second thing is consistency. Every single interaction you have with Walmart is important. You have to be consistent in the way you approach their business, and be consistent in the way that you run that business and the strategies that you implement. I think that’s one thing we’ve been good at. My team is very Walmart-focused. We’re always thinking of ways to give them a good customer experience. And a lot of that is work we have to do internally to ensure that we can meet what Walmart needs, timeline wise, product content wise, item descriptions, pricing, costing, you name it.

(3) Supply chain expertise – We are probably better than most at understanding their supply chain , and what’s possible within their framework. That could be transportation or logistical timing. The toy business is a creative industry, and I think I could speak for probably 90% of toy companies, when I say that you’re never on time. You’re always late or you’re always striving to try and make something a little bit better because you think that’s going to make a difference. That puts us behind with timelines, and we’re always running very tight on product timing. Luckily, we’ve been good at finding some interesting avenues to get product to stores on time and in full. 

I think a lot of that is just understanding all the things you can do within their supply chain. They look to suppliers to solve those issues for them.

(4) Be transparent and realistic – Another one would just be transparent and realistic. That’s how our team operates here locally. We’re very transparent with the buyers — as transparent as we can be — and I think we’re realistic. We know that we may bring you 30 items, and we’re not going to get all 30 items in the door count we want. So let’s help prioritize together and figure out what moves the needle for them. That’s how we interact with Walmart, and that’s the kind of communications that we have.

There’s a lot of trust there that we’ve built up over the years. And I equate a lot of that to us being consistent with how we approach them with that transparency and being realistic. They know that we’re not going to be the sales people that are like, “you have to buy every single thing in every single door.” Instead, we say: “Here’s what is really important for your business, and here are the ones that we really need to lean into. And here’s where we really see the opportunity.” 

I think that over time we’ve built up a great relationship. But you have to build it over time. It’s not something you’re going to get immediately with them.

(5) Innovation – From a company standpoint, I think one of the reasons they love Moose is innovation. That’s been a big pillar for us as a company — bringing a lot of innovation into the toy industry. We get excited when we see a product that doesn’t really fit in a specific category, because that means you’ve got something new, something different. And I think over time Walmart’s really wanted to lean in with us because of that.

For example, in the boy’s space we have Treasure X, which was a brand that we created about three years ago that was really all about the unboxing experience. You were digging through a block of sand to get to a treasure chest that could have real gold or could not have real gold in it. That’s totally different, totally innovative. Every year we have something new and the buyer is like, “This is so cool. You guys are always bringing something here that you wouldn’t expect, and it’s different.” 

We try to do that within all of the spaces where we operate. And we’re always looking for new spaces to be able to go in and innovate against as well.


To learn more about best practices for building collaborative relationships with retailers, read our ebook, Remove the Hurdles to Influencing Your Retail Buyers.

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