Assistant category managers can be more accessible - SKUFood
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Assistant category managers can be more accessible

We have received some great feedback from people the last few weeks as we define some roles at retailers. We appreciate people taking the time to let us know they find the information helpful. This week we will continue with another role that can have a big impact on supplier’s relationship with retailers.

Assistant category managers support category managers to deliver sales, margin, over and above dollars and meet other category targets. Retailers have different titles for this role such as associate merchants or pricing coordinator. They spend a lot of time in the retailer’s system to ensure pricing is correct, items are planned properly for ads and data integrity for new listings.

Assistant category managers spend more time at their desk as they are dragged into fewer meetings. They can be easier to reach for suppliers. Once you develop a relationship with an assistant category manager you will find it can be a great resource to resolve some of the smaller issues. You cannot negotiate with them but you can get information about ads or over and above merchandising plans.

Assistant category managers do the work

Suppliers do have to negotiate with category managers for listings, pricing and promo plans. Once these negotiations are complete, suppliers should begin to work with other people in the retailer’s structure. Assistant category managers should be one of the first people you want to meet and work with. Often, category managers will bring them into a meeting with a supplier. This is an indication from your customer you can communicate directly with these people.

Once you meet an assistant category manager, the door is open. After the meeting, find a reason to follow up with them. Begin to develop a relationship and learn about them as a person.

The role of an assistant category manager

The primary role of an assistant category manager is to:

1) Deliver data integrity with their items

2) Plan items for promotions so inventory is purchased and flows to stores when needed

3) Price items to deliver the category margin

4) Coordinate with people doing plan o grams. They do not usually complete the plan o gram but they can influence it

5) Run sales reports and pull other information from the retailer’s system

Often, assistant category managers are very competent in the retailer’s system. They know what is happening at the item level which can be very important for suppliers. If you have a good relationship, you can get a good understanding of how you are doing.

Some questions you can ask assistant category managers

We know retailers are guarded about information they will share with suppliers. They see it as ‘proprietary’ and worth something. Unfortunately, this information would be valuable to suppliers. Some retailers, like Walmart do make this more accessible. Depending on your customer, you need to get some of this information. Here are some questions you can ask that will not be perceived as asking for sales.

Did we perform above your projection for the ad/off shelf display?

This question will give you the information you need to assess what happened. You know what you shipped but you do not know what went through the front end. Honestly your item performance, relative to the projection, is more important information than the actual sales number.

Are we performing above or below category sales growth?

Sales are the #1 priority for retailers. They need sales to survive. Category managers and assistant category managers spend a lot of time talking about category growth. Many retailers measure their performance relative to the growth. If your item is at or above this number, you will be part of the solution. If you are below, you are a problem. Regardless of the actual number, you need to know how you are doing compared to the other items.

I see you made a change to our retail, are we now at the category margin?

Retailers own retail pricing. You cannot tell them how to price your items. You do need to know the margin they are trying to achieve. You know your cost and the retail, so you can figure out the margin. If they tell you the new retail puts you at the category margin you know the target.

Last year you ran an ad/theme/promotion in week 17, do you see that happening again this year?

Retailers can be guarded with their plans. By having a good idea what happened last year and being proactive (at least 12 weeks out) you can get a sense as to whether there will be an opportunity for you. Your chances of getting the spot are more likely if you are prepared and ready for the conversation.

Get to know your assistant category managers

Build rapport with these people. Ask questions they can answer as opposed to putting them in a position where they have to say ‘I can’t do that’. Think about what you really need to know as opposed to the easy question they are not supposed to answer.

Assistant category managers change, it is a reality. Don’t complain, think of the new one as a new opportunity. The good ones are promoted and you never know when they might be the next category manager. When they change go back to the beginning and do not assume the previous one shared too much about your specific items.

If you have any questions or require help working with assistant category managers, you can always send me an email or call me at (902) 489-2900.


Online trends can impact your items

Believe it or not there is a trend on Tik Tok with a recipe to cook chicken breast in Nyquil. Obviously a very bad idea and one that can be harmful to a person’s health. Unfortunately, people can be swayed by these trends and malicious people spread them. There are a lot of benefits to social media but there are many drawbacks.

People believe what they see online, which can be dangerous. If you see your products portrayed in a bad or dangerous light do your best to share the truth.

Lady Gaga Oreos

You know we like to watch the relentless item development of Oreos. They continue to develop and deliver new SKUS. Somehow, we missed this Lady Gaga edition in 2021. Looks like they were only available in store in the U.S.

Interesting colours that were influenced by Lady Gaga. The item was launched to coincide with her album Chromatica.

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FCC Peer groups in fall of 2022

It has been a real privilege to work with FCC in 2021/22 to launch the pilot program for their food and beverage industry peer groups. We had some incredible discussions with processors about our industry and they really did learn some very valuable insights from each other. We discussed so many topics from customers to ecommerce to distributors to co-packers and so much more.

We are excited to let you know FCC plan to continue with the program and if you are interested this could be a great program for you in the fall of 2022. Check out the details and if you have any questions just let me know!