Single Store Owner

DEC 2016

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DECEMBER 2016 / / 17 shopper and what the retailer is trying to accom- plish," she pointed out. The way c-store industry supplier Beth Noteman, senior director of category management for health and beauty care company Lil' Drug Store Products Inc., sees it, the very traits that delayed some c-stores from diving into category management initially are now some of what offers its best potential for the future. And this applies to single-store operators. "The wild elements about c-stores, the fact that they are so varied in store size and store purpose, these are what offer it so many caveats and pos- sibilities in the [category management] practice," Noteman said. "More and more c-store retailers are looking to maximize their business day in and day out, without basing it on contracts. I believe it's go- ing the right way. "This isn't rocket science. But if you're going to do it, you might as well use the evolving science and the tools, instead of your gut and past history." SSO cated programs of a wholesaler, they should chal- lenge themselves to become more familiar with category management strategy, according to Sue Nicholls, president of the Category Management Knowledge Group (CMKG), based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The first and most important step that single- store owners can take is "to educate themselves on how to improve their approach for more strategic, fact-based decision-making for their store to better satisfy the shopper," advised Nicholls. Questions every operator should be able to an- swer (with or without supply partners) are: • How do I make the best assortment decisions? What are the best products to carry? • How do I shelve the products to match how the (target) shopper shops the category (vs. basing positioning on gross margin, or where it best fits)? • How do I price products, beyond calculating my gross margin percentage and applying that requirement across categories, to consider the (target) shopper? • In net, how do I make better category decisions tomorrow than I do today to maximize profit and sales for my store through increased shop- per satisfaction? Many of the foundations of category manage- ment apply to independents, Nicholls noted. "As a single-store owner, you need to develop strategies for your store and categories, including articulating your overall retail strategies — what are you trying to accomplish; define the categories and their segments (using NACS as a basis); assign category roles to identify the most/least important categories for the shopper and correspondingly determine the right assortment, shelf space, pric- ing and promotions for them," she advised. "You should also be using data to help you make the best decisions for your stores vs. relying on intuition and experience only." Future Collaboration Partnerships between retailers and vendors are continually evolving. Vendors that sell to the con- venience channel need to ground themselves in the foundations of category management and realize the significant differences not only vs. the other channels they may sell in, but across store types and formats within the channel, Nicholls said. This includes the independent format. "There are some common practices evidenced in the convenience channel that have too much focus on contracts, negotiations and 'the way it's always been done,' and not enough focus on the Category Management Don'ts These are the biggest blunders independent operators make in the practice of category management, according to industry observers: • Don't rely solely on experience and "gut feel" to make decisions for your store. • Don't let your business run on contracts and the few dollars those contracts yield. • Don't lag behind in technology compared to your area's competition. • Don't ignore special requests by your best customers. • Don't stop configuring and reconfiguring. The continual movement of merchandise often depends on the continual movement of strategy.

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