Category Management is an FMCG term being bandied around so much that is coming to mean nothing in particular, because it is so widely used.

In its genesis, it was an expression used to describe the manner in which retailers managed their limited shelf space and range in such a manner to maximise sales and margins while best meeting their particular customers needs.

However, it has since evolved into another tool in the retailer arsenal to extract “rent” for shelf space from manufacturers, which often has little to do with meeting customers needs. This focus has left suppliers, particularly those to FMCG retailers,  building a management and marketing infrastructure that focuses  on the demands of the retailers, often to the detriment of their consumers. The rise of housebrands is evidence of the abrogation of FMCG suppliers around the world from the task of innovating to engage consumers, and putting resources into paying retail rent.

In many countries the power of the mass retailers is daunting, but they should not absolutely dictate, after all they are essentially sales orgainsations, not marketing ones, they rely on their suppliers for the bulk of their marketing, and have little interest in developing market and consumer behavioral intelligence .

Focus first on what your consumers need, both today and as their needs evolve, and the rest will follow.