The third in the series outlining the 10 ways small businesses can beat the supermarket gorillas at their own game, by aggressively executing on category management.

Read the first here, the second here.

What better time is there for small businesses  trying to make a mark with consumers and those key gatekeepers, retailers, than Christmas?

The 5 rules that normally apply to category marketig still do, but in the heat of the season, the quick and the smart can find a  bit of extra leverage.

Any time of change is a time of opportunity, and Christmas ranging is one of the biggest changes retailers go through in the manner in which they allocate their shelf space, as they seek to maximise their seasonal sales. Doesn’t matter what market retailers are in, from  fashion to  food, car accessories to handbags, pre Christmas sales are critical to the annual numbers.

Meeting customer needs, and maximising the value of the retail shelf -space  is what category management is all about.

Just think about the space supermarkets allocate to hams from the beginning of December. Where does that space come from? How do they allocate it across differing brands, sizes and types of ham? and if you are a ham producer, how can you get a slice, and if you sell some of the products that give up shelf space, to hams, how do you make up for the lack of shelf exposure?

6 simple strategies to employ to maximise sales:

    1. Know the relay schedule, and if possible be involved in the planning discussions. Most chain retailers, particularly supermarkets will  have a lead supplier who has the inside running because they have all the data, and better access to the decision makers, but that doesn’t mean you cannot participate.
    2. Understand the volumes and margins of all products in the category, and manage your recommendations to the retail buyer with his objectives in mind, maximising the absolute margins that come from the shelf space, rather than just concentrating on your margins. Retail buyers are not there to look after your margins, only theirs.
    3. Understand the sales that come from differing  shelf positions, and the impact of differing placements for differing Sku’s. Eye level is always best, but is high better than low? What about the type of shelf grouping, by size, brand, flavour, which combination is the best for you, and the retailer? Retailers will generally have a layout in place, but are often willing to experiment, from which you can  both learn.
    4. Recognise the importance of the retailers profit model, particularly for bricks and mortar: Volume X Item gross margin = gross profit.  Going one step further, dividing by the shelf space allocation gives a return on the space, and being really fancy, you can weight the value of the shelf space for a number I call RRRE. (Return on Retail Real Estate).
    5. To some degree, the discipline of the planogram that covers the other 11 months of the year will be put aside in favour of the short term outcome, knowing once the Xmas frenzy is over, they can revert to the plan, it is a great opportunity for those who can grasp it. Encourage field staff to be creative, a stack of bananas or Christmas pudding near the custard, French mustard next to the hams, dried fruit into he flour category with some cake recipes, A scarf from next door with your handbags, the potential for cross selling at Christmas is limited only by imagination.
    6. Christmas is a terrific time of the year, family, friends, social opportunities on steroids. At the same time, as the pressure comes off a bit because all the key decisions have been made, it is a great time to work on the relationships, plant the seeds that will deliver next year, and build your category management profile with your customers. After all, your competition is probably at the bar thinking the game is over. Whoops.

When you think that perhaps some external wisdom might be useful, lets have a chat.