CHICAGO -- The shift in staff orientation is one of the most important aspects of category management.
"Retailers need to transform their produce buyer or produce merchandiser into category managers," said Steve Ahlberg, vice president of member services for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.
"That's not an easy process," said Ahlberg, speaking at the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute's annual convention here last month. One PMA retail member lost 40% of its employee base because those employees could not make the transition to category managers, he said. Bruce Knobeloch, director of produce for Schnuck Markets in St. Louis, said defining the structure of the produce category management team is one of the first steps. Knobeloch, another speaker at FMI, chaired PMA's Category Management Task Force.
A retailer's first step is to determine its own needs, he said, "from several standpoints -- systems, distribution and skills set. Then, put your team together accordingly."
The job descriptions and outline of skills are crucial. "Can the current team you have in place move right into a category management system? Some can, some can't," he said.
Preliminary and ongoing training is the third key, Knobeloch said. "There's a lot of understanding that has to be put in place, both for the category manager and for everyone associated with the team." In Knobeloch's view a produce category manager must: manage category variety, quality and pricing strategies; develop and implement promotional plans; develop and maintain partnerships in support of category plans; identify opportunities to enhance sales and profit, reduce costs and improve productivity, and develop and implement strategic category plans.