Sophisticated category management
Resellers need to juggle customers’ wishes on the one hand and limiting factors on the other, which makes it essential for them to work closely with manufacturers. Category management is a collaborative process in which retailers/wholesalers and industry share their skills. In a joint planning process, the partners define merchandise groups and develop strategies to ensure that they are placed and marketed optimally. “Recognising customers’ needs and aligning the stores’ ranges accordingly is what category management is all about,” summarises Reiner Schmitz. “Following an assessment of market data and our customers’ shopping habits, I’m responsible for making sure we put the right beer products on our shelves.” “As customers’ needs are becoming more and more diverse from region to region, locally tailored product ranges are becoming increasingly important,” adds Angela Pilkmann.
This also explains why each store’s range of beer reflects customers’ regional preferences rather than the full range of available products: North Germans tend to drink lager, those in the South prefer pale ale and top-fermented wheat beer, and drinkers in the Rhineland choose ‘Kölsch’ lager or dark beer. As part of the category management process, manufacturers and resellers conduct joint analyses and assessments so that they can optimise the categories and manage them better. Who are our customers? What role do individual products play for them and how do we need to pool our offering? How important is this category for the retailer or wholesaler and the specific store, for example in terms of anticipated sales or differentiation from the competition? “We can optimally develop the categories by means of close professional partnership between the manufacturers and the retail sector,” says Angela Pilkmann, summing up the two parties’ professional collaboration.