If you’ve never been in the world of retail before, Category Manager is probably a job title that you didn’t know existed. Despite being an integral part of the success of any service or product, it still remains a niche role that’s separate from many other industries. So, what exactly is Category Manager?
In offline retail, the Category Manager is in charge of everything the consumer sees when they’re in-store browsing their chosen category. A role that has a large spectrum of duties across one very specific function, they can cover everything from creating the initial shelf planogram to display optimisation to pricing and promotions.
Ultimately, the Category Manager’s main objective is to achieve perfect store execution, increase sales and drive sustainable growth.
What does a Category Manager do?
The Category Manager is a person who wears many hats. They’re responsible for their brand’s success in their chosen category, so are there to make critical decisions from the very start to the very end – if there is one – of the deployment process.
Duties and responsibilities can include:
- Analysing data or insights to determine industry and consumer trends regarding the product and category:
The category manager needs to live and breathe their category, becoming the defacto expert on how it can be best used. This means that they need to spend a lot of time looking through data and understanding how consumers react to different scenarios that they may be considering. As shopping behaviours are ever-changing, this is an ongoing task, and any the long-term development strategy they develop will heavily rely on these insights.
- Creating and developing a strategic long term plan for the development of the category
- Developing an exit strategy for unsuccessful products:
Not everything goes according the plan, and sometimes a product just isn’t the right fit for a category. Of course, this will be reflected in poor sales numbers and public reception, but the category manager needs to know how and when to seamlessly pull out of the category without causing fallout for their brand.
- Overseeing a team of analysts and other support staff
- Building and driving relationships with key vendors to improve pricing and quality of services
- Becoming a leader in category ranging, pricing and promotions across channels
- Placing appropriate orders to ensure product availability meets demand
- Leading category management projects to optimise ranges and related merchandising
- Collaborating with buyers and merchandisers to expand product categories
- Creating forecasts for product demand to ensure sustainability of inventory
- Managing budget development and revenue for the category
- Developing strong working relationships with buying, marketing and merchandising teams
What challenges does a Category Manager face?
With a role that covers almost every aspect of retail execution, category managers don’t have it easy:
- Finding the time: categories managers don’t always have to time to give all their tasks the attention they deserve – mainly data and insight research
- Distribution: showing prospective retailers how their product differs from the competition, how it will drive sales exactly why they need it in their store
- Bringing unique data to the table: retailers are getting better and better at sourcing their own consumer insights and data, which means to have an edge on the competition, category managers need to bring something they’ve never seen before
- Seeing the bigger picture: retailers want to meet as many shopper missions as possible, so category managers need to pay attention to cross-category opportunities
- Clarity and consistency: in an omnichannel world, category managers need to provide a seamless, positive customer experience across all platforms, as well as have a consistent data stream for their team