Managing Retail Category Managers
There’s been plenty of talk about penetrating the distribution channel at retail more effectively and efficiently. Yet time-pressed magazine category managers at, say, CVS or Barnes & Noble, are experiencing their own pressures as they fight for territory within their own stores. Here are a few tips that came out of a panel at MPA’s 2006 Retail Conference for making progress at retail:
Understand the Business
Preparation is key, said Stephen Burbridge, senior vice president of sales and logistics, West, for Time Warner Retail Sales and Marketing. Burbridge should know; he used to be a category manager for CVS. "People would come in with a pallet promotion for a 7,500 square-foot store. We didn’t even have pallet jacks," he said.
Recognize that retailers are squeezed for time too and you’re competing not only with other magazines for their attention but every other brand fighting for space on their crowded shelves. "Buyers have at least 10 meetings a day," says Robin Gelly, Lowe’s national account manager, for St. Louis-based magazine distributor HDA Inc. "If the seller is not prepared you won’t get the buyer’s confidence and you won’t get in the door again."
Have Specific Partnerships to Pitch
Different retailers have different philosophies when it comes to magazines in their product lineup. "I had no idea how unique Barnes & Noble is as a magazine retailer," said Jaime Carey, vice president, newsstand, Barnes & Noble. "They run the magazine category as a standalone business." Carey added that publishers who understand the retailer’s vision of customer relationships will have greater success. "Present innovative marketing relationships. There’s no inherent bias against magazine products. Publishers are the ones who can say what we can do."
Gelly noted that magazines tend to be "project starters." Customers will buy a magazine in Lowe’s and then come back six months later to buy product. Savvy cross-promotion suggestions can raise the appeal of a magazine in the eyes of the retailer. Lowe’s, for example, places grilling and cooking titles in the grilling department over the Fourth of July weekend. "Merchandising is key," said Gelly.
Competing with Other Categories
"Magazine category managers are fighting for space in the store with other category managers," said Time Warner’s Burbridge, who added that, unlike other product categories, "magazines lack transparency in financials. How many folks above the category manager know how well magazines perform? They need to understand from a scorecard standpoint the P&L of the magazine category so we’re not at the back-end of the store."