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Why is category management more important than ever?


COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the world. Businesses are closed. Countries are in lockdown. Lives have been disrupted. These aren’t the only consequences though. We also all feel a deep sense of empathy for those who have been impacted by this unprecedented occurrence.

For retailers, Coronavirus has changed how their customers think and therefore shop. In response to these shifts in consumer demand, retailers must prioritise efficient adaptation to changes to their assortments and ensure their relationships with key suppliers remain top of mind to get through this together.

Category management has a critical role to play because responding to changes in consumer demand is at the core of the discipline and translating opportunities in to key shopper measures creates win win for retailer and manufacturer and ultimately delivers against consumer’s needs.

Why have consumers needs changed so much?

Covid has re prioritised our needs and wants from a consumer perspective. You’re buying items that you might not have thought of buying before. If you were already buying these items, you’re now buying more of them than you’d usually buy. Particularly basic goods, immune health, hygiene, virus containment and safety products get priority while luxury products become unimportant.

The change can be compared to the fluctuations we usually see in seasonal events like Christmas or Easter however the challenge here is that although we could apply similar principles this time it’s a new and unpredictable change with which we don’t all know the long-term outcomes.

Hygiene categories saw a major spike, but we also know staple categories went out of stock and in a lot of cases retailers had to rationalise products or limit SKU offerings to try and stay in stock.

We also saw a dramatic increase in shift to online as even older age groups took the plunge and opened new accounts and shifted from traditional instore shopping. That said instore shopping is not going away. Even through ecommerce delivers the growth around 75% of sales still happen in Bricks and Mortar. And we know Amazon is entering the in-store retailing market and finding new ways to innovate to enhance the shopping experience and make shoppers feel safe in being there. Also, COVID-19 won’t last forever because vaccine development is already well underway. People will, at some stage, return to normal everyday life

Use your levers…

So, what are the 3 category levers you need to activate to play win in these difficult times

  • Collaboration – it is critical that retailers and suppliers can work together to deliver a joint category plan based around the new opportunities that exist. More than ever talking the language of retailer and anchoring all your opportunities in shopper metrics with make them more focussed and ultimately deliver more.
  • Evolution– Are you set up for success online? In a time of rapid change what will the future look like and how do you prepare to take advantage of future opportunities? From a supplier perspective what is your clearly defined channel strategy and opportunities? How as the shopper journey has evolved are you delivering to customer expectations?
  • Innovation – How do both retailers and suppliers innovate to succeed and grow? Understanding more than ever that brand growth without category growth won’t deliver your joint ambitions or reflect new consumer needs as they evolve.
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Want to know more?

If you want to know more about how to build your category, sign up to one of our Category Management programmes  Or contact us at