Aye, Aye Category Captain
Where would retailers be without their category captains? Depending on the person you speak with, the answers would range from the equivalent of “in deep doo-doo” to “we don’t need no stinkin’ category captains.”
Wal-Mart is among the proponents of the category management system where a manufacturer’s category captains and team leaders makes recommendations for improving performance within a designated area of the business.
The key to making the system work is consumer insights backed by unbiased analysis even if that means a manufacturer has to recommend scaling back the space for its own items or even delisting them.
Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, H.J. Heinz, Unilever, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nestle, etc. are among the usual list of suspects that retailers turn to in an effort to improve business performance.
Kimberly-Clark’s team leader for Wal-Mart, Tony Dunning, said the retailer uses the category management system to great advantage.
“Most companies have feet on the street to see what competitors are doing,” he told The Associated Press. “One of Wal-Mart’s great strengths is the way its buyers and managers interpret market intelligence of team leaders and category captains.”
Christopher Hoyt, president and founder of Hoyt & Co., said the concept of category captains and team leaders has a fundamental flaw.
“Among the approximately 1,100 suppliers to the U. S. supermarket business, we estimate maybe five to 10 are large enough and broad-based enough to make category recommendations
that might adversely affect their brands,” he said.
Discussion Questions: How well does the category captain system work in actual practice? Are the system’s requirements such that only large retailers
and manufacturers can benefit from it?