NHMA SEES LAG IN CATEGORY MANAGEMENT

CHICAGO -- Few retailers are using category management principles -- as defined by the supermarket class of trade -- in running their housewares departments, although many acknowledge the potential benefits.This and other findings of the National Housewares Manufacturers Association's "Study of Retailer Attitudes Towards Category Management" were presented last month by A.J. Riedel, senior partner

CHICAGO -- Few retailers are using category management principles -- as defined by the supermarket class of trade -- in running their housewares departments, although many acknowledge the potential benefits.

This and other findings of the National Housewares Manufacturers Association's "Study of Retailer Attitudes Towards Category Management" were presented last month by A.J. Riedel, senior partner at the Riedel Marketing Group, Phoenix, at the NHMA International Housewares Show here.

"The grocery trade is the bellwether here," said Riedel, noting supermarkets have embraced category management in health and beauty care and food but not necessarily in general merchandise.

The Riedel Marketing Group developed the study on behalf of the Rosemont, Ill.-based NHMA, surveying vice presidents, general merchandise managers and buyers from all major classes of trade in phone interviews conducted last June and July.

The study stressed that retailers generally have a limited understanding of category management, and it offered this basic definition: "a distributor/supplier process of managing categories as strategic business units, producing enhanced business results by focusing on delivering consumer value."

"Retailers really are defining category management in a number of different -- and very narrow -- ways," said Riedel.

The study also identified barriers to category management's gaining wider acceptance, among them retailers' manpower and financial limitations, a lack of data and a lack of initiative and expertise among vendors.

One anonymous retailer quoted in the study noted that "data is not as good or as clean as you get in over-the-counter or health and beauty aids, and data is affected by so much import in the housewares area."

Riedel pointed out that HBC vendors have been category management leaders in the grocery trade, while their counterparts in the housewares industry have lagged.

According to the study, however, 61% of the retailers surveyed are committed to implementing category management on a storewide basis, and "well over half" believe category management will succeed in housewares.