Trading Partners Urge Collaboration on Center Store

Retailers and suppliers are betting that more collaborative relationships will recharge Center Store sales at a crucial time for the economy and consumer behavior. Separate panels of retailers and suppliers addressed this topic last week during the Food Marketing Institute's Future Connect conference here. Participants in the retailer panel expressed the hope that trading partners can put Center

DALLAS — Retailers and suppliers are betting that more collaborative relationships will recharge Center Store sales at a crucial time for the economy and consumer behavior.

Separate panels of retailers and suppliers addressed this topic last week during the Food Marketing Institute's Future Connect conference here.

Participants in the retailer panel expressed the hope that trading partners can put Center Store on a growth track that focuses on more than just promotional selling.

“Consumers are buying on sale, but not responding as much to our baseline business,” said Sharon Sever, director of grocery sales planning, Kroger Co. “So how do we work together to drive our baseline sales?”

Sever said the challenges are compounded by swings in consumer spending during different times of the month.

“Consumers are changing, and we need to figure out how to merchandise to them,” she said. “There's great business in the beginning of the month, but not at the end of the month. We need to put together plans to drive business all month.”

Angelo Cannistraci, vice president of grocery, Price Chopper Supermarkets, agreed trading partner collaboration can help retailers steer more growth into the base business.

“You and us should come to the same conclusions on what's important in a category,” he told a supplier-heavy audience. “If we can get to that point, we'll have a better relationship.”

In the supplier panel, use of data was raised as an important topic for collaboration.

“We have an enormous amount of data, but we haven't figured out how to leverage it to get differentiated solutions,” said Patty Ahlert, vice president, KUSA Category Management and Shopper Insights, Kellogg Co. “We need to build on that in partnerships.”

John Mayer, vice president, sales, grocery market, The JM Smucker Co., emphasized the importance of communicating key objectives to partners.

“It's important to be transparent about our long-term goal and category objective, and to align that with our partner's goals,” Mayer said.