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Sobeys Deploys Customer-Based Planning

NEW YORK — Sobeys, which operates more than 1,300 stores across Canada, has transformed from a company based on “category-led planning” to one led by “customer-led planning,” according to Clinton Keay, its senior vice president and chief information officer.

“The customer [has gone from] being an afterthought to being right up front,” Keay said this month at the National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention & Expo. The changeover, he noted, has been “very complex” with a number of touchpoints, including cooperation among various departments, said Keay. “Our marketing and merchandising teams, and our category managers and store operations needed to come together so they were acting as one to the consumer.” For the marketing team to be “on the same page” as the merchandising and category management departments, marketers received tutoring in analytics from financial analysts, he said.

Marketing and merchandising come up with “holistic solutions” that are applied to customers. The solutions are measured to determine what did and did not work and to get feedback from customers.

Consumer-based planning also included consolidation of data. When he joined Sobeys a decade ago, the company had 2,500 databases “spread across the country” to go along with 65 POS systems. The integration of multiple databases allows the company to provide data to merchandisers and other users “in time to make decisions and serve customers better,” Keay said. “We can become real-time in reaction to customers.”

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