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'Managing' bakeware at retail.

Did you know that pizza pans sell better in the Chicago area than on a national basis? If you're a leading bakeware supplier managing mass and super- market retailers' bakeware departments, it's your business to know.

Using sales data and market research to determine the optimum assortment for a retailer is just a key element to successfully managing the bakeware category for retail accounts. Category management is not a new concept for the super- market trade, but it is relatively new to the bakeware category. Mass mer- chants have also begun to embrace the concept more in the last few years.

"[Category management] was more of a buzzword a couple of years ago," said Ronni Emrich, director of marketing, bakeware, for Ekco. "Since then it has truly taken on some meaning. Retailers are really grabbing hold of this con- cept and putting into practice, particularly the larger stores."

Vendors say that category management has become more critical as retailers rely more heavily on suppliers to help build a department's profitability.

The main objectives for vendor category managers are to increase the gross margin return on investment and to ensure that the merchant is getting at least the same market share in bakeware as it is overall for its stores against its competition.

The key is "you have to make sure you create a section that makes you a bakeware destination in the minds of consumers," Emrich explained.

The proper assortment and the right pricing play large roles in retail sales and profits.

Developing an appropriate mix comes from using fact-based decision making. By analyzing scanner data, market research and customer information, vendors are able to identify with more confidence the proper mix for retailers in terms of type of pan, coated versus uncoated and price level. In addition the vendor can use the information to help retailers better take advantage of seasonal surges in sales for certain types of products.

"People are looking for more factual than hunch-type information," Emrich of Ekco said.

The level of information available continues to get more sophisticated with computer systems advances and the Internet, she added. Ekco uses a combination of A.C. Neilsen information, scan data and other industry trend sources to develop specific programs for key accounts.

In some cases, suppliers will come up with several different planograms for one merchant, depending on how far their geographic reach is and the number of different-size stores they have.

"We're providing a compass to our buyers," said Rich Thompson, product manager at Mirro. "That's part of the whole service area" of category management. Mirro conducts market research, national use and attitude studies to figure out who the bakeware consumer is and what matters to her when buying bakeware.

Bradshaw uses a proprietary software, called Info-Max, to analyze retailers' scan data to identify areas that need improvement and areas that did well and should be increased, said Jeff Megorden, bakeware brand manager at Bradshaw.

Merchandising and packaging also play an integral role in helping build sales and profits in bakeware, according to manufacturers. Display systems that both conserve space and encourage impulse sales are a focus for vendor managers. Vendors also are looking to do more creative promotions to help drive sales year-round.
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Author:Hill, Dawn
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jul 7, 1997
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