Category Reviews and How to Prepare

August 11, 2023 |

What is Category Review:

A Category Review is a strategic and analytical process that retailers undertake to evaluate and optimize the performance of a specific product category within their store. This process involves assessing various aspects of the category’s performance, such as sales, profitability, customer trends, and market dynamics, with the goal of making informed decisions to drive growth and enhance the overall shopping experience. Retailers that follow a Category Review schedule typically have a timeline where brands submit paperwork, and samples to the buying team for a review – when the review is complete the retailer will proceed with specific steps to get the new items on shelf. Depending on the retailer, a category review process can take anywhere from 2 – 8 months. It is important to be aware that while many natural and conventional retailers operate on a Category Review Schedule, some do not (another rabbit hole for another blog post!).

For Brands, Category Reviews are the big show! It is when brands can introduce themselves to the market and begin a launch – OR – For brands already on a retailer’s shelf, it is a great time to showcase innovative new items, expand shelf real estate, refresh a shelf set, and much more. It’s important to go into a category review prepared to show a brand’s performance capabilities and partnership opportunities. Here is how to prepare for a Category Review.

Data Gathering and Analysis:

  • Brands should provide accurate and comprehensive sales data for their products within the category. This includes historical sales, current performance, and any relevant trends.
  • Supply data on product availability, lead times, and any potential supply chain issues that could impact the category’s performance.
  • Analyze consumer buying patterns and preferences for your products. Identify what drives sales, who the target audience is, and any shifts in customer behavior.

Competitive Insights:

  • Provide information on how your products compare to competitors within the category. Highlight your unique selling points, advantages, and areas where your brand stands out.
  • Research and present insights on competitor products, pricing strategies, marketing initiatives, and any recent market developments.

Merchandising and Presentation:

  • Offer recommendations on how your products should be displayed and merchandised within the category. This could include suggestions for product placement, packaging, and any visual enhancements that would attract customers.
  • Provide details on any special displays, signage, or promotional materials that could enhance the visibility and appeal of your products.

Promotions and Marketing:

  • Propose promotional strategies, such as discounts, bundle deals, or limited-time offers, that could drive increased sales for your products.
  • Share marketing initiatives or campaigns that you plan to run in conjunction with the Category Review period. These could include advertising, social media promotions, or influencer collaborations.

New Product Introductions:

  • If you’re planning to launch new products or variations within the category, outline these plans and explain how they align with market trends and consumer needs.
  • Provide details on the expected launch dates, quantities, and any promotional support you plan to provide for the new products.

Sales and Inventory Management:

  • Discuss inventory management strategies, including potential challenges related to stock availability, lead times, and any steps you’re taking to ensure consistent supply. It is important to note, new brands to retail do not have the same leniency as legacy brands.

Future Outlook and Collaboration:

  • Offer insights into your brand’s long-term strategy for the category. This could include plans for product innovation, market expansion, or collaborations with the retailer to enhance the category’s overall performance.

Presentation Skills:

  • Prepare a clear and compelling presentation that communicates all the relevant information and recommendations. Use visuals, data charts, and any other supporting materials to convey your points effectively.
  • Make sure to meet any of the Retailer requirements, such as templated 1-pagers or maximum number of slides

Negotiation Readiness:

  • Be prepared for negotiations regarding pricing, promotional support, and other terms. Understand the retailer’s objectives and be ready to address any potential concerns they may have.

Relationship Building:

  • Foster a positive and collaborative relationship with the retailer’s category management team. Open communication and a willingness to work together can lead to more successful outcomes.

In essence, brands should approach a Category Review as an opportunity to showcase their products’ value and alignment with market trends, as well as to demonstrate their commitment to the retailer’s success. By thoroughly preparing and presenting a compelling case, brands can influence how their products are positioned and promoted within the retail environment, ultimately driving growth and customer engagement within the category. Lastly – it’s important to know that category reviews can happen simultaneously – i.e. retailer ‘x’ and retailer ‘y’ will be reviewing your brands category at the same time –  so the more your brand is prepared the better your outcome will be when your brand’s category wave comes up!

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