Who’s Minding the Store?: “Welcome

Who’s Minding the Store?: “Welcome to the world of “category management,” a bizarre and controversial place in which the nation’s biggest retailers ask one supplier in a category to figure out how best to stock their shelves. You’d expect HarperCollins to tell Borders which of its own books are hot, of course. But that’s not what’s going on here. Borders has essentially tapped Harper to advise it on what cookbooks to carry from all other publishers as well.
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Strange as it may sound, category management is now standard practice at nearly every U.S. supermarket, convenience store, mass merchant, and drug chain. And its use is growing because it works — at least from a dollars-and-cents standpoint. According to a recent survey by retail consultancy Cannondale Associates, retailers attribute 14 percent sales growth to category management; manufacturers report an 8 percent jump. Both say such collaboration is the key to maximum efficiency.
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Category management is retail’s Faustian bargain: Lured by the savings and convenience of getting manufacturers to mind the store, retailers have ceded not only responsibility for their shelves but also any hope of differentiating themselves.
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“The Kremlin would have found it difficult to invent a more subtle and effective way of suppressing original viewpoints and ideas,” wrote 29 scholars and activists led by Ralph Nader after hearing of the Borders plan.

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