Partners for Growth ‘proven to work time & time again’

Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth controller at Unilever, highlights the benefits of the category management programme for wholesalers and their customers.

Nick Widdowson: ‘We provide advice to wholesalers on the segmentation of categories and how the fixture should be laid out to ensure ease of shop for customers.’

How has the trade benefited from Partners for Growth category management advice?

Partners for Growth has been supporting convenience retailers for more than 10 years. The free advice – available 24/7 on our website – was developed to address the estimated £1.2 billion a year that the convenience channel misses out on when shoppers cannot find what they want in store (him!). Partners for Growth recommendations are gathered using independent national sales data, providing retailers with unbiased information that, in independent tests, has been proven to grow overall category sales and not just individual brands.

Is the advice applicable to wholesalers as well?

The primary audience for the programme has been, and always will be, retailers. However, wholesalers have a key role in facilitating this by ensuring that their customers can find those best-selling products their shoppers want when placing an order or visiting a depot. Unilever, through its Partners for Growth programme, continues to provide wholesalers with core range category management advice that their customers are seeing and embracing.

Which categories does Partners for Growth cover?

Tea, butters & spreads, household cleaning, personal care, laundry, ice cream, pot snacks, table sauces and cooking sauces.

How closely does Unilever work with buying groups and delivered wholesalers/cash & carries?

We work with head office buyers to share category insights and range recommendations. We have used depot days and field salesforce visits, as well as the wholesale trade press, to convey best-practice ranging and merchandising advice to depot managers and customers. With the increased use of smart technology, we find that many retailers prefer to access our mobile-friendly website on their phones at the cash & carry. Whilst differences in depot racking and shelving make it difficult to develop planograms specifically for depots, we provide advice to wholesalers on the segmentation of categories and how the fixture should be laid out to ensure ease of shop for customers.

Which wholesalers lead by example as regards category management?

Quite simply, those who lead by example are the businesses that provide their customers with what they need, and in the household and laundry categories this means the best-selling brands. It also means being aware that retailers are increasingly embracing the principle that stocking fast turnover lines generally reaps bigger rewards than slower moving lines on deal, which often gather dust on a retailer’s shelf.

How many retailers use the programme?

From our website stats, we are seeing a steady growth in visits, as well as the thousands of downloads that take place each month, which suggests more and more retailers are using the advice. We can also see from the reports that the most-visited advice is for laundry, followed by personal care and ice cream.

How flexible is the advice?

Partners for Growth advice is not designed to be prescriptive. We leave space for ‘local choice’, which retailers can use for products that better fit their customer base, such as a value or own-label offering, or locally-sourced products. We are in the process of rolling out the advice by a store’s customer affluence, where retailers input their postcode to receive advice on how they should tailor the planogram to their location.

What advice would you give to wholesalers to help them meet their customers’ needs?

Our advice would be to ensure that they fully understand why their customers visit their depot and what they want from it when they are there. This can be done simply by talking to customers or asking them to carry out a brief survey. The partnership between retailers, wholesalers and Unilever Partners for Growth has been proven to work time and time again.

Tel: Unilever Partners for Growth (0800) 731 1597

Published Date: May 13, 2016
Category: Meet the Manufacturer