A Brief Look at the Category Management Association

A Brief Look at the Category Management Association 150 150 Scorpion Planogram

Any industry worth its salt has an association attached to it. Category management is no different. Called the Category Management Association (CMA), they are the standard bearers of a retail concept that is nearly ubiquitous among merchandisers.  

At Scorpion, our interest in category management stems from its relevance to planograms, or visualizations of a store’s products and layout. They behave as both sides of the same coin: category management requires careful planning, which is made much easier by planograms. And a store’s layout can be enhanced by category management. What is the CMA and what does it do? Let’s take a look.

Why Category Management Matters

First things first: what is category management? Some credit Brian F. Harris, a former academic and co-author of Category Management Principles, for coining the concept back in the late 1980s. Since then, it has expanded and can be applied in several different ways, but all return to a process of treating different products as belonging to “categories,” which can help inform business decisions. While this may sound esoteric, consider that department stores are – well – organized by departments, which are themselves categories. And these units can be broken down even further at the shelf level. Within this framework, a variety of business processes can be optimized:

  • Purchasing
  • Inventory management
  • Sales
  • Customer behavior

The Origins of the Category Management Association

CMA began in 2003 as a casual newsletter, which grew into a formal group founded by Donna Frazier, who’d previously worked in executive recruiting. According to the association’s website, Frazier aimed to codify the category management concept by defining common language and training standards. 

The association’s mission is to “drive meaningful category and brand growth” by sharing best practices to improve customer satisfaction and “facilitating strategic collaboration between retailers, suppliers and solution providers.” Today, it has members in more than 20 countries. CMA first published its certification standards in 2010.  

Category Management Association’s Role in the Industry

So, what does the CMA do? It sets benchmarks and best practices; publishes certification curriculums; and nurtures its professional network. Additionally, it provides member services, consulting, career guidance and certifications. Over 15 years, CMA has hosted an industry conference in San Diego and its attendees include:

  • Walmart
  • Coca-Cola
  • Google
  • Hersey
  • Interstate Batteries
  • Kelloggs

Enhancing Retailers of Any Size

Small- and medium-sized retailers are poised to benefit greatly from a CMA membership. Whereas some retailers employ several category management specialists, this tends to be far less common at smaller shops. CMA addresses this issue. Membership fees create a direct line to top-tier industry expertise and insights that are capable of enhancing a merchandiser’s offering. 

CMA training and certification can be an employee’s gateway into category management or expand their existing skill set. And then there is CMA’s library of hundreds of videos and whitepapers. One is a timely guide to protecting a business and maintaining customers through an economic downturn. Another outlines the importance of understanding data and how to create impactful business presentations. 

CatMan 2.0: The Next Generation

By the 2000s – over 30 years since category management was developed – retail had changed. Of course, the internet and the introduction of online sellers, such as Amazon, had upended the industry, but retailers were also serving an increasingly diverse customer base. Supercenters and dollar stores had proliferated. And store managers had access to powerful data analytics hardware and software. 

Category management – also called CatMan – needed to evolve to meet the needs of today’s customers, retailers and suppliers. Led by CMA’s Gordon Wade and John Drake, a team of industry leading manufacturers and retailers developed CatMan 2.0. Among other advancements, shopper insights and marketing were integrated into the process. Under the auspices of CMA, the category management process had entered the new millennium.

Enhance Your Category Management With Scorpion Planogram

So much of the category management process relies on careful planning. Don’t settle for a hand-drawn diagram of your store’s layout. Get Scorpion Planogram. With our powerful software, retailers of any size – small, medium or large – are able to quickly and efficiently design optimized product displays that drive sales and boost customer satisfaction. Give us a call today to schedule a demonstration. 

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