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Consumer Confidence and At-Retail Activity on Rise

December 1, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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A couple of recent developments have raised the hopes of retailers, CPG manufacturers and the U.S. economy as we enter the New Year. A huge Black Friday brought the start of what is expected to be record holiday sales and served as a gauge into the collective intentions of American consumers. That sentiment was confirmed this week with the release of The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index for the month of November.

Any analysis of the economy has to be taken with a grain of salt. The roller coaster ride of predicted recoveries and subsequent dips have proven to be undependable at best. However, the Index improved greatly in November after six months of steady decline. The Index now stands at 56.0, up from 40.9 in October. This index was set at 100 in 1985. The Present Situation Index increased to 38.3 from 27.1. The Expectations Index rose to 67.8 from 50.0.

Consumers that say business conditions are good increased to 13.3 percent from 11.2 percent. Those claiming jobs are plentiful increased to 5.8 percent from 3.6 percent. Consumers who anticipate business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 13.6 percent from 10.2 percent. Consumers expecting more jobs in the months ahead rose to 12.9 percent from 10.8 percent. Those who anticipate an increase in their incomes rose to 14.9 percent from 11.1 percent.

For members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing industry, another important indicator is the level of in-store activity being sought by retailers and manufacturers. Judging by the level of activity on NARMS JobBank and NARMS Recruiter database, business is healthy as NARMS members are seeking more merchandisers to help them fulfill their mission at stores around the country. If your company is staffing up for the surge, consider taking out an expanded listing on www.narms.com and availing your company to the original, best and most cost effective recruiting tool in the business. If you already use the Recruiter, pushing your jobs to the forefront by advertising on NARMS JobBank can help you secure the best and brightest.

A Message from Tom Caddell

November 17, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

Esteemed NARMS members,

I am happy and excited to again be part of the NARMS family. The staff and I look forward to providing a new and strategic direction to build and brand the association name of NARMS in new and ever exciting ways.

With a long and heartfelt history with this association, and being extremely humbled with the opportunity, I remember the early days with fondness how the early visionaries (Gary Ebben and founding members) of NARMS built a place where all in-store services could educate, network, and gain cutting edge intelligence in providing our customers and clients professional and ethical measurable value.

Going forth, NARMS will uncover new and exciting means to “Brand” the NARMS name and what we offer, expand our “Band Width” within the retailer channels, provide cutting edge technology, present value in trade event exposure all while growing our brand recognition in the best interests of all membership current and future. By providing a strategic plan we can bring new and exciting opportunities to every member by working together as our visionaries hoped.

Networking provides a different meaning in today’s B2B conversations than it did 16 years ago. “Networking” was the way to find compatible sister firms to execute our project deliverables to our clients/customers outside our boundaries of expertise or capacity. Today we still “Network” but under a different meaning - in seeking out new business, clients, staff or new jobs…or as we all hope that hidden customer who just landed from Mars and NO one knows about them or the needs they have.

As a retail guy with a history of being around retail in general, I bring an experienced ear for your pain and “What keeps us all up at night”; a simple word SALES! Paulette said it best recently, “We’re all looking for the same thing as do our customers and clients; provide sales and continued growth.” Rest assured the NARMS staff, and our current/future board members and committee members are 100% committed to the task in right sizing all our efforts in providing a real measurable value for all members now and in the future.

We must ALL work together to provide ideas and cutting edge value, continued support of the industry standards and practices, and a valued ongoing partnership in helping us all retain SALES. We are the life blood of the retail industry, and with our support and services we can provide a small piece in helping rebuild our US economy.

As our valued friends north say, when the US sneezes the rest of the world gets a cold!

Let’s limit our exposure and be proactive.

Thank you all for your kind words recently and I am really excited to be a part of NARMS in a leadership role again.

Kind regards,

Tom

Tom Caddell
Executive Director

Times & Trends - Shopper is King

November 10, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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The shopper is king and everybody involved in retail serves at the pleasure of the king. That is the key message delivered in the latest issue of Times & Trends by SymphonyIRI. Unemployment and inflation have created an extreme barrier to achieving the stability necessary to smooth out troubled economic waters. But nobody is in the exact same boat. As Times & Trends reports, the needs of individual shoppers vary as greatly as day-to-day economic circumstances. Not surprisingly, there is a strong at-retail tie-in to be employed by successful brand marketers.

Here are some of the observations recorded by SymphonyIRI: Almost half of all shoppers surveyed feel that they have experienced a financial setback last year and do not expect that situation to change in the near future. Consumers have made adjustments to their shopping patterns and habits to account for the economy with about 25 percent saying they have trouble affording weekly grocery needs. Simplification and conservation are now driving shoppers as they learn to cope with the conditions. A self-service attitude has emerged particularly in health and beauty care. List-making has made a comeback with shoppers putting items on their list based on cost savings and promotions. Many of these cost saving opportunities are being derived from the Internet. The issue of cost and the ever-changing cash flow position of consumers are causing trial of new brands and products that they would not have considered before.

Times & Trends offers some remedies for manufacturers and retails. Some of those suggestions are of particular interest to members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing services industry. In-store efforts should follow closely with externally-targeted promotional campaigns to ensure that pre-planned purchase decisions can be carried out in the store. Trading partners should work together to develop in-store programs, such as displays and demos, that show the consumer how to save and get maximum value. These efforts should be constantly measured to allow for mid-stream corrections and adjustments.

The shopper is king and NARMS members are ready to provide in-store support services to supplement programs designed by trading partners that speak directly to their needs. Download and digest this issue of Times & Trends to help better understand those needs.

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NARMS Names Caddell as New Executive Director

November 3, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

The NARMS Board of Directors has announced that Tom Caddell has been named the new Executive Director of NARMS. The announcement follows a thorough search process designed to find and hire the individual who can take the Association to the next level over the coming years.

The search process involved the Board of Directors and experts in human resources and consulting, both of whom the Association has used in the past for matters requiring a high level of expertise.

Caddell is no stranger to the at-retail merchandising and marketing service community. In fact, his fondness for NARMS has in the past led him to serve in a volunteer leadership position on the Board of Directors. His career has led him to successful stints in a wide range of segments within the retail industry. Most recently, Caddell was co-founder and partner in Emergent Brands LLC, a brand catalyst firm offering strategic services to emerging brands in the Health/Wellness industry.

Caddell learned first-hand of the challenges faced by a retailer at Albertson’s, rising from stocker to senior store management. Following this, he co-pioneered the introduction of several brands in the then newly-burgeoning natural foods category, while overseeing retail service for traditional brands, during his time with a leading national food broker. While there, he developed his vision for a diverse merchandising services organization with a national footprint, but regional focus. Subsequently, he held senior operations and sales roles with both start-up and established merchandising service organizations, even as he maintained active involvement in NARMS. Throughout his career, Caddell has worked with clients in the start-up world, as well as Fortune 500 companies.

Caddell will begin his new responsibilities on November 7, 2011.

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Benchmarking 101

October 27, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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Many companies use benchmarking practices to compare themselves against companies both inside and outside of their industry in order to keep pace with best practices and identify performance gaps. In the October edition of Willard Bishop Competitive Edge, author Paul Weitzel discusses some of the basics of benchmarking and describes how companies who do it well are among the best-in-class.

According to Weitzel, benchmarking studies across the retail landscape have dwindled in number over the past few years. It is his prediction that companies will begin to manage their own benchmarking programs in order to regain some of the benefits and visibility.

Weitzel describes two common approaches. The first is called Performance Benchmarking which compares key performance indicators with best-in-class competitors. This type of barometer answers the question of how you compare against the competition. The second kind is called Process Benchmarking which tells you exactly how you can improve and close any identified gaps.

Collecting the data and insights for benchmarking happens in a couple of ways. The first is collaboration within the industry and is generally done through share groups. The next is to use a third-party firm. Both approaches are effective and both have strengths and weaknesses. Either way, the best users of benchmarking have a well-organized, formal and budgeted approach.

This issue of Competitive Edge is important to NARMS members for two reasons. The first is that many of the initiatives that at-retail merchandising and marketing companies are called on to perform come directly from benchmarking practices and data. To know what your customers are doing on that front is to be a step ahead. The second is to apply the practice to your own organization within the at-retail industry. Take a few moments to download and read the report for a thorough primer for the practice of benchmarking.

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Shopper Marketing Enables Growth

October 20, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Booz & Co. and Shopper Sciences recently released research that says companies using shopper marketing programs are seeing increased sales and better returns for their marketing dollars. According to this story in Supermarket News, the growth in shopper marketing puts a focus on real solutions for shoppers and creates value beyond price promotion.

NARMS own Top Shelf blog this week discussed the decrease in impulse purchasing and the increase in single mission shopping. GMA Senior Director Brian Lynch says shopper marketing uses customer insight and a collaborative approach to win the trip before the shopper gets to the store and increase purchases once they have arrived.

The study shares four components that are common among best-in-class shopper solutions. The first is the ability to develop and integrate consumer and shopper insights. The second is to understand the needs of retailers. The third is to work with external partners to deploy shopper solutions across the path to purchase. The fourth is to build a shopper marketing program that can both execute and measure the results of shopper solution initiatives.

The members of NARMS provide the kinds of at-retail merchandising and marketing solutions that can power the shopper marketing engine. On the front end, they can provide shelf data through audit and mystery shopping services that will provide an intimate portrait of your consumer and how they interact with and experience the retailer. In the middle, they can expertly and quickly deploy tactics that speak directly to the needs of the consumer. A few examples would be building displays, realigning product adjacencies or executing in-store product sampling and demos. And finally, many members employ cutting edge hand-held technology and sophisticated data handling capabilities and systems that help manufacturers and retailers understand the consumer and the retail environment.

Rating Supplier Support

October 13, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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At-retail merchandising and marketing support from suppliers to their retail partners covers a wide spectrum. Some take a defensive stance and supply support as a necessary evil or a cost of doing business. Others take the concept to an entirely new level and see progressive in-store programs as a strategic business and relationship building activity. This week, Supermarket News Editor-in Chief David Orgel shares some of the winners of the Supplier Leadership Awards. The SN editorial staff picks the winners from an industry nominated group.

In his column, Orgel shares that a SN survey rated overall supplier support of retailer needs as a 6.43 on a scale from 1 to 10. In the past, the Supplier Leadership Awards were based on supermarket categories. The search has now broadened its scope and is inclusive of best-in-class ideas in all channels.

All of the winners were not shared in this story, but a few were highlighted including: Mars Chocolate North America for Product Innovation, Campbell Soup Co. for Shopper Insights, Sara Lee and Procter & Gamble for Cause Marketing, Kellogg for Unsaleables Reduction and The Clorox Co. for Collaboration. Click on each to read a profile on the specifics of the individual programs.

Not all of these award categories include the need for at-retail execution. But in reading each profile story and using some creativity, members of NARMS can find unique applications for their services to not only help suppliers move goods, but to also raise the profile of the manufacturer in the eyes of their retail partners. Consult with your manufacturer customers and find out about all of their retail support programs. It is only by fully understanding all of their needs that we can fully support them in the manner that they want to support the retailer.

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SymphonyIRI Looks at Private Label Positioning

October 6, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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The September 2011 edition of Times & Trends by SymphonyIRI Group takes an in-depth look at private label positioning and performance across retail channels. It is packed with statistics and data that provide a fresh perspective on the current state of private label marketing and gives a strong indication of where the industry is heading.

For instance, private label currently accounts for almost 23% of CPG sales across all retail channels. From a dollar share perspective that is up slightly from last year. From a unit share perspective that is down almost half a percentage point. According to the author, this is a sign that private label is subject to the same commodity and competitive pressures as their name brand counterparts.

There are many strategic reasons that retailers use private label. They are viewed as differentiators. They bring something unique to the retailer and they offer better margins. From the consumer side, they bring money saving opportunities and an increasing sense of value with innovation in the form of product sizes, packaging and other attributes.

From a strategic standpoint, the increased use of private label is a success. But just as it is subject to commodity and other competitive pressures, it is also now a large enough option to be subject to tactical pressures. There was probably a time when being out-of-stock on a private label item wasn’t as damaging as it was for a name brand equivalent. But increased acceptance brings increased expectations. Some private labels are now the destination product, not the handy alternative.

Private label trends will certainly be something to keep an eye on as they evolve. It may also prove to be a big opportunity for members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service industry as wide scale acceptance will bring the pressure to perform at the aisle and shelf level. To get up to speed on private label trends, download your copy of SymphonyIRI Times & Trends by clicking here.

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Winning in the Trenches

September 29, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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The football season is upon us in full force with high school, college and professional teams taking to the gridiron to the cheers of thousands. In the retail world, we have always used football and other sports world analogies as a way to clarify the nature of competitive situations and teamwork. This week, Jon Hauptman does this adeptly in the new edition of Willard Bishop Competitive Edge. In, Blocking and Tackling to Win at Retail Today,” he focuses on how successful football coaches almost always say the game is won in trenches. No matter how good the game plan, without the basics of blocking and tackling, it can all fall apart. When the game is lost, coaches always go back to the basics.

This is a particularly good analogy for the members of the at-retail merchandising and marketing service industry. The best laid plans of brand marketers and retailers can fall apart quickly if not well executed in the trenches, in this case the trenches being the shelves and aisles of stores around the country.

In Competitive Edge, Hauptman focuses mostly on pricing tactics as a way to win at retail. However, there are a few suggestions that speak directly to at-retail execution. One such tip is to make sure that shoppers find and appreciate great prices and values. This could mean new promotional shelf tags or end-cap displays. Another is to tailor the assortment offered by individual stores. This could mean category resets and other out-of-stock reducing activities performed by NARMS members.

Those are a few specific examples, but the larger point is that retailers and manufacturers can improve the performance of brands by getting back to the basics. The members of NARMS are the interior linemen that open up the running lanes and fill the gaps to make sure that the game plan will be a success. It all starts up front.

The Reach of Sampling and Demos

September 22, 2011 by Newsfeed Editor  
Filed under Friday Focus, What's in store

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If you attended any of the sampling and demo study sessions at the past few NARMS Spring Conferences, you know that product sampling is very effective at increasing sales and getting shoppers to change their buying behavior. The sessions and research were presented by Dr. Kenny Herbst of Wake Forest University. A recent guest column in PROMO Magazine by Larry Burns, the Chief Executive Officer of Start Sampling, goes a step further and says that samplings and demos are even more important now because of the tremendous influence of social media on Word of Mouth marketing. In the story, Burns gives manufacturers and retailers some basic rules for executing a sample program.

The first rule for the marketer is to ask if the brand should be one that offers samples. The next is to define success in terms of who, what, when, where and how you want your brand experience delivered to. Support those objectives with measurable and predefined metrics.

Those are the top line rules and they make a lot of sense. But at the rate at which one consumer experience gets relayed to the next, some new rules have emerged. Here are a few more: Be imaginative on where you want people to experience your brand. Consider executing your sampling program across multiple channels and touchpoints using consistent messages. Create more samples than you think you may need so you can take full advantage of new opportunities. Account for the Word of Mouth effectiveness when measuring the return on a program. A new benchmark is that for each sample, an additional five people hear about the product.

Sampling combined with Shopper Marketing and Word of Mouth creates a powerful synergy that has taken sampling and demo programs to many more touchpoints. The rule that is not mentioned in the story may be the most important of all. Partner with the professional Event Marketing members of NARMS to execute your sampling and demo program. With the expanded reach of a single customer interaction, brand marketers are going to want consistent execution that these experienced and well trained brand representatives offer at-retail. Click here to view the PROMO story.

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