Category manager

Category managers (also known as ‘catmans’) are responsible for the turnover and profitability of a given category of products within retail, production and distribution companies, covering everything from mobile technology to shoes to laundry products! In their role, they act as a buffer between marketing and sales teams, setting up strategies and shared action plans to ensure their particular family of products flies off the shelves.

Category managers are integral voices when companies are brainstorming new marketing strategies, working closely with product managers, and are responsible for introducing these plans within retail brands (e.g. Walmart, Casino, Tesco, Auchan, etc.) alongside sales teams by coordinating various aspects in stores, including product ranges, promotions and even merchandising.

The life of a category manager...

Working with sales teams and brands

Category managers work closely with sales teams (area managers, sales promoters, etc.) and are chiefly responsible for getting products onto shelves, working in liaison with key account managers from production companies (e.g. Danone, Unilever, Nestlé) and all the big retail chains.

For example, category managers might spend their time developing sales pitches with sales teams, creating a range of material that can help sales executives convince supermarkets to put a product on their shelves. They may also spend time designing merchandising tools to highlight their family of products on supermarket shelves (in-store advertising).

Category managers also work hard to optimise the range of products within their category that appears in supermarkets.

This process often involves delving deeply into consumer purchasing habits with the help of focus groups and consumer research.

For example, category managers may notice that yoghurts sold in packs of 8 sell better than packs of 6, so they would ask supermarkets to make that change.

Beyond their core role, category managers may also work in direct contact with the big brands (e.g. Auchan, Walmart, Tesco, Casino, etc.), working hard to ensure there’s a win-win relationship between everyone in the supply chain. They need to constantly come up with new ways of growing their product category with their clients, at the same time as helping to grow their company’s market share and therefore overall turnover.

Working with marketing teams

Category managers are in constant contact with marketing departments in order to play a key role in developing marketing strategies. For example, they might work with product managers to come up with a way of launching a brand-new product. Bringing vital consumer insight and expert knowledge from the field, category managers and their opinions are essential for today’s busy marketing departments.

Working with finance and logistics teams

Category managers are in regular contact with finance teams to monitor the financial profitability of their product categories and to review the effectiveness of any promotional strategies put in place (e.g. measuring the impact on sales of any ‘buy one get one free’ type promotions).

Finally, alongside logistics departments, their role involves ensuring their product categories are available on shelves, working hard to avoid any breakdowns in supply chains - products not being available - especially during busy promotional periods.

Required skills

Candidates need to be thorough, analytical and creative with good negotiation skills, strategic vision, pragmatic and able to both convince and win over the people they’re dealing with.

Typical educational background

5 years of higher education, business studies

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