How to identify and replace slow-selling categories

The betterRetailing team finds out how retailers identify categories that aren’t working in their stores and how they go about replacing them with something better

Category management How to identify and replace slow-selling categories

When it comes to specific products that aren’t working, the journey from identifying the problem and taking the product off the shelves usually takes about as long as it lasts for the final item to be sold. When it comes to an entire category, a larger overhaul is required, as well as greater understanding of one’s customers. 

“Look through your EPoS data,” says Joe Williams, from The Village Shop in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire. “Also look closely at the space you’re allocating to that category against its profitability.” 

It is important to analyse your own offer, the local competition and also wider, national trends. Some categories might be seeing a widespread decline in interest, which will affect your store’s sales no matter how inventively you promote it. Other product categories might be offered by the local competition better than you, so you can re-evaluate how you sell them or look for another category altogether where you can gain an advantage. 

Read more advice for independent convenience retailers

“Is there someone doing an offer that’s better than you in one specific category, and is there something else you can do better than them?” asks Williams. “It’s not about always competing, it’s seeing what your competition aren’t doing right that you can do right.” 

When thinking of what to replace a failing category with, talk to customers about what’s missing from your offer, examine what the local competition is doing and what they could do better, and also think about the margin opportunity. 

“We used to do coffee pre-lockdown, but the Co-op next door got a Costa machine and I didn’t want to keep coffee until we could compete on their level,” says David Lomas, from Lomas News in Bury, Lancashire, who is now replacing parts of his magazine offer with a coffee machine. “Now we’re getting a Lavazza machine that should blow them out of the water.” 

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