Career Path

Category management
a new engine driving the FMCG industry

by Ella Lee

Category Management
Shirley Ma
Trade Development Manager
Hawley & Hazel

The Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) business has become a vital part of the retail industry following the opening of more supermarkets and chain stores in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland.

Huge outlets like Park'N Shop and Wellcome need more than just goods to sell to their customers nowadays. They need sophisticated data to help them decide what they should be selling, how much of it they should be stocking up, where to display the goods and a host of other information to enable them to compete in an increasingly competitive business environment.

"Trade development managers should adopt a 'Multiple Perspective' approach to their work. By applying 'Multiple Perspective', we can see both sides of the coin, and turn a problem into an opportunity."

Hence FMCG has become a science - and an interesting career to pursue.

At least three aspects are involved in any effective running of FMCG: Account Management, Category Management and Trade Marketing, according to Shirley Ma, Trade Development Manager at Hawley & Hazel Chemical Company (HK) Ltd.

Ms Ma has more than six years experience in managing FMCG business which covers a wide range of consumer products - from razor blades to oral care products, electrical appliances and stationery.

The benefits of category management

As a trade development manager, Ms Ma has a free hand in crafting and implementing sales strategies, sometimes in collaboration with the company's trading partners and retailers.

The job requires her to keep a constant and watchful eye on market demand for the products in which she is dealing and to share relevant data with her buyers and retailers.

She calls this "category management" which is vital to business growth in a competitive environment. Category management is based on facts and figures enabling a company to identify consumer demand clearly and to employ proper promotional tools to help sales. It also helps suppliers set prices at the right level.

Companies like Hawley & Hazel conduct in-depth studies of shopper behaviour and, with the aid of computer software (e.g. Spaceman or Prospace), are able to advise supermarket operators and retailers on how to pitch their goods and where to display them to gain maximum exposure, and to maximise the use of space.

Suitable candidates

Open-minded and pro-active people would probably find a career in FMCG interesting and challenging. An ability to work independently under pressure is a definite asset. Good communication and presentation skills are important and will help an FMCG practitioner move ahead faster.

China Opportunities

Hong Kong supermarket managers and chain store operators are normally more experienced and better equipped for the job than their counterparts on the mainland, probably because Hong Kong has been in the business longer.

Ms Ma believes the demand for retail operators on the mainland will grow as more and more supermarkets and chain stores open there, and there will be more opportunities for Hong Kong people to join the industry, particularly in the account management and trade marketing fields.

Figures for reference only   K='000

Taken from Career Times 01 March 2002, p. 28
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