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Within arms’ reach of the retailer and consumer

January 11, 2010

In a competitive environment, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies are increasingly forced to get within arms’ reach of the retailer and consumer. CPG companies that have a Route-to-Market strategy that includes a direct focus on mom-and-pop stores are the most successful in reaching the “base of the pyramid”.

The buy-in-bulk mentality is unlikely to have a major impact in developing markets, as transport limitations, poor cash flow and infrastructure will restrict purchasing options. Nielsen’s research has indicated that modern trade is on the increase in a large number of emerging markets. However, even with the increase in Modern Trade, mom-and-pop stores will continue to command a major share of the retailing environment.

Some of the advantages of well designed Route-to-Market strategy dealing with mom-and-pop retailers are:

Increased outlet penetration – the Route-to-Market strategy is designed to penetrate small, high frequency retailers, and increase availability within such outlets. The strategy allows “trial” SKUs entry and assists companies in controlling the SKU range in their identified strategic channels.

Improved merchandising – even though merchandising space in quite limited in these outlets, companies will find it easier to negotiate merchandising space compared to modern trade retailers. Multi-nationals have more leverage with mom-and-pop retailers, and can negotiate better space allocation and control the message in these outlets. Innovative merchandising designs (e.g. hanging shampoo racks) will further support this strategy.

Improved retail and consumer Insights – by removing the supply chain layers, CPG companies gain a better understanding of retailers and ultimately the end consumer. This grassroots approach will improve communication between the various parties and provide the company with valuable insight about their consumer base.

Improved profitability – a well designed Route-to-Market strategy will yield improved margins and reduce incentive and retailer discounts being paid to Modern Trade retailers.

However it is important to highlight some of the challenges that companies will face with such a strategy:

Increased Route-to-Market complexity – increasing the outlet base to include mom-and-pop outlets adds complexity to the Route-to-Market and the business. Drop sizes will be much smaller and the increased outlet base could put additional pressure on resources.

Information flow dilemma – penetrating smaller retailer distribution networks is unlikely to justify investment in information technology. e.g. mobile devices to support Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. CPG companies will be forced to reevaluate sales data processing and information gathering.

Increased personnel count – managing, controlling and monitoring an increased outlet base will require additional human resources. Employee turnover tends to be higher for employees dealing directly with mom-and-pop outlets. Market conditions are tougher and increased and specialized training will be required.

Companies can benefit immensely by expanding their retail base and penetrating smaller retail outlets. For companies to succeed, market development and training activities must be on the forefront of Route-to-Market strategy. Such strategies will require a major rethink and redesign. Changing to a Route-to-Market strategy that includes smaller mom-and-pop outlets will affect all aspects of the business, including supply chain, sales, marketing and human resources. A strategic shift should not be taken on lightly. However, for the winners, the rewards will be large.

Article fist published in 17th of July 2007 for the Gerson Lehrman Group Councils website

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