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What is a Category Captain?

Isn’t it time to put your big brave pants on? It’s time to become the Category Captain.

In this article we look at the attributes needed to become a category captain.

Are you a good listener? Is your leadership team asking you to become a Category Captain? Is your customer offering you ‘category captaincy’? Let’s see what you have to do to become a Category Captain.

What does a great Category Captain’ look like?

A great category captain has to show strong analysis, a strategy, an understanding the shopper, the customer and consumer. In addition, the category captain has to demonstrate effective leadership combined with a team work ethic, fabulous problem-solving skills and effective diplomatic skills.


You have marshal resources, invest time and money, and be prepared to stay for the long haul. The retailer will expect the chosen Category Captain to invest time and resources, effort and financial contribution to the strategic development of the chosen category.

Return on Investment  

If your brand currently owns 25% market share of a chosen category and with your help, the category grows by the 10% whilst your share remains the same the volume of sale increases by 10%. What a great ROI.

The purpose of a Category Captain is to demonstrate to the retailer the expertise they have in the designated category, to show the growth in the contribution the Category Captain, can make in the planning the process, assisting in keeping the category authentic, honest and real. In simple terms, the retailer can’t know everything about every category. Consequently, they rely on the supplier to direct, shape, evolve and grow. Objectivity is the name of the game. 

When you take on the role of the Category Captain you have to pay attention to the mundane from producing comprehensive planograms for the retailer, the allocation of position within the category, managing the timelines including the planogram review. Don’t forget the need for NPD within the Category and the constant need to review the process in order to keep the category moving forward. Project management is the key asset.

So far we have looked at what the supplier has to provide to make the Category captain effective. Being a category captain is the ultimate accolade but if the retailer can’t provide the resources necessary to dress the category, then everyone’s efforts are rightly questioned.

A range review only works if the retailer has the manpower in all store formats, to dress the shelf, maintain the integrity of the category according to the planner, whilst keeping the category current and attractive to the shopper.

The ambition of any Category Captain has to be matched by the retailer. This determines ROI. The key measurement of engagement and success is increased footfall and frequency of basket purchased in-store.

Influencing the category

Influencing the space in which your brand breathes is the objective. To do that you need great consumer insight backed up by unbiased analysis. You may have to reduce the number of lines or space available within the category your captain of.

Always be on the lookout

You need the ability to really understand the retailers business and shopper needs and wants. The brand needs to have resources, including consumer research, market data planogram production in order to add value to the relationship.

What’s the benefit?

Any brand should want to influence the retailer’s category. The brand must want a seat at the table. The brand should want to have access to the retailer. Providing transparent value for the shopper backed up by both qualitative and quantitative data is a great start. To know your business is to breathe their business

What’s in it for the retailer?

The process encourages competition between the Category Captain and the non-captains.  The Category Captain to in increase performance. This process brings the best insights into the category review process, which in turn benefits the consumer. This ultimately benefits the retailer financially.

So is there a future for a Category Captain.

If we had had this conversation 5 years ago the answer would have been ‘no, not right now’. Today the answer is an emphatical ‘yes’ Why? Because the shopper is savvier, the household budget has shrunk and the growth of the discounters has shown the shopper a new way. For a store to remain relevant to the shopper, its all about provenance and convenience. If you’re a traditional brand you have to evolve.

Isn’t it time to put your big brave pants on? It’s time to become the Category Captain.

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