ECRM's EPPS - A Category Crash Course for New-to-Desk Buyers  9/12/2016

Buyers tend to move around a lot within large retail organizations, and when this happens – or if the buyer is new or an up-and-coming assistant -- they must often learn a new category from scratch. This is not an easy thing to do, and typically takes a lot of time and effort; they have to learn the category trends and consumer needs, learn the latest product innovations being developed to meet these customer needs, and – most important – they have to find and connect with their key supplier partners in the category.

Traditional trade shows can help, but they are typically too broad and don’t reflect the depth of individual categories, and those attendees who are within the buyer’s category may not be the actual people the buyer will be doing business with on a day-to-day basis. On top of this, the buyer will have to make his or her own appointments, and try to stick to that schedule of appointments in the midst of the chaos that is the expo floor. Doing it this way, it’s likely you’d have to attend several traditional trade shows to meet all of the relevant suppliers in the category. And chances are, your dedicated time spent with them will be limited.

Or, you can have ECRM bring them all to you to connect with in dedicated face-to-face meetings over the span of just two or three days, providing you with a totally immersive crash course on the category and its key players – all in one trip, a trip by the way, that is also arranged for you by ECRM.

“ECRM is a great collaborative effort to gather suppliers and retailers all in one central location where they can spend their time learning category trends and forming business relationships that otherwise would be difficult and time-consuming to do on your own,” said Adam Salzwedel, Own Brand Lead – Salty Snacks/Beverages|Grocery for Meijer. “With the process and planning of the ECRM team, you will leave an ECRM EPPS with a wealth of knowledge about category trends along with the connections you need to develop the category.”

Through ECRM’s Efficient Program Planning Sessions (EPPS) and Enhanced Efficient Supplier Reviews (EESR), ECRM works with new buyers (or buyers new to a category) to bring them quickly up-to-speed on their category’s trends, key players, and product offerings by enabling them to review the category as a whole in a short amount of time. This holistic approach can help identify gaps and opportunities in a set while streamlining the sourcing process.

Meijer’s Salzwedel, a regular participant of ECRM EPPS meetings, leveraged the recent ECRM Global Wine, Beer & Spirits EPPS to provide his Merchandise Associate with a total immersion education in the off-premise adult beverage category, and an opportunity to meet with more than 50 key suppliers of adult beverage products. During these meetings she was able to learn the latest products trends, and experience Salzwedel’s discussions related to pricing, packaging, and distribution of these products.

Getting Quickly up to Speed
In another case, a health care buyer for a multibillion-dollar regional grocer took over the category with limited knowledge of the marketplace and a planning cycle quickly approaching. Gaining a better understanding of the product landscape while communicating with suppliers face-to-face was essential to the success of the category, and this needed to be done quickly to ensure planning deliverables were met for the coming season.

The grocer was able to accomplish this by attending the ECRM EPPS program for the Health Care category and participating in scheduled face-to-face meetings with suppliers attending the EPPS, as well as those invited to meet specifically with the retailer.

Here’s how the program worked for the grocery buyer:

First, the retailer defined its focus and overall goals. Then, based on these goals, new and current vendors were sourced. This vendor pool was narrowed down to only those that fit within the grocer’s specific category focus. Next, these vendors were informed of the retailer’s category focus, provided information requested by the retailer, and made samples available.

At the EPPS, ECRM scheduled one-on-one private meetings between the buyer and qualified vendors. All of the information gathered prior to the meeting is on-hand to accelerate the item set up process. Samples were also collected in advance so that the grocer could evaluate them in a private room prior to its EPPS meetings, after which they were shipped to the grocer’s headquarters.

The Result: During the EPPS, the grocer gained valuable insights and category knowledge that was used to develop effective strategies to drive category and product sales. The grocer also gained a better understanding of the marketplace by meeting with a wide variety of suppliers that fit within its category objectives, vendors that would have possibly been overlooked in a traditional trade show format.

The grocer has since registered for all applicable EPPS meetings in order to execute new-to-desk buying programs and buyer EPPS participation has become a part of its category planning process.

Are you a buyer that’s new to the desk? Find out how ECRM can help you get up to speed on your category. Contact Wayne Bennett, ECRM's SVP of Retail, at 516-841-4519 or

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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