Retail Space Planning Community


Category Management & Space Planning, Working Together

By Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, ARC

Our recent “The Perfect Planogram” story struck a nerve with readers, with strong social media engagement and overall readership.

It got us to thinking about another to ask you, the space planner, as well as the category managers in the audience.

So here’s the question we posed to people in our industry:

Describe, in your words, the ideal partnership between Category Management and Space Planning.

Here’s what you told us, with a bonus word cloud below to get a visual of some of the most popular words and phrases used.

Answers were edited for clarity and brevity.

James Aldape
Space Planning Manager

Insights from Category Management teams inform the Space Planning cycle to create sets that are better tailored to a retailer’s shopper. This ensures the best opportunity to create a profit opportunity in your retail partnership.

Tracy Allen
Sr. Director, Space Management

The ideal partnership between Category Management and Space Planning is very similar to any strong, happy, healthy relationship. It includes trust; trusting each other’s expertise. It includes accountability; holding each other accountable and taking accountability. And it absolutely must include clear, consistent, honest communication. 

Aaron Fidler
Scalene Group

The ideal partnership between Category Management and Space Planning is focused on a shared set of data and KPIs that guide towards the targeted commercial outcomes for the chain. Category management brings the overall view of a category that considers key trends, the health of the category, overall assortment and supplier relationships, and other major factors. Space Planning translates that into actionable plans on a store-by-store basis and looks across categories to find the optimal use of space for the store while incorporating local customer preferences, store-specific constraints, and overall strategic objectives. As an example, consider Paper at an office supply retailer. We found that shelf space needed for (city) locations was significantly less than what was needed in more suburban locations. The range was relatively similar, but inventory was reduced as businesses in city locations often placed large paper orders online for delivery instead of going into the store. This allowed space planners, who work across the entire store, to allocate that extra space to other categories that sell well in inner-city locations.

Richard Harris
Director of Sales

Category Management and Space Planning are distinct but complementary processes essential for optimizing sales and profit. Category Management focuses on ensuring the right products are continuously available to meet customer needs, while Space Planning balances available space across categories to achieve business goals. If Category Management demands more space for a category, Space Planning evaluates and executes this need. Conversely, if Space Planning suggests a space change, Category Management adjusts the product range accordingly.

Reg Jigins
Director of Client Services & Product
Scalene Group

From my experience in helping retailers improve processes such as Range Reviews, the best outcomes occur when Category Managers and Space Planners collaborate seamlessly. This requires clear processes, defined accountabilities and aligned objectives and incentives. Placing the customer at the center of decisions foster better discussions, while accurate data and insights support informed decision-making. Ultimately, the ideal partnership is characterized by smooth collaboration, a customer-focused approach, and data-driven strategies.

Phil Joergensen
Category & Customer Insights Manager
ITG Brands

In my view, the ideal partnership between Category Management and Space Planning is marked by seamless communication and shared objectives. Both teams should collaborate closely to ensure optimal product placement, driving sales and customer satisfaction. By leveraging data-driven insights and aligning on strategic goals, they can create a shopping environment that maximizes space efficiency, enhances the shopper experience, and always puts consumers first!

Kevin Lu
Project Leader
Scalene Group

Category Management and Space Planning are dance partners performing on stage to customers. Only when the two bring forth their best skills and toolsets in harmony will the show sellout. It is the joint effort to wow customers that yields world class success. 

David Van Der Horst
Project Leader
Scalene Group

The ideal relationship between Category Management and Space Management is one where the two are intrinsically linked and providing each other real-time feedback. Category Management can govern the strategic objectives of the category within wider merchandise and organizational objectives. Space Planning can implement those strategic objectives, expressed through optimized use of space. Through active monitoring of space performance, Space Planning can provide feedback to Category Management where misalignment between strategic objectives and customer activity is emerging.

Priji Vijayakumar
Project Leader
Scalene Group

The best examples of Category Management working well with Space Planning is when both areas have clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities and work with each other to achieve the optimal outcome. Category Management should be fairly commercial, and bring in the outward view, while Space Planning should have a very data-driven view and a more inward focus. The consistent and robust use of data from Space Planning should be taken onboard and Category Management can provide the intimate Category insights.

Word Cloud

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About the Author: Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, for the Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals (ARC).

Mike brings more than two decades of communications experience to the CMA/SIMA. He began his career in journalism, spending more than 10 years covering the National Football League for Pro Football Weekly and NBC’s Pro Football Talk. His bylines have also appeared in CBS MarketWatch, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, NBC New York, and More recently, he has pivoted to corporate communications, including strategy and messaging experience for a Fortune 500 company. Mike holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois.