Products are classified into categories in the retail industry, as well as in manufacturing. A category analyst’s job is to make sure that the right mix of products is present in the category he’s in charge of. In a retail setting, he is also in charge of ensuring that contract terms with various manufacturers are followed and that products are properly merchandised within their allotted spaces. In a manufacturing setting, he is in charge of the overall profitability of the category as well as the profitability of each individual product in the category mix. A category analyst may have a finance or business background and report to or serve as a category manager, depending on the size and nature of the company.
Like products are grouped together in categories, which are organized use rather than brand. Soda, beer, prepared foods, grocery, tobacco, and candy, for example, are all possible categories in a convenience store. The soda category will typically include a variety of brands, serving sizes, and case packs, and will typically include both refrigerated and shelf-stocked items. The soda category analyst is in charge of assessing the soda category’s success. This includes comparing overall category sales to company goals, as well as comparing sales of individual brands and products.
Monitoring and reporting such sales performance data may be the extent of an analyst’s responsibilities in very large companies with many categories. However, in many organizations, the category analyst also performs tasks that are normally assigned to category managers in large corporations. This can include settling advertising compensation dollars, delivery schedules, rebate and return terms, and negotiating contracts with individual suppliers. Another common task is developing a merchandising strategy to place the best-selling items in the best locations and place advertising throughout the store to drive traffic to the category, all while adhering to the contract terms. The analyst then diagrams the strategy, communicates it to the field personnel in charge of implementation, and tracks its progress.
In a manufacturing facility, the category analyst position is frequently purely financial. This means that the analyst’s main responsibility is to assess the sales and profitability of a particular category and its products. A paper manufacturer, for example, might make decorative gift wrap, notebook paper, stationary, and large paper sheeting for shipping. Each of these products would have a slightly different market, and a category analyst would be assigned to monitor the category’s success analyzing data, running reports, and tracking trends.