Planning a category update requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. Sometimes even the best-laid plan-o-grams that look perfect in the set room can be disappointing in your stores. Here are our top five tips for making your category update roll out seamlessly in all your store locations.

Product in Pushers

Putting product in a push mechanism is great for keeping your shelves neat, product pushed all the way to the front, and for keeping dated product rotated correctly. The only minor drawback is that pushers make spacing more complicated. Each pusher must be spaced to let the products move freely, but not too loose that product will slide from side to side or be able to slide behind the push mechanism. This spacing must be consistent across the whole span of shelving, sometimes more than 20 feet at a stretch.

Why does it happen then, after spending hours getting the spacing perfect down to the last millimeter in the set room, the set doesn’t quite fit in the stores? This can be an infuriating problem indeed, which is why our top two Precision Spacing tips focus specifically on packaging that can be problematic in pusher systems.

  • Boxed product can expand in size when multiple boxes are in the same pusher. Most pushers work on a spring or coil mechanism, which means the further the mechanism is pushed back, the more pressure it exerts on the packaging. With many boxes in the same pusher, the mechanism exerts a lot more force on the boxes than if there are only one or two boxes in the pusher. Because of this pressure from behind, the boxes expand outward and may not let the product move freely in the pusher. In this way, even product perfectly spaced in the set room using one or two items can become stuck and deformed in a store that carries six or eight items on-hand.

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  • Product in tubes can be a pusher nightmare. Tube product is convenient for customers and sits nicely on a shelf, but getting just the right fit in a push mechanism can be headache-inducing. The cap on the bottom is hard plastic, so at least it doesn’t expand outward like the boxes in our first example. The problem is the cap is usually much smaller than the top end of the product, and that’s where spacing becomes an issue. If a Category Manager spaces the pushers to fit the bottom of the product, the product stays up nicely and pushes freely, but the larger top end may snag on surrounding product. If a Category Manager spaces the product to fit the top of the tube, the product is likely to tilt, look messy, and even roll behind the push mechanism defeating the whole purpose.

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    One fix is getting pushers specifically designed for tube product, which hug the bottom of the tube and leave extra space outside the pusher wall before it meets the next pusher. The extra space allows the larger top to move freely without snagging on the next item. These are especially great for shelves with a lot of tubed product in a row.  If new fixtures aren’t in the budget, one trick would be to alternate tube product with very short boxed or bottled product that will be small enough to slide under the larger top of the tubes. If that’s not feasible, err on the side of making the pushers closer together near the bottom cap to avoid the sloppiness of the above photo.Research and Planning Ahead

The rest of our Precision Spacing tips focus on thinking outside the box of the plan-o-gram and planning ahead for the needs of your stores.

  • Will the set include bonus-sized product, or any product that has undergone a packaging change in the last year? If your set includes products with exciting new packaging, your stores probably have quite a few of the items with the old packaging left to sell through. Make sure to account for the larger of the two sizes until the old packaging has expired. If it has no expiration date, you can tell stores to mark down the old packaging to get it off the shelf. The same principle applies to bonus-sized packaging, although bonus sizes are usually placed in front of regular packaging and tend to sell through faster.
  • Make sure a full set of new items arrives at each store before their set date. Ensuring stores have a full set of new items allows your set team to space the items accurately in the set. The set team can measure and get close to the correct size, but nothing can replace having the actual product to work with. This is especially helpful if your manufacturer is late in getting the product to your set room and the plan-o-gram is based off measurements they provided or sample boxes instead of the actual product. This way, the set team can make adjustments in the store to make the new items fit appropriately.
  • Verify there are enough fixtures in the warehouse to send out to each store before the reset begins. Are you adding a few items to a section with pushers? Make sure you have enough of the correct size and color pushers to send out to each store or set team to carry forward. A few stores will have the correct fixtures squirreled away, but most don’t have the room to organize a few extra of all the different fixtures the store uses. Even if the new set will have no more items that the existing set, it’s a good bet that some of the fixtures have become worn or broken and will need to be replaced. Even with perfect spacing, if a set calls for 12” pegs needs a peg replaced and the only peg available is 8”, the set is going to look sloppy. If you wait for the set teams to report a need, the fixture will arrive after the set team has left and will, most likely, get lost in the shuffle.

We here at Precision Sets, Inc. hope these five tips will help you in planning your next category update. The goal is always to make your stores 100% compliant across the board because the customer doesn’t get to see how beautiful your set room is. Happy setting!