Planogram Execution 101

The specific set of products we see on retail shelves, and more importantly, their arrangement on those shelves, does not happen by accident. On the contrary, the time and energy invested in deciding which products to sell, and where they go on the shelves, is intentional and substantial. In fact, it is the very key to retail success. 

Category managers, merchants and buyers spend considerable time reviewing the products they carry in-store. This activity is sometimes called a product line review, business review or  category review. The output of these reviews is an assortment (a list of products, by category) for each store. Space and floor planners use the assortment plan in conjunction with historical and predicted sales data to create store-level planograms and/or store-level floorplan changes, if necessary. 

Planogram execution is critically important because it connects the retailer’s top-level strategies to the physical shelves in the stores. Here are five considerations for successfully implementing a planogram, including the “what,” “when,” “where,” “who” and “how” of planogram execution. 

What is planogram execution?

Planogram execution is the process of actually changing the stores to reflect a new planogram. The key attribute driving the execution of any given planogram is its go-live date (more on that below). Presuming the go-live date is established, and coming up soon, planogram execution will include some or all of the activities listed below. 

Note: Not all retailers will implement each of these steps, nor will they necessarily follow this order, though the general flow will be consistent.

  • Communicate, transmit or otherwise send the planogram to the store
  • Communicate, publish or otherwise show the go-live date for the planogram
  • Communicate, contract or otherwise schedule the labor plan for the planogram, namely which teams or persons will perform the manual tasks in the store
  • Arrive at the store, likely early in the morning, on the go-live date
  • Obtain, retrieve or access the planogram to be executed
  • Obtain, retrieve or find the new products going on the shelf
  • Locate that shelf in the store
  • Open the planogram to the instructions page and begin the work. (See more details about how planograms are executed below).

The “when” of executing a planogram

The go-live date for any given planogram is one of its critical attributes. Many considerations factor into identifying the best go-live date for a planogram, so much so that some retailers structure their organizations around this. For example, in addition to the departments we already know well, such as “Housewares,” “Garden” and “Kitchen & Bath,” many retailers also have a “Seasonal” department, precisely because the timing of when seasonal products are in the stores is critical to their performance.

Similarly, advertising campaigns for new products usually require the retailer to purchase advertising space (both print and digital) in advance to secure their desired in-store timing. Failure to execute the planogram on schedule obviously has negative effects when the advertising cannot be withdrawn or refunded.

Most common, however, is a standard schedule for each category. For example, a retailer may “reset” the milk and dairy planogram in January, cereal in February, salty snacks in March, and beer and wine in April. In this model, every category is “set,” “reset” or “refreshed” at least once per year. Nothing in this model stops a retailer from resetting or refreshing a specific section or shelf in addition to this schedule, and many often do. Still, this annual-category-refresh baseline gives the retailer a plan around which they can schedule labor and materials.

Lastly, retailers adopt a go-live window, not a specific day. For example, a planogram may have a go-live date of Sept. 1, but an execution timeline of 30 days. This means the store may execute the planogram no earlier than Sep 1, but as long as it is complete by or before Sept. 30, they are free to schedule the labor at their convenience.

The “where” of executing a planogram

The where, or location, is a core element in successful planogram execution. Sometimes, retailers might test a planogram in a specific market to see if it is effective. Other times, retailers will focus on the markets with the highest profit margins. And in other cases, retailers will focus on one subset of stores for a reason we can’t even begin to imagine! 

In general, locations within the domestic United States will be treated similarly. For example, a chain with 2,000 stores might do 200-300 stores daily (or weekly) until the set is complete.

However, planogram execution must also account for supply chain variations of different locations. Shipping signs or displays to remote areas, like Guam, Hawaii or the U.S. Virgin Islands, will take additional time. Variations in lead time are an essential part of the execution plan. 

The “who” of executing a planogram

Another key to in-store execution success is who is involved. Decisions about who sets the planogram in the store are driven by the complexity of the planogram and the category’s importance to the retailer’s merchandising strategy. For example, the dairy category is strategic to some grocery retailers and may not even be a consideration for others.

Sometimes the personnel for planogram execution is contractually specified. Consumer packaged goods companies often negotiate to execute the planogram themselves through sales reps or other staff.

Who executes the planogram can change depending on the store’s labor model. Options may include a third-party labor provider, temp agencies, gig workers, specialized merchandising teams or store associates.

If the brand is proprietary, the retailer will likely execute the planogram themselves unless it involves safety liabilities (like adding electrical to a fixture) or requires permits (like building lights into a shelf). In those instances, retailers will hire a specialized firm. 

The “how” of planogram execution

Knowing how a retailer will execute the planogram is also essential. The “how” begins by communicating key information to the store and their supporting field leadership, such as:

  • The date(s) and time(s) the work will be done in each store
  • The area(s) of each store that will be set, reset or refreshed
  • The specific team(s) or person(s) responsible for doing the work in each store

Workers must be notified when they need to execute a planogram. Workers will then travel to the store and follow the planogram instructions. These instructions might involve activities such as the following: 

  • De-merchandising the existing fixture, taking down old signs, and making sure the fixture is clean and correctly configured
  • Finding the new products (hopefully, they are located on a pallet near the shelf)
  • Getting out the listing page and following instructions one at a time
  • Once the product is on the shelf, look for new signs or point-of-purchase (POP) displays (ideally, these will also be found near the shelf!)
  • Ordering additional shelving and fixtures as necessary (sometimes stuff breaks or doesn’t fit)
  • Marking work as complete when finished or scheduling a “Go-Back” to finish another day and time
  • Noting any issues—such as products that don’t fit in the shelf space or signs in the wrong language
  • Logging time
  • Taking and submitting pictures of the completed planogram 

Trust Merchlogix for planogram execution

Proper planogram execution is the key to ensuring your vision actually makes it to store shelves. MerchLogix software brings together the many moving parts that come into play during planogram execution.

Contact our team to learn how the right data and tools can help you create effective planograms and boost planogram performance.

For more insights, check out our blogs on what is a planogram and how to make a planogram.   

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