How Independent Retailers Can Get Category Management Right


Issues with product distribution and availability have affected retailers of all stripes, and convenience stores are no exception. According to Technomic’s April 2022 C-Store Operator Update, most retailers rank supply chain issues among the greatest obstacles they’re facing at the moment, with 76% saying they’re concerned about product unavailability in at least one of their store categories.

Independent c-store retailers in particular have felt the strain: Without category managers on staff and with everyday store maintenance on the to-do list, supply chain challenges are all the more likely. Fortunately, however, independents can access a greater breadth of resources and depth of expertise with the help of a supply chain partner.

Navigating a dynamic market

When facing product out-of-stocks, maintaining customer satisfaction and retention is a forefront concern. IRI reports that, for at least one in five shopping trips, retail consumers encounter at least one out-of-stock item, costing CPG retailers an estimated $47 billion annually. This indicates not only the effects of supply and distribution challenges, but also the importance of finding the right products to replace those that aren’t available and avoid losing sales.

In addition, the effects of these challenges go beyond just keeping standby products on the shelves and core offerings on the foodservice menu. Supply chain issues have made it more difficult for retailers to confidently create promotions for their stores, with 26% citing late or inefficient distribution of materials and worries that they won’t be able to keep promoted product in stock as recurring difficulties, according to Technomic’s C-Store Operator Update.

For some independents, managing product delays and shortages has meant sourcing product from local stores on an as-needed basis. This strategy isn’t sustainable for many, however—purchasing through a local stores can include added costs and an added time commitment, plus the guesswork involved in finding the best alternative for whatever item the c-store is running short on. Especially at a time when labor is stretched thin and market conditions threaten to undercut store margins, a more efficient system is necessary.

Solutions for long-term success

To oversee the many moving parts category management involves, turning to a supply chain partner such as McLane can be a gamechanger. With greater buying power and access to a greater volume of resources, a supply chain partner can equip independents to find and access best-fit solutions and to compete with larger convenience chains.

With a finger on the pulse of what’s new and what’s selling well in a given region, McLane drives smarter, data-driven purchasing decisions, too. That means no second-guessing when choosing alternative products to stock the shelves or swapping ingredients for prepared foods and beverages—and consistent product availability and quality means happier customers.

Partnering with McLane is an investment in navigating both current and future market conditions with confidence. To learn more, visit

This post is sponsored by McLane Company, Inc.


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