The Chapman Edge, a sales and marketing organization, specializes in selling and marketing multicultural personal care items to national accounts.

Marketing and sales professional Roslyn Chapman founded the company in 2000 as a solid sales representative organization for personal care products, but soon leveraged her contacts across all classes of trade and went on to expand its sales focus to include representation of general merchandise categories, including branded and private label items. The company fulfills its mission in a unique fashion.

“We’re different, because before we accept an assignment we study and become familiar with retailer logistics and manufacturer operations, ensuring that there is a ‘win opportunity’ for all parties,” notes Chapman, who has traveled internationally to study retailers’ practices. “We lead manufacturers’ engagements not only during appointments, but behind the scenes. Our clients endorse our customer service practices.”

Chapman says multicultural consumers are becoming more “hair independent” than ever, creating opportunities for retailers in the “masstige” and value segments alike to score a “win from this freedom-to-change-my-look trend. Some of the newest hair styles require six to eight items to achieve the look; we’re talking about a nice market basket.”

She adds that not only has African American shopping buying power reached $1.1 trillion annually; there are categories other than hair care and beauty aids that offer mass retailers a chance to increase market share among African American consumers. According to Nielson, Chapman says, other non-edible categories heavily shopped by African American consumers include feminine hygiene, air fresheners, family planning and insecticides, to name a few.

Chapman urges retailers to “take the plunge,” re-evaluate store classifications and work with district and regional personnel to determine who is living near and shopping in their stores. “Shake up the assortment, particularly in leading African American markets—New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Memphis and Baltimore,” she recommends.

The Chapman Edge can serve as a valuable resource here. For one thing, Chapman’s attention to detail, vast industry knowledge, and deep contacts across industries mean that “we know whom to see at the retail chain for promotion planning, brand co-creation, forecasting, supply chain and other questions.  Many times, she laments, manufacturers will simply go to the retailer’s category manager with all of their questions, but in today’s highly specialized environments, the category manager may not be the appropriate individual to consult. And even if a manufacturer can find a category manager who can help, he or she may get promoted or otherwise move on. The key, Chapman emphasizes, is to have a broad knowledge of the retail chain infrastructure, so as to know “who the latest ‘go-to person’ is.”

Tight connections with retailers play a part here as well. “We are fortunate to be on the approved contractor list for a few national chains,” Chapman explains. Such a status goes equally far in helping to promote The Chapman Edge and its services, as most of its advertising and marketing is through word of mouth. “When a vendor seeks help and we are a fit, we get referrals,” Chapman states. “The vendor community is also a strong reservoir of networking.”

Chapman believes retailers can do more to entice consumers to their stores and do a better job with advertising and promotional vehicles intended to target urban communities. Filling a prescription or picking up a quick paper item for the home may be a customer’s reason for stopping at a local store, “but grab this customer with attractive in-store signage,” she urges. Retailers should, for instance, lead the hair care section with popularly advertised items, update assortments with vendors they trust to tag and create grass-roots tie-in events, and offer discounts with student IDs at stores that are situated near a college or university.

Local newspapers, bill boards and transit ads are effective in building brand awareness, Chapman says, noting that in her experience, manufacturers will invest in cooperative spending “menus” that will increase sales of their brands.

“Many retailers only offer advertising options that are sold chain-wide,” she states. However, “there are just some items that should not be in all stores because they will not sell. While I support and understand the importance of corporate planogram initiatives, I believe supervised targeted/regional distribution and advertising are critical to maintaining a neighborhood shopping image. Some may feel that online-only, urban assortments can be confusing to shoppers, but I believe that with effective communication, the confusion is erased.”

Last year, Chapman committed her company to attendance at more trade shows across several genres, and although it was expensive and required significant travel, the approach “was a great decision,” she says. “Attending ECRM, Cosmoprof and CHPA-sponsored meetings has helped to broaden our visibility and served as productive venues, since such activities offer continuing education. Our plan is to stay on course, and we have budgeted additional trade-related networking opportunities for 2015 and beyond.”