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Co-op’s Master Merchants receive awards



Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Retail Development Manager Douglas Adcock, fifth from left, recognizes the 2016 Master Merchants of the Year Jan. 9 at Co-op’s Winter Managers’ Meeting. Pictured are the winners and their Co-op managers, from left, Cody Mundy and Rick Keck, Claiborne Farmers Cooperative; Paul Sullivan and Roxanne Walls, who was named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year, Dickson Farmers Co-op; Nikki Bell and Randy Hite, Humphreys Farmers Co-op; and Darrin Barnes, Josh Chandler, and Kim Cannon, Warren Farmers Co-op.
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Five member Co-op employees were recently recognized as Master Merchants of the Year for their work in designing attractive showrooms, building effective product displays, improving customers’ shopping experiences, and implementing innovative merchandising ideas in their respective stores.

Winners were announced during a special ceremony at Co-op’s 2017 Winter Mana-gers’ Meeting in Murfreesboro on Jan. 9. Darrin Barnes and Kim Cannon, Warren Farmers Cooperative, Nikki Bell, Humphreys Farmers Cooperative, and Cody Mundy, Claiborne Farmers Cooperative, received Master Merchant of the Year Awards. Roxanne Walls, Dickson Farmers Cooperative, was named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year.

“These employees have put forth a great effort to improve the quality of merchandising and increase sales within their Co-op stores,” said Douglas Adcock, manager of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s Retail Development Department. “They are always willing to try new ideas and educate themselves through the Master Merchant program.”

Established in 2001, the initiative emphasizes the importance of developing and maintaining a merchandising program based on the patterns and preferences of Co-op customers. Since its development, more than 150 employees have become Certified Master Merchants and maintain their certification by attending continuing education sessions.

From that group of certified employees, winners are chosen yearly from each of the state’s three regions to receive the Master Merchant of the Year Award. Also, one past Master Merchant winner is named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year.

Adcock explained that the awards are based on neither store size nor budget but on initiative, creativity, enthusiasm, and accountability.   

The West Tennessee region winner, Nikki Bell, manager of Humphreys Farmers Cooperative’s Erin branch, joined the Master Merchant program in 2012, a year into her Co-op career.

“In addition to her management responsibilities, Nikki continues to apply her impressive talents for creativity and attention to detail in her store’s merchandising plan,” Adcock told the audience.

After receiving the award, Nikki attributed much of her success to what she learned through the Master Merchant program. “It has taught me a lot,” she said. “I am very honored to have received this award!”

Recognition given to the two winners from the Middle Tennessee region reflect the team effort they showed during Warren Farmers Cooperative’s recent renovation. Darrin Barnes, who began his Co-op career in 1994, is assistant manager at Warren Farmers. His colleague, Kim Cannon, was hired in 2013 and serves as the store’s cashier and equine specialist.  In 2014, the co-workers joined the Master Merchant program as a team.

During his presentation, Adcock stressed that both Barnes and Cannon were instrumental in planning and implementing a complete showroom renovation and remerchandising project in 2016.

“The Master Merchant program is a great way to receive information on how to build a showroom you can be proud of,” said Darrin after the ceremony.

Kim explained that she joined the Master Merchant program with the intention of winning the coveted award after reading about it in the Tennessee Cooperator.

“It was kind of a joke when I first started,” she adds. “I put a lot of my own creativity into my displays, so I’m overwhelmed and honored that someone else noticed as well. I guess, years ago when I set my sights on this, I was right!”

Cody Mundy, who was chosen to represent the East Tennessee region, joined TFC’s training program in 2014 and was hired as showroom manager for Claiborne Farmers’ Speedwell location in 2015.

During the presentation, Adcock explained that Cody displayed an array of new items in the store’s outside sale yard as part of his merchandising efforts.

“The Master Merchant Program helps us as Co-op employees to maximize our merchandising skills to improve our local stores,” Cody said after the ceremony. “I’m proud that Co-op has chosen to honor me in this way.”

Adcock closed the ceremony by presenting the Advanced Master Merchant of the Year to Roxanne Walls from Dickson Farmers Cooperative.

After beginning her Co-op career in 2000, Roxanne was promoted to department manager in 2005 and received the Master Merchant of the Year Award in 2007. In 2016, she was instrumental in planning and implementing a complete showroom renovation and expansion, which included purchasing the necessary fixtures as well as merchandising the additional showroom space.

“I’ve really benefited from the Master Merchant program over the years,” said Roxanne. “The meetings are a great way for us to share ideas and learn new, creative merchandising techniques.”

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