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Co-op’s Master Merchants receive awards

Story and photo by Allison Parker 1/25/2018


During the 2018 Winter Managers Meeting, Douglas Adcock, third from left, manager of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s Retail Development Department, presented this year’s Master Merchant Awards to five Co-op employees.
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Five employees from member Co-ops were recently recognized as the 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 across the state.

Established in 2001, the Master Merchants 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, and one past Master Merchant winner is named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year. In 2018, for the first time, the Master Merchants Diamond Award – which recognizes lifetime achievement – was presented.

Winners were announced during a special ceremony at Co-op’s 2018 Winter Managers Meeting in Murfreesboro on Jan. 8. Those honored as Master Merchants of the year were Dawn Stepp, Humphreys Farmers Cooperative; Tracy Endsley, Lincoln Farmers Cooperative; and Jessica Gilbert, Jefferson Farmers Cooperative. Jenny Jackson with Wilson Farmers Cooperative was named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year. The inaugural recipient of the Diamond Award was Anderson Farmers Cooperative’s Annette Moore.

“These Co-op employees are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of merchandising and increase sales within their stores,” said Douglas Adcock, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s retail development manager during the ceremony. “They are always willing to try new things and educate themselves through the Master Merchant program.”

Before naming the recipients, Adcock explained that a Master Merchant of the Year is selected from nominations from each of the three areas of the state represented by a TFC regional manager. He also emphasized that the award is not based on store size, sales volume, or location and that winners are selected based on their merchandising skills, creativity, and enthusiasm.

Endsley of Lincoln Farmers was a longtime customer of the Fayetteville location before starting with the Co-op in 2013 and has served as the store’s showroom manager since late 2013.

Gilbert of Jefferson Farmers is a 2006 graduate of the TFC training program and plays an instrumental role in the showroom of the Co-op, said Adcock.

Stepp of Humphreys Farmers joined the Erin location in July 2016 and began the Master Merchant program immediately. Today, Stepp works at the Waverly location where she oversees online sales, merchandising, and marketing.

Jackson of Wilson Farmers has been with the cooperative system for 13 years. Adcock credited Jackson’s work ethic for her being named a Master Merchant in both 2007 and 2011. During the announcement of the Advanced Master Merchant presentation, Adcock said, “There is no doubt that Jenny is one of the most creative merchandisers in the Co-op system.”

The Diamond Award was presented to Moore, who has worked in the cooperative system for 26 years, spending the last 14 with Anderson Farmers Cooperative. During the presentation, Adcock explained that this award was created to honor a Master Merchant winner with years of dedicated service.

“I cannot say enough about Annette’s dedication to her job,” said Jeremy Horne, manager of Anderson Farmers Cooperative. “There is no doubt that her merchandising skills have definitely made a difference in our business.”

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