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Co-op awards five Master Merchants

Story and photo by: Chris Villines 2/25/2019


Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Retail Development Manager Douglas Adcock, fifth from left, recognizes the 2018 Master Merchants of the Year Jan. 21 at Co-op’s Winter Managers’ Meeting. Pictured from left are the winners (holding plaques) and their Co-op managers: Alex Lawson and Brian Julian, Hawkins Farmers Co-op; Kristina Garrett and Randy Stubblefield, Williamson Farmers Co-op; Nicci Fowler and Barry Branum, Obion Farmers Co-op; Diamond Award recipient Jenny Jackson and Derrick Knowles, Wilson Farmers Co-op; and Advanced Master Merchant Kaydee Johnston and Deb Dunn, White County.
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Employees from five different Co-ops across Tennessee have been recognized as a Master Merchants of the Year for their hard work in the areas of display creativity, product merchandising, customer service, and inventory management.

The award winners were announced by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Retail Development Manager Douglas Adcock on Jan. 21 at Co-op’s 2019 Winter Managers’ Meeting in Murfreesboro. They were lauded for their continued efforts in helping enhance the customer shopping experience, implementing innovative merchandising ideas at their respective locations, designing attractive, eye-catching showrooms, and building effective product displays.

“These Co-op employees are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of merchandising and increase sales within their stores,” said Adcock during the presentation. “They are always willing to try new things and educate themselves through the Master Merchant program.”

Those honored as Master Merchants of the Year were Nicci Fowler, Obion Farmers Cooperative; Kristina Garrett, Williamson Farmers Cooperative; and Alex Lawson, Hawkins Farmers Cooperative. Kaydee Johnston with White County Farmers Cooperative was named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year, following up on her 2014 Master Merchant win.

Jenny Jackson with Wilson Farmers Cooperative, a Master Merchant recipient in both 2007 and 2011 and an Advanced Master Merchant in 2017, became the second-ever recipient of the retail development program’s most prestigious honor, the Diamond Award, for her cooperative system merchandising excellence. Jackson has spent the entirety of her 14-year Co-op career at Wilson Farmers.

“Jenny is without a doubt one of the most unique merchandisers in the Co-op system,” said Adcock. “She is very creative and uses just about anything she can find to build outstanding displays. She maintains a very positive attitude and enjoys working at the Co-op.”

Before naming the recipients, Adcock explained that a Master Merchant of the Year is awarded from each of Tennessee’s three regions and selected by a variety of sources, including regional managers, field staff, vendors, and TFC employees. He stressed that the award is not based on store size, sales volume, or location, and that winners are chosen based on their merchandising skills, creativity, and enthusiasm.

In detailing why Johnston, an employee of White County Farmers Co-op since January 2010, was chosen for the Advanced Master Merchant recognition, Adcock said: “Kaydee is known for being that employee who sees projects that need to be done and does them. She is forward thinking and creative, doing such things as making display tables, shelves, and toy boxes from throwaway pallets. The management and staff appreciates Kaydee’s enthusiasm and guidance in everything she does.”

Fowler began her Co-op career in April 2017 by working at the Obion Farmers Co-op Fertilizer Plant during the seasonal rush. Shortly thereafter, she moved to the Union City store’s garden center, where her passion for organizing and merchandising bloomed. Fowler is now at the Obion branch location, where she is tasked with daily storefront operations, merchandising, and sales.

Garrett’s Co-op career began in 2013 at Giles County Farmers Co-op before she moved to Williamson Farmers Co-op in 2016. Describing herself as being “OCD and full of energy 90 percent of the time,” she found her niche in organizing and creating displays. Garrett said her favorite part of merchandising is browsing other merchants’ social media pages and working their ideas into the Franklin store.

Lawson started her career at Hawkins Farmers Co-op in March 2014 as manager of the Co-op’s newly added Ace Hardware department. In 2016, she was promoted to showroom manager with areas of responsibility including animal health, pet, equine, poultry, beekeeping, and a shared responsibility for clothing and footwear. Lawson said it’s the people — customers and coworkers — that make her job so enjoyable.

The Master Merchant program was established in 2001. Since its development, more than 150 employees have become Certified Master Merchants and maintain their certification by attending continuing education sessions.

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