Newest Co-op Master Merchants named

Feb 24, 2020


Employees from five different Co-ops across Tennessee have been recognized as a Master Merchants of the Year for display creativity, innovative product merchandising, customer service, and
inventory management.

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Retail Development Manager Douglas Adcock announced the award winners on Jan. 20 at Co-op’s 2020 Winter Managers’ Meeting in Murfreesboro. 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.

“These Co-op employees work really hard to help improve the quality of merchandising and increase sales within their stores,” said Adcock during the presentation. “These Master Merchants are selected solely on their skills, creativity, and enthusiasm.”

Those honored as Master Merchants of the Year were Connie Hodnett, Humphreys Farmers Cooperative; Leah Money, Franklin Farmers Cooperative; and Jackie Kite, Anderson Farmers Cooperative. Ashlynn Dobbs with Claiborne Farmers Cooperative was named Advanced Master Merchant of the Year, following up on her 2014 Master Merchant win.

Roxanne Walls with Dickson Farmers Cooperative, a Master Merchant recipient in 2007 and an Advanced Master Merchant in 2016, became the third-ever recipient of the Master Merchant program’s most prestigious honor, the Diamond Award, for her 20 years of cooperative system merchandising excellence. Walls began her career at Dickson Farmers in July 2000, working in sales and merchandising, and was promoted to showroom manager in 2005.

“Roxanne is the quarterback of our team,” said Dickson Farmers Manager Paul Sullivan. “In 2016, she was instrumental in planning and implementing a complete showroom renovation and expansion. She purchased the necessary fixtures and merchandising supplies.

Her role during that project was critical and helped make my job much easier.”

Advanced Master Merchant recipient Dobbs joined the TFC Manager Trainee Program in August 2011. After a year on the training program, she was hired at Claiborne Farmers Co-op’s New Tazewell store, where she’s been ever since. She began as an animal health specialist and had several other responsibilities such as inventory and ordering. In January 2019, Dobbs was promoted to showroom manager. She says her love of animals helped get her started at the Co-op but over time it has developed into so much more because of her passion for people. Claiborne Farmers Manager Rick Keck says Dobbs’ passion for keeping displays new and fresh at the main store and branch stores is “contagious.”

Hodnett began her Co-op career at Humphreys Farmers’ Centerville store in July 2014. She says she’s learned a lot about the retail industry by attending the Master Merchant classes, and she’s also had the privilege to learn about other aspects of the Co-op through the many feed and animal health classes she’s attended over the years that have enabled her to better help customers with their needs.

Humphreys Farmers General Manager Randy Hite says he hopes Connie will “continue being of service to Humphreys Farmers’ customers for many years to come.”

Money joined Franklin Farmers Co-op’s Decherd store in June 2016. She became a Master Merchant member in August 2016 and was promoted to the sales floor manager position in July 2019. She says as a Master Merchant she enjoys learning from others, sharing photos of her displays and endcaps with others in the Master Merchant Facebook group, and helping customers with their animal health, home and garden, and gift needs.
Franklin Farmers Manager Jimmy Farless says he is “very proud of what Leah has done for our store in showing how we take care of farmers and other folks in our community.”

Kite started her career at Anderson Farmers Co-op in April 2017. Most recently, she moved to the store’s agricultural department.

Anderson Farmers Manager Jeremy Horne says Jackie “doesn’t hesitate to jump in and take the bull by the horns on products that might be hard to merchandise. She has done an excellent job of selecting unique items and incorporating them with existing items to make eye-catching displays. Jackie brings great enthusiasm, energy, and fresh ideas as a merchandiser. She has a real knack for knowing what items are trending and how to make eye-catching displays.”

More than 175 employees have become Certified Master Merchants since the program’s establishment in 2001.
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