Profile: Greg Norsworthy, Retail Experience Director, North America, Nestle Purina Petcare

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Profile: Greg Norsworthy, Retail Experience Director, North America, Nestle Purina Petcare

By Chris Gelbach - 01/16/2018
Photo by Whitney Curtis

Greg Norsworthy’s career in merchandising began more than 20 years ago when he was an account executive for Nestle Purina Petcare. After several years in category leadership roles, he became very interested in the retail environment. It was evident to him that pet care environments were lacking in presentation and experience. They had no emotional connection to pet-owning households. So, he worked with one of his clients, a major grocery chain, to completely reinvent the pet care department. The result was double-digit sales growth and a drastic elevation at Purina Petcare for Norsworthy to a director-level role.

The move created new work and a new team at Purina focused on retail presentation that has now been part of the company for more than 20 years. Today, Norsworthy focuses on designing retail pet care experiences at both the category and brand levels, working with category teams, retailers and various Purina Petcare brands.

How does Purina Petcare define success for its in-store marketing programs?

NORSWORTHY: Not to make this too simple, but our solutions must grow the total category and drive increased household conversion and sales. Because that’s really what we’re all after. We’re in a category that’s still growing marginally, so to be able to drive new households is an awfully big opportunity right now.

How has the emergence of the omnichannel shopper influenced your overall approach to merchandising?

NORSWORTHY: Shoppers desire a faster and more convenient experience in the store. The structure and layout of the department has to be more intuitive based on their wants and needs. For example, small dog owners only want products for small dogs. They don’t have the time to deselect hundreds of items prior to finding their product in store. If retail stores don’t improve the experience, shoppers will gravitate toward online.

Has that insight caused you to segment the products more clearly in stores?

NORSWORTHY: Yes. That’s deeply in development right now. We’re seeing a disproportionate growth in small dog ownership. But if you walk into a store looking for something for a small dog right now, good luck.

What are the important characteristics of a mutually beneficial merchandising collaboration between a manufacturer and retailer?

NORSWORTHY: The mutual objective really is to create relationships with valuable shoppers and to grow the category profitably through value-added solutions that enhance the shopping experience and trade up shoppers. I heard a major retailer say once, if we could fire shoppers, we would. It’s that 80/20 rule. The key mutual objective is to create those relationships with our most valuable shoppers.

How has merchandising changed in recent years? What trends are happening now?

NORSWORTHY: The power has really shifted to the shopper. Many times, the purchase decision is made prior to the retail store. Research indicates 69% of shoppers are frustrated with their shopping experience. That’s across all channels. We’re developing solutions that assist shoppers with finding a product faster. If a shopper finds a product within the first 10 seconds, they’re likely to buy more products on that same trip.

What role do you foresee the physical store playing in the future?

NORSWORTHY: I believe the physical store will be important in building awareness with shoppers for the overall category. Key retailers will utilize the physical store to enhance conversion for categories like pet care, but they will also offer expanded selections for food, supplies and services online or what we call the endless aisle. Generally, stores will be smaller in the future, so a hybrid approach of the physical store and an online transaction will be required to remain relevant.

What do you see as the keys for success in the category moving forward?

NORSWORTHY: I think we’re at a point where you have to be extremely successful in the brick-and-mortar physical space and the online space to win in the category. More families are adopting pets. So it’s a great time to be a pet, and it’s a great time to be in the pet care business. It’s just highly competitive, and I think that the online experience has brought new competition to the category. It’s forcing new work, if you will.


NORSWORTHY: In 2010, Nestle Purina launched a pet care department redesign in supermarkets that was called “Open Air.” The department was transformed into a more shoppable department, and shoppers were presented with a completely new pet supplies assortment of 800 items previously only found in pet stores. I led the pre-research with shoppers utilizing virtual reality and the design phase of the department with design firm 10 Red, as the execution phase with multiple suppliers engaged. I also recruited pet supplies distributor Central Pet to provide direct-store-delivery service for the initial test store. The Open Air project was hugely successful, growing sales for the total category and enhancing margins due to pet supplies sales increases. Shoppers also spent an average of 40 seconds longer in the aisle browsing, and it was determined that the Open Air design converted incremental households for the category.


NORSWORTHY: The shopability of heavy items, such as bags of dog food, are a concern with shoppers in retail stores. Once pet food displays are shopped down, it’s difficult and even unsafe to lift heavy bags into the cart for shoppers. The pallet lift merchandiser provides an enhanced shopping experience that keeps larger bags of pet food always available at the optimal 30-inch height, with automated sensors that lift the display when it is shopped below 30 inches. It saves the retailer labor costs because once the pallet is loaded with a typical retail pallet jack, the product remains shoppable until all the pet food bags are purchased.  The pallet lift merchandiser also provides a safer shopping experience. Its large graphic panels have proven to drive category and brand awareness. Sales increases have been between 15% and 30% for a typical two- to four-week merchandising program, versus a typical endcap display. The pallet lift is relatively new to the retail industry, but it is a very promising solution for pallet-driven promotions across the retail landscape.