Then & Now: Shaffer builds on CPG experience with Unilever

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 413 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Nov. 22 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Chelsea Shaffer continues to build on her more than a decade of experience in the retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries.

Shaffer recently started as a category manager for Unilever. The Fayetteville native said she likes the company’s values and that the people, brands and company have a purpose.

“They are really big about their employees making the world a better place as much as their brands,” she said.

As a Sam’s Club category manager, she works with all the Unilever brands and competitors in the membership-based warehouse chain of Walmart Inc.

From 2019 to 2021, she was category manager for InComm and handled its Sam’s Club products, including gift cards, wireless items, such as mobile phones, and gaming. InComm recently was named Sam’s Club vendor of the year, and she was part of the team that helped that happen, she said. Her office was in Bentonville, but she has been working remotely since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between 2018 and 2019, she worked at Springdale-based meat producer Tyson Foods and was a marketing analytics manager.

“I worked in the emerging brands area, mainly in pet treats,” she said. “I had a couple of different roles. I was the pricing manager, so I handled all of the world’s pricing.”

She ensured accurate pricing, watched for commodity price increases, handled forecasting, helped determine the return on investment for new items and sought new trends before hitting the market.

From 2015 to 2018, she worked for Walmart, including as senior planner for the retailer and in adult beverage for Sam’s Club.

With Walmart, she was the planner of the year while working in hardlines, including camping, sports and fitness, and she helped with new products that increased sales. All categories in adult beverage grew consistently while she was with Sam’s Club, she said. She also provided analytics that included direction on what needed to be changed.

Before joining Walmart, she worked at Coca-Cola in Rogers and was a finance manager overseeing six employees. She was responsible for trade budgeting, forecasting and pricing for Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Shaffer was performance and planning manager at Coca-Cola when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class in 2011.

In 2013, she earned an MBA in international business from John Brown University. She studied in Ireland and completed the degree in less than two years.

Asked how the pandemic has affected her career, she said it’s been character-building and that people have learned to communicate without seeing people’s faces. Also, she noted that her husband, who owns several area bars, had to sell Apple Blossom Brewery in Fayetteville because of COVID. He owns Smoke & Barrel Tavern in downtown Fayetteville and is a partner in other bars in Springdale and Fayetteville, including Prairie St. Bar & Tap.

Bars were shut down longer than restaurants because of COVID, yet bills continued to be due each month. However, with the recent success of the Razorbacks, she said business has started to improve as people celebrate.

Shaffer, 46, said her career highlight has been making suggestions for products, pricing or promotions and seeing them on store shelves. That might include how products are laid out or providing advice to buyers on whether to purchase a product. She added that she can go to Walmart or Sam’s Club and show her children, “that’s what I did.”

“Being able to be part of the team that gets to make the decisions on how everything looks on it, it’s pretty cool,” she said. “Especially with Walmart because you’ve got over 5,000 stores, and you’re touching the whole nation by your idea.”

Over the next three to five years, Shaffer wants to move into a leadership role. She’s worked in various CPG roles, giving her well-rounded experience, and if she takes a leadership position, she’ll understand marketing, finance, sales and category.

She and her husband, Al, have two daughters and reside in Springdale. As a volunteer, she feeds and supports the homeless, provides tutoring for students of the Springdale School District and helps with Meals on Wheels.