When it comes to offering larger packages of paper products, one word dominates all discussions: space.
Supermarkets with ample space are actively merchandising large packs, finding room on the shelves for everything from 12-packs of bathroom tissue to huge club packs of paper towels.
Buyers for smaller stores, meanwhile, told SN the best they can do, typically, is squeeze in some larger individual packs, such as rolls of paper towels with significantly more sheets.
There are two basic, space-dependent strategies to merchandising the larger packages, said retailers.
One way, done in most smaller stores, is to work whatever larger packages are feasible into the existing paper products section by juggling shelf allocations. That often means pulling out slow-moving stockkeeping units. Larger stores, on the other hand, usually have the option of offering club packs en masse. Chains typically place those monster paper goods in the warehouse-item areas in their stores.
Each method presses different shopper buttons, the merchandisers said. The in-aisle approach makes it easy for consumers to compare and note the increased value of buying big. On the other hand, shoppers in the club-pack section are already thinking big, and therefore should be primed to pick up the larger paper goods items.
No matter where they are offered, the big packs are getting hefty responses from consumers, prompting stores to wedge the items in somehow.
"Larger packages are doing quite well in general, and especially in paper," said Jim Nader, director of sales and marketing for Family Fare Supermarket, Hudsonville, Mich. "Three-pack towels and nine-packs and 12-packs in bathroom tissue seem to do well. We try to take the best-selling items in each category and carry those."
"Movement has picked up considerably," said Jerry Denny, buyer for Winn-Dixie Stores' operating area in Louisville, Ky., referring to larger packages. He said Winn-Dixie offers club packs, as well as more conventional supermarket items, such as 12-packs of bathroom tissue. "We've been headed that way for about a year," he said. "That's the size we're promoting. In our ads, we list the larger packs. We seldom promote the smaller packages of paper." Denny estimated that 50% of his paper product sales are coming from larger packages.
"Club packs are doing pretty well, and not just in paper," said Gary Hasselwander, buyer for Red Food Stores, Chattanooga, Tenn. "The success they've had at Sam's and the like is carrying over."
An official at Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, reported three "budget-pack" items selling well. Bounty paper towels in a 12-roll pack, a three-pack of Marcal facial tissues and a 16-roll package of private-label bath tissue are the big sellers throughout the chain. "Customers are, on their own, gravitating toward this direction [larger multipacks]," said Bill Spears, a buyer for Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz. "Even without promotion, movement is good. It's not happening so much in paper towels, although customers have accepted the 'big' single rolls; they're just bigger versions of what's been around -- half again the number of sheets."
Bashas' is experimenting with the biggest club packs of paper goods, he added, but only in its larger units that also have the space for Wall of Values merchandising.
"It's one of those 'cut and feel' situations. In some stores it looks like a good fit. We're just experimenting now. It's too early to tell. Our conventional stores don't carry them," Spears said.
"We're doing a fairly good job on larger sizes," said an executive with a Southern retail chain. "It's not that large a percentage of our sales yet, because they're not available in all our stores. But in the stores we do it in, it's a good percentage, maybe 40%.
"We're trying to move customers into bigger packages, but not necessarily club sizes -- maybe 12-, 24- or 36-count," he added. "We've changed our shelf schematic to make it easier for customers to find the large packs. We've put the large packs at eye level." Margins are a little better on larger packs, he added.
"Most times, the customers get a good value with the larger packs, whether it's a club pack or not," Hasselwander said. "Just about every manufacturer has them. Even the nine-roll has become a good mover.
"Paper is something a customer can buy in large quantities and it's not going to go bad on them. Of course, you still have the people who don't need larger packs. That's why we carry everything from single rolls on up," Hasselwander said.
"We've found that multiple pricing does well," Nader said. "If we do a twofer or threefer, they seem to do real well. We do a good job of advertising the products, but they do well even on their own."
The availability of space usually determines where the larger packages are merchandised.
"In the stores where we have warehouse sections, the larger packages are definitely put there," said a buyer for a New Jersey retailer. "They sell best there because that's where people expect to find them. [Shoppers are] in a big-package mode when they're in the warehouse area. You want to get them while you can. If customers don't see them there, they might not make the connection and think about buying them when they get to the paper aisle.
"With the other large packs, say the three-pack of towels or 12-pack of bathroom tissue, we keep them in the aisle," he added. "It's good to keep them there because it makes it easy for customers to compare prices with the sizes they're used to buying. "They need to compare, because at first it can look as if they're paying a lot more. They're used to paying say $1.19 for bath tissue, not $2.99. Of course, they weren't getting as many rolls, but the price stays in their minds."
Hasselwander said Red Food Stores has found it best to keep the larger products with the existing varieties. "We've had more success putting them in with the regular items as opposed to putting them in a club section."
He said space was cleared by tracking paper movements and eliminating slow-moving items.
Spears of Bashas' said, "Currently, we stock all the larger packs on the top shelf. They seem to be selling real well where they are. One hesitates to fix what's not broken."
"Our large packs are integrated on the shelf with the others," said Denny of Winn-Dixie. "We have a few stores where space is a problem. In those stores, we can't offer club sizes. We have larger sizes, just not club sizes. Sometimes we just can't offer as many brands as well."
"Most of our stores keep the larger sizes in a separate area," said the executive from another Southern retail chain. "In stores where space is a problem, we keep them with the others and just have to cut back on the four-packs and six-packs."
Nader said Family Fare lets its store personnel decide where to place the larger packages. "Some have them mixed in with the other sizes; some have them separate. It depends on the store."
"We've tried to build a bundle-pack section," said Larry Good, vice president, general manager and buyer for Bob's Super Saver, Gardner, Kan. "We may take a 6- or 8-foot section and fill it with larger packs. We can give the section more pizzazz that way."