WOODBURY, N.J. -- It's big -- a 220-foot greeting card department that shouts out to customers.
Taking the store-within-a-store merchandising approach, Acme Markets intends to beat back the competition with an extensive greeting card selection at its largest store, a 65,000-square-foot unit that opened here in the spring.
This Acme store does not lack for competition, especially in greeting cards. In this affluent community, the store is surrounded by drug stores, mass merchandisers, card shops and Wal-Mart, all of which have large and complete card departments.
So Acme was compelled to make a statement in greeting cards. Signs running the left perimeter wall above gift wraps and ribbons draw shoppers from several aisles away. Ceiling signs hanging above the card area call attention to birthdays and all-occasion cards.
As greeting card competition has intensified, "you have to keep it in front of your consumers by signing it well, and working hard on the graphics to make the department speak to the customers," said Don Styer, the chain's director of general merchandise and health and beauty care.
The section is set up at the left front of the store, close to the pharmacy and HBC aisles, where the retailer carefully has crafted a card department with a related mix of products chosen to appeal to the store's high-income consumer base.
"The department's positioning absolutely lets the consumer know it is a destination for all of her card needs. It is a very shoppable section that's laid out to be more accessible. The better job we do in laying it out and making it accessible, the more profitable the department," said Styer.
The card center's configuration and size are within Acme's current 190-foot to 220-foot prototype for the category that now exists in 20 large combination food and drug stores. At conventional stores, cards are merchandised in 48-foot to 80-foot departments.
Styer emphasized that it's a format especially crucial for beating back the competition from other retailing formats.
The large format at the Woodbury store provides space for alternative cards, which appeal to the store's customer base of younger consumers, age 25 to 45, who "are more inclined toward card-giving," said Styer.
"They love alternative cards, including cards for pets, which we have in a 4-foot pet card section, a segment of the card market that tends to be overlooked," he added.
Acme coupons its card sections at holidays, offering $1 off the purchase of three cards. The chain will begin to actively cross-promote cards and floral products. Presently it cross-merchandises birthday candles and numerals at the bakery and deli, and sets up outposts at the bake shop and floral with secondary displays.
Prior to setting up the card section in this new store, American Greetings, the chain's card supplier, did a thorough demographic survey of the store's customer base in order to develop a mix conducive to the market, said Styer.
The demographics "told us the store needed a wide variety of not only cards but noncard products. We have included 50 feet of candles, stationery and party goods. The demographic was perfect for introducing a wide assortment of alternative cards. We went about 30% heavier with them compared to other card sections," said Phil Burne, Eastern regional manager at American Greetings.
The department's party supplies and gift wraps contain a wide assortment of themed products for birthdays and other social occasions.
Footage permitted a wide variety of gift wraps, bags and ribbons that are strategically merchandised along a 50-foot left wall.
The wraps, bows and ribbons are segmented into items for women and men, children and special celebrations such as weddings. The products are highlighted by "lighting that accents this section and makes the colors pop, for a better overall perspective," noted Styer.