CHANDLER, Ariz. -- A variety of goods beyond the traditional stationery items are contributing to a solid back-to-school selling season for supermarkets, according to executives polled by SN.
Whether it's grade school, high school, college or the home office, retailers are aggressively positioning back-to-school sections as destination centers by offering age-specific products, as well as school and office basics.
Consumers are projected to spend $442 per household on back-to-school products in 2002, according to the National Retail Federation, Washington, down only slightly from $457 per household last year.
So far this year, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., has had good initial sales on backpacks and key school supplies, said George Fiscus, vice president, general merchandise. Bashas' also honed its selection to accommodate the college crowd.
"We've had success this year with adding 'dorm' selections, like small furniture and inflatable sofas, to our back-to-school line-up," he said. As a secondary promotional theme, Bashas' has been highlighting framed art in the back-to-school time frame.
Farm Fresh Supermarkets, Virginia Beach, Va., has been promoting jersey sheet sets, portfolios and day-timers for college students, said Ken Fletcher, vice president, general merchandise and health and beauty care.
"It's been a pretty good area for a lot of years," Fletcher said. "It seems to be fairly consistent." However, it's not a growth category, he added.
All classes of trade are looking to build traffic through "strategic pricing policies, and it's more aggressive than last year," said Steven Jacober, president, School, Home & Office Products Association, Dayton, Ohio.
While the trend has focused on back-to-school basics like standard notebooks and folders rather than high-fashion, pricier school supplies, Jacober said supermarkets are promoting value-added school product "bundles" effectively according to appropriate store demographics. Retailers have been supplying specific back-to-school products based on the growing reliance of school-mandated supply lists, said industry sources.
SHOPA compiled 4,000 school-list records to create a continually expanding database for its members, said Jacober. "School lists are a trend nationwide," he said, which stretches the back-to-school season to late September as parents wait to buy school supplies until after their children receive the lists in school.
Certain school lists called for more home office supplies this year, said Fletcher, as retailers like Farm Fresh are capitalizing on the growing trend.
"In our area, the teachers themselves have requirements and we find some of them are for home office-type products, like legal pads and manila folders, rather than traditional back-to-school supplies," Fletcher said.
The home office segment is one that supermarkets are beginning to tap as a greater merchandising opportunity, said Jacober.
"We do see supermarkets trying to take advantage of that within the space constraints they have, whether it's promotional side wings or endcap displays," Jacober said. "Retailers do see potential for crossover, especially with products that are highly consumable in a home office, like paper, printer ribbon and toners."
In 2002, there are projected to be 41.1 million home offices in the U.S., he said.
As a result of corporate downsizing, many people are starting their own businesses, said Marieke Mertz, director of marketing for Gould Packaging, which is a manufacturer of parcel boxes, Slicker Shippers and other mailing materials. Additionally, the "cocooning effect" of the past year translated into more people working from their homes, she said.
Back-to-school time also gives parents the opportunity to stock up on the related products, said Laura Steele, marketing manager, home and office products, Mead Corp., Dayton, Ohio manufacturer of Cambridge brand organizers.