Supermarket retailers are taking a bright idea from warehouse stores' club packs and are using it to bundle light bulbs, with a new twist.
Supermarket officials said they can differentiate themselves from other classes of trade by combining various wattages and different types of bulbs and by promoting either branded or lower-end products. They added this technique is important in a commodity category that has been forced into becoming a loss leader because of heavy competition. When the major light bulb selling season begins this fall, food retailers will be promoting the larger, shrink-wrapped multipacks of value-added light bulbs prominently out of in-line sections and in floor, endcap and cut-case displays. "Larger light bulb value packs are good in-and-out promotions for consumers looking for savings, and it's something we offer as an added savings in lighting products," said Bill Vitulli, vice president of government and community relations at A&P, Montvale, N.J. Vitulli said larger count packs "of six to eight bulbs in smaller packs banded together or in a larger shrink-wrapped package give supermarkets an edge in fighting back against home centers and other trade classes that use bulbs as a traffic builder." According to Vitulli, merchandising larger packs of light bulbs adds another shopping dimension for customers. "It's the same concept as merchandising paper towels in larger 12 counts and toilet tissue in 24-roll packages, and these are the kinds of opportunities we're always looking at."
The larger packs "make shopping a little more interesting by offering an additional option at the regular in-line section," said Vitulli. He added the various A&P divisions occasionally run larger six- or eight-count light bulb packs "in floor shippers or against a wall to offer customers a better value. We usually promote them in a flier as a good value, and they have a very quick turnover." Phyllis Madison, director of nonfood at Perlmart ShopRite, Toms River, N.J., said, "The larger shrink-wrapped package of two four-packs of bulbs is a good way to fight back against the alternative formats, and has allowed us to hold our ground with the other formats." This fall, as daylight hours get shorter, ShopRite Stores, supplied by Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., expects to run promotions of light bulb value packs. "Whenever Wakefern runs the multipacks we do pretty well as the retail is really hot," added Madison. She said Perlmart "is always running light bulbs [as promotions] in the shrink-wrapped eight- and 12-bulb packs. They usually come in pallet quantities of 60-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs." Madison said, however, the better turns have been in the smaller eight-bulb packs. "The larger shrink-wrapped 12-bulb packs may be too large a quantity for somebody to stock up on at one time," she said, adding that last year's multipack promotion produced "product residue" on the larger packs. Retailers like J.H. Harvey Co., Nashville, Ga., may add a free bulb incentive with multipack promotions this fall. "We're contemplating a buy-one halogen bulb and get-one-free promotion, purchase a four-pack of double-life bulbs and get the second pack free, buy two three-way bulbs and receive the third free, or when a customer purchases two four-packs of energy-saver bulbs they get a three-way bulb free," explained Johnny McDade, light bulb buyer for the 38-store chain. McDade said that such merchandising is "a way of getting our light bulb business back from the other classes of trade." He said, "We're looking to highlight a cross-section of different types of bulbs. The value packs can be set up in shipper display units to create better impulse sales and keep shoppers in our stores." Dahl's Food Markets, Des Moines, Iowa, features the lighting category 10 to 12 times throughout the year, frequently promoting multipacks of bulbs that are competitively priced. This fall, the chain plans on running monthly light bulb promotions, and will also promote two four-packs of a branded light bulb at $3. "This [promotion] does a very good job for us," said Ross Nixon, light bulb buyer. "It enables us to fight back against the mass merchandisers and discounters." He added the two four-pack value offer best satisfies the majority of his customers -- those who use a large to medium number of bulbs. "This value offer permits shoppers to pick up the quantity they need and get either two four-packs or eight bulbs in a name brand at retails as low as $2.78," he explained.
In fall and winter, Dahl's heavily promotes multipacks at low price points every three to four weeks. Lawrence Bros., Sweetwater, Texas, runs low-end four-packs of light bulbs at 99 cents. It also merchandises multipacks of eight to 12 bulbs to meet the growing shopper demand for larger value packs. "These are the larger eight to 12 club packs of bulbs consumers would normally buy at Wal-Mart or Sam's," said Walter Smith, supervisor of nonfood. "We merchandise the shrink-wrapped packs of bulbs at a value aisle at our more affluent stores. Shoppers at those stores pick up the extra bulbs the way they do paper products. They know they'll need them next month and so they want to save an extra trip to the store," he added. In locations described as "lower economic," the chain merchandises low-end bulbs from cut cases set out on speed tables.