Supermarkets are spiking their general merchandise revenues with special off-shelf displays and promotions of food storage containers.
General merchandise buyers surveyed by SN said they are using large pallet presentations and endcaps packed out with tiers of different styles, shapes and colors not only to stimulate impulse sales, but as a way of competing with mass merchandisers.
In a move that sharply spiked its food storage container volume, Penn Traffic Co.'s 36 corporate Riverside Markets and Bi-Lo Foods, and the 59 other supermarkets it supplies, cross-merchandise selected storage items with weekly, advertised "featured grocery, produce and other food products around the store," said Mike O'Shell, general merchandise buyer for the Syracuse, N.Y.-based firm.
The tie-ins usually drive volume higher at the eight-foot department by combining promotions on items such as "a 2.5-quart pasta- or cereal-storage product alongside a cereal promotion as part of the in-store display."
O'Shell said another winning promotional tie-in for Penn Traffic stores is to cross-merchandise "bread containers at bakery alongside the bread." Family Thrift Center, Rapid City, S.D., highlights its 12-foot food storage container department with a truckload-of-values promotion it runs several times a year.
"The truckload-of-value promotions contain other plasticware specials that draw attention to the whole food storage area," said Ted Honke, manager of general merchandise. "We promote as much as possible at multiple price points -- two for $5 or three for $4 and three for $7 -- which is very effective, because it leads to additional sales.
"We cut our food storage container margins a little bit to combat the competition from the mass merchants, which keeps the section strong," Honke added. "Food storage does well in promotions, including dollar day sales when we feature even-dollar amounts."
He said smaller size containers are showing the best movement, "which opened up a whole new category. For so long there were many larger container sizes where now a lot of working moms or two-income families are packing lunches for themselves and their kids and the smaller capacity containers are new sales possibilities."
When Angeli Foods, Iron River, Mich., promotes food storage devices in massive endcap presentations three to four times a year, sales come very close to doubling their normal figures, according to the retailer.
"We promote the whole category at different price points at $1, $2 and $3 at the front of the store on a three-sided end, which is very effective," said Polly Smith, general merchandise coordinator.
In April, when Angeli promoted 35 to 40 different stockkeeping units, "We went through quite a bit of product in every size and shape. We used signage, and with that, plus the price points and exposure, impulse sales were high because it looked like a good buy."
This year the retailer is planning on replanogramming its everyday food storage department to a full 4-foot section up and down. Currently, Angeli has 16 feet of shelving for food storage underneath the pegged gadgets area.
At Strack & Van Til, Highland, Ind., the food storage container segment "is a constantly improving section in many sizes, shapes and colors that we introduce in different brands," said Jim Johnsen, buyer supervisor of general merchandise and health and beauty care.
Johnsen said the improved product quality and wider color choices are fueling consumer demand for food storage products. "Several years ago the industry offered either a low-end or higher-grade product, with nothing in between. There's been so much diversification in the products."
Off-shelf displays "substantially boost food storage product volume," said Johnsen, especially when offered away from the regular department. In a move to better compete against mass merchandisers, the 42-store Byrd Food Stores, Burlington, N.C., is resuming running food storage product promotions in shippers and half-pallet displays in about 10 different items.
"The products are priced at $1 on promotion in an adequate variety at good retails to stimulate impulse sales," said Randall King, nonfood buyer. If the promotion does well, Byrd intends to "pencil it in on our regular promotion calendar."
Cannata's Food World, Morgan City, La., has spiced up its 4-to 12-foot food storage section with a wider color variety in peach, blue and periwinkle. The store is also getting added sales mileage from the section by mounting two pallet displays a year as part of a dollar day housewares promotion.
At the start of this year Cannata's began expanding its food storage products assortment with smaller sizes and "customers have embraced these smaller items," said Warren Guidry, nonfood buyer-merchandiser. "When we promote the small and larger containers they do extremely well, while mid-range sizes do better in off-shelf displays."
Guidry said food storage products have proven "to be a top shopper draw for the whole dollar day promotion. That and large plastics are the draw, and while you usually make a profit on the small odds and ends in the mix, you sell more by customers being drawn in because of the plastics."
Food storage containers range from 8- to 12-foot sections at Mel Markets, East Rockaway, N.Y., where the retailer pumps up business in the category "with multipacks," said Anthony Trocchio, director of general merchandise.
The 17-unit chain tries to "set up food storage product promotions as often as possible in cut case displays. We'll run one every other month. As long as you change your packs and count and possibly the brands, styles and sizes [the promotion] will do well in projecting good value."
Trocchio said larger containers are very popular in his chain's area, particularly for storing and reheating vegetables and sauces.