Better-quality general merchandise with higher price points is occupying the seasonal aisles at some supermarkets this fourth quarter.
Retailers polled by SN said they hope to pull impulse sales from holiday shoppers by offering upgraded lines that include plush toys, home entertainment electronics and specialty giftware.
In addition to buying better-quality merchandise that carries slightly higher price tags, retailers are increasing selection and variety of these lines.
"We'll go more extensive this year with more variety by adding a couple dozen stockkeeping units to the lines to give our customers a broader selection," said Gary Schloss, vice president of general merchandise at Carr Gottstein
Foods, Anchorage, Alaska. Investing in higher priced merchandise demonstrates that retailers are confident consumers will have extra dollars to spend this holiday season.
"We think because the economy is pretty good now we needed to upgrade and carry some higher price points," said Dick Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser at Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind.
Raley's, West Sacramento, Calif., will promote a wide variety of giftware, such as handcrafted pillows, wood carvings and higher-end, handmade clocks. These will be merchandised at various locations throughout the store, including greeting card departments. Items will retail between $2 and $40.
"Many of these items are normally sold at specialty gift shops," said Dan Black, buyer-merchandiser for general merchandise.
A fourth-quarter continuity program at Randalls Food Markets, Houston, will feature Corning French White design bowls and dishware. "It should be the big volume mover for us," said Bob Morrison, general merchandise buyer. The chain will use endcaps to highlight the holiday promotion, which will feature a different item each week.
Carr Gottstein will feature a wide array of plush products, including a bigger and better-quality plush bear for Christmas.
"It's something that's always done well for us," noted Schloss.
This year's 26-inch-tall bear will be 2 inches taller than last year's bear and will "be much softer in a better quality at a much better price," Schloss added. The bear will retail at less than $16.99, the price of the item last year.
The chain also will merchandise home electronics such as compact disk players and videocassette recorders priced under $100.
"It's an area we sort of tiptoed into with some products last year, and we are expanding our variety this season with more selections," Schloss said.
Boxed selections of glassware and giftware will be a prominent part of Carr Gottstein's holiday mix this season.
Price points will range from $4.99 to $19.99. "The variety will be made up of last-minute gift-type of items that have done very well for us in the past. We'll merchandise [the box selections] at end displays and at regular promotional aisles." Carr Gottstein will also offer "toys in a large assortment of name brands at very competitive prices. Retails will be held to under $39.95." Plush animals, electric ceramic miniature houses and boxed games will round out holiday promotions at Genuardi Super Markets, Norristown, Pa. This will be the first time the chain is emphasizing plush products in a major fourth-quarter promotion, and will display the merchandise at seasonal areas. "We've had plush at other times, including Valentine's Day, and this is the year we'll try it at the major holidays to see how it does. If it works out well, we'd come back with it again next year,' " said Jack Mahon, general merchandise category manager at Genuardi. The ceramic houses will retail at $9.99 and the plush products, ranging from 11 inches to 18 inches high, will be priced from $8.99 to $15.99.
The retailer also will feature licensed Walt Disney prints from "Snow White" and "The Lion King" that also will be sold at the seasonal area. Abco Foods, Phoenix, will increase the variety of its plush animal selection this season.
"We've had such excellent cleanups for the last couple of holiday seasons that we just keep expanding our plush," said Nick Borze, Abco's nonfood merchandiser. "We've always had a fairly wide assortment of plush at the holidays, and this year the price points will be in the $2.99 to $49.99 range."