ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ingles Markets, Asheville, N.C.; Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y. and R&G Felpausch Co., Hastings, Mich., will be among several chains to test merchandising concepts suggested in the General Merchandise Distributors' "Birthday/Celebration Best Practices Consumer Research Report."
Research findings were presented here during the Colorado Springs-based association's GM Marketing Conference, June 2 to 6. The conference drew about 1,200 retailers, suppliers and guests for a 30th anniversary year celebration. During the event, former GMDC president Rick Tilton was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The study found that consumers currently shop various retail channels for their party needs. Their desire, however, is to shop at one source for their food/beverages, decorations and nonfood party items. The tests that will be conducted at various chains throughout the country will result in a best practice merchandising guide that retailers can use to help brand their stores as a birthday/celebration products and services destination. The test results and guide will be presented at next year's meeting in San Diego, Calif., June 1 to 5, 2001.
"Sometimes it's so common sense. I think we've taken birthdays for granted," said Pat McGivern, vice president, general merchandise, health and beauty care category manager and procurement wholesale, Supervalu, Minneapolis, Minn., during a retail panel discussion following the report's release.
It was mentioned that the grocery industry made a similar attempt to capitalize on the billions spent by consumers on birthday parties and other celebratory events during the early '90s with the emergence of party centers. That concept received mixed reviews by those that instituted it, noted the panel.
At the time, "It was hard to consolidate 800-square-feet and put it in the center of the store," said Tony Federico, vice president HBC and general merchandise nonfoods for Ingles Markets. Then, co-merchandising in bakery, deli and food was less acceptable, he and others mentioned.
"What we are trying to do this time is take our current footage and not redirect it but lead consumers through the store to the whole line products -- food, beverage, paper, cameras, batteries, toys. It will take some training. Our tests will let the customer know what we have and that they can shop the whole store and find value there. We are going to test advertising in newspapers and have birthday celebration days in the store," said Federico.
The birthday test sites will experiment with solution selling that panel members believe can go a long way in advancing party-related sales. Federico talked about the possibility of bundling birthday supplies into a package sold at several pricing levels.
"Grocers are more receptive to solution selling more than they were 10 years ago. Also, all of us have experienced the glass walls coming down between departments. Store managers are more receptive to coordinating their department more than ever before especially with the advent of super centers that combine grocery with nonfoods," stated McGivern.
Test sites will most likely look at what the study's consumer focus groups said were necessary to successfully merchandise birthday/celebration events. These included providing a broad product selection, having an expanded theme that included licensed products, developing an image as a party channel within a designated section, offering bulk pack sizes and being competitively priced.
The research also revealed the impact of various promotions that would favorably influence a shopper in patronizing a store for its party goods. Cake-related promotions were the most sought after influencers. These included 10% off birthday items, coupons for cakes and party trays, free cake with a $25 party purchase. The availability of best-selling gifts (such as toys), and assistance from a party planner or interactive kiosk were merchandising tools that also positioned a particular store to become a favorable destination for birthday and celebration purchases.
Although the upcoming store tests have yet to be formalized, Duane Nizinski, this year's GMDC chairman and general merchandise, HBC and pharmacy sales manager, Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., pointed to the end results. "We want to be able to show you the money and what happened at store level in terms of dollars."
Based on an Internet survey of 1,800 households, consumers were asked to choose promotions that would drive them into a store for birthday/celebration goods. Discounting of various merchandise was voted as a strong incentive for shopping a particular location.
Percent of Consumers Choosing Promotions That Strongly Affect Their Desire to Shop at a Particular Store for Party Supplies
Coupons for Cakes and Party Trays 74%
10% Off Birthday Items 71%
Free Cake With $25 Party Purchase 65%
Separate Birthday Department 65%
Wide Selection of Themed Plates, etc. 63%
Availability of Top-Selling Gifts 49%
Free Assistance From Party Planner 34%
Source: GMDC "Birthday/Celebration Best Practices Consumer Research Report" and National Market Measures, March, 2000, Quantitative Survey.