H.E. BUTT GROCERY
ral H-E-B stores, including a standard version, a Marketplace format, a new supercenter-type format and a smaller neighborhood store.
In each format, the baby aisle was located in the nonfood section, usually near feminine hygiene. In virtually every category, H-E-B has a private-label product. In one of its newer, larger stores, diapers were displayed on five shelves in 24 feet of linear space.
H-E-B gives its store-brand diapers strong exposure by placing them next to Pampers and Huggies. In addition, the chain has packaged some diapers in trial sizes and merchandises them in the perimeter of its stores.
This store had the space to display larger items, like strollers, bouncer seats, disposable trash buckets and baby carry-all bags.
When touring the H-E-B Marketplace store, SN discovered about 22 stockkeeping units of Earth's Best baby food. In the other H-E-B stores, Gerber and Heinz were the only baby food lines.
Though Albertson's does not have as many stores as H-E-B, the square footage of its individual stores is often comparable. This space permits Albertson's to carry the same items, including private label, and to merchandise them in a manner equivalent to H-E-B.
The stores SN toured were generally neat and well-stocked, while those at Super Kmart and H-E-B, which usually had a stock person in the aisle, often looked disorganized.
In a newer Albertson's store, 40 feet of linear space was dedicated to diapers. Of all the stores SN toured, 40 feet was the most space allocated to that category.
The chain also cross promotes baby products with its photo center. In one store SN visited, photo coupons were attached to its private-label diapers and to select national-brand diapers. The coupon offered Kodak 4-inch double-print premium processing at an Albertson's photo center for $7.99, a $2 savings for a 24-exposure roll.
Baby products are an integral part of resets that Handy Andy is conducting.
"We're putting the baby food, formula and diaper aisles into our GM/HBC sets. I think that's been the biggest change we've done," said Stan Edde, the chain's president.
Convenience is the buzz word at these stores. Having the baby aisle near feminine hygiene and other HBC categories makes shopping easier for mothers, Morales said.
As a result of the reset, the chain has increased the space devoted to baby wipes. "We've gone from 4 feet to 8 feet on wipes, and we're cross merchandising baby needs with formulas," Morales said.
Baby needs -- rattles, nipples and pacifiers -- are pegged over 12 feet of formula products. Stores stock about 20 SKUs of Nestle, Ross and Mead formula products on three shelves. Brightly colored stickers indicate items that are part of the Women, Infants and Children program.
RANDALLS FOOD MARKETS
Houston-based Randalls Food Markets uses customer service to keep shoppers coming back. Javier Herrera, store director of Randalls in San Marcos, Texas, located about half an hour outside San Antonio, said one of his best competitive strategies is knowing each of his customers' names.
He also said his store is sensitive to maintaining variety and competitive prices. Randalls was the only store SN visited that stocked Beech-Nut baby food, in addition to Earth's Best, Gerber and Heinz.
Randalls has become involved with category management during the past few years, according to Herrera.
"We look at [formula] every six months," he said. It's important for retailers to keep formula rotated because it's a dated product. The store's products were well within their required expiration dates.
Herrera said recent manufacturer developments in the diaper category -- mainly stockkeeping unit consolidation -- have helped him with category management. Having fewer SKUs to merchandise makes it easier to stock diapers and training pants and to manage Randalls 36 feet of linear shelf space, he said.
In the 4-foot section, Herrera uses shelf extenders to turn shoppers' attention to its store-brand line.
Value is one of the ways Randalls pleases its customers. Part of its commitment to customer service shows in its "F&V" (fruit and vegetables) program. The fruits and vegetables club is a kid's program in which children can get a free piece of fruit each month by showing their F&V membership card.
The chain also tries to make the shopping experience as comfortable as possible for mothers and expectant mothers by carrying their groceries to their cars, and by having shopping carts that allow a mother to put an infant and two small youngsters in the cart.
Part of this chain's mission is to increase the availability of organic and natural foods.
When SN toured the store, about 40 SKUs of Earth's Best baby food were stocked in a 4-foot section in an aisle with juices and cereal. The store used wire baskets with signs indicating the type and price of each item. Other baby food products, such as cereals, teething biscuits and juices, were also merchandised in the section.
The retailer's Tushies diaper brand was introduced about three months ago, said Walser. The line, the first diapers Whole Foods has carried, is competitively priced with leading brands. It is located in the same aisle as incense, household cleaners, feminine hygiene and pet products. During SN's visit, baby wipes were merchandised on one shelf near the diapers and training pants.
The store uses its in-store circular to educate customers about the products on special, and also to raise awareness about healthier eating.
In September, the circular focused on back-to-school, giving suggestions to parents about foods they could put in their child's lunch box. It also put together a kids' meal called the "Happiest Meal," Walser said.
"[The Happiest Meal] included a nice sandwich, salad, juice box and applesauce," she added. "A lot of our customers liked it."
The store also recently sponsored a kids' day, which included food samples, goody bags filled with natural foods and entertainment.
As part of a reset conducted last month, the store doubled the space dedicated to baby products, Walser said. Diapers and wipes were brought into the same aisle as baby food. Other items in the aisle include chips, snack bars and juices, Walser said.
There are about six Super Kmarts in the area: three in San Antonio, and three outside town, according to Mike Dawson, manager of category advisory systems at Oklahoma City-based Fleming Cos.' division here.
The baby departments in the Super Kmart stores SN visited were found near the home fashions department, well away from the traditional grocery area.
Diapers are merchandised on about 32 linear feet. Kmart offered the widest selection because it carries the leading national brands, its store brand and about three other private-label or value-brand SKUs.
With 16 feet of space dedicated to baby needs, Kmart delivers the largest variety of rattles, pacifiers, bottles, disposable bottles, nipples and bibs. SN counted about 300 SKUs of baby needs in one Kmart supercenter.