BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. -- By updating its selections at least twice a year, Ingles Markets has been able to increase sales 10% to 25% in housewares.
New colors, styles and product types raise shoppers' interest levels in general merchandise, said Tony Federico, vice president of nonfood. "We're trying to constantly change the housewares mix to take out some of the sameness that's characterized supermarket housewares and often made it dull to shoppers," said Federico. He said these rapid changes have resulted in "creating a whole new ambiance for the categories. A new color or package that the shopper recognizes as something new or different from last week or month can stop her in her tracks." In the candle section, for example, the chain now merchandises pastel colors in summer and darker tones in winter, while it changes potpourri variety twice a year. New items are identified by shelf tags that label the items as new. Ingles is using this concept in kitchen gadgets, plasticware, bakeware, table covers, placemats and stick goods. In the first quarter of 1994, Ingles began introducing new heavy-duty, higher-priced stick goods at $11.99 to $14.99 price points. The new items, in bright red, will include a broom with a super-grip handle, pushbrooms that can be used outdoors and professional mops, said Federico. Ingles also is using major holidays as an opportunity to promote and tie in bakeware specialty implements. "At Valentine's Day we carried heart-shaped pans and for St. Patrick's Day, pans that were shaped as elves and leprechauns. The heart-shaped pans at $3.49 just blew out of stores and really surprised me." Federico said he tries to work with the same manufacturer when changing to a new line. He has asked housewares suppliers to shift to new colors or styles "at least every six months. Our customers are in our stores over two-and-a-half times a week, and for 26 weeks they'll usually see the same items, which we're changing wherever we can." The chain's goal in housewares "is to have every section change at least twice a year from the same manufacturer, or else we won't use that supplier. If the vendor doesn't have enough variety to give us two variations a year, we're not interested in using them," Federico said.
Ingles is looking for manufacturer commitments "as we rework our housewares, including revamping kitchen gadgets by keeping 90% in staples and introducing the rest in new or seasonal items."