MONTVALE, N.J. -- Targeting families with young children, A&P here debuted a 154-foot department consisting of a large Disney offering, Lego toys, educational products from Learning Horizons and kids' greeting cards.
The department is located on both sides of a 77-foot-long aisle near the pharmacy at a new 65,000-square-foot Super Food Mart in Westfield, Mass., which is in the chain's New England Group, based in Springfield, Mass. The large general merchandise area is on the left side of the traffic pattern of the store.
"We think it will create some excitement and be a real destination department that enhances shopping," said Mike Rourke, the chain's senior vice president for communications and public affairs.
Disney gets the majority of space in the section, with 77 feet devoted to its products. Children's books are merchandised on 20 feet of fixturing. Lego toys get 8 feet. There are also 4 feet devoted to stickers. Hallmark's licensed Disney children's greeting cards and partyware are displayed in 8 feet. Learning Horizons, an American Greetings company, takes up the remainder of the section, featuring about 180 stockkeeping units. Overhead, five different monitors run continuous videotapes to highlight a 12-foot children's video section.
Products in the Disney section include infant apparel, priced at $14.79 to $18.99. Large plush stuffed animals along with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy dolls, hand puppets and Pooh musical dolls retail from $4.79 to $38.99. Lego toys are priced from $7.99 to $23.99. Learning Horizons educational enhancement products are priced at $1.79 for stickers and up to $19.95 for parent resource books.
This selection also is extended into an adjoining diaper and baby general merchandise aisle with additional stuffed animals, boxed and pegged toys and puzzles, Looney Tunes clothing and party goods.
Merchandise is delivered to stores on a direct-ship basis.
After the first several weeks in operation the Super Food Mart has seen "the whole juvenile section moving well except for higher ticket items, which should start doing better closer to Christmas," said a store level source who asked not to be named.
More large children's departments are planned for other stores located in areas with a high concentration of young families, said Rourke.
Dedicating such a large amount of space to nonfood "is a test that we'll keep introducing into new stores. The actual number of stores slated for the section hasn't been determined," Rourke added.
Only new stores in the 50,000 to 60,000 square foot range that have the demographics for this kind of merchandise will be designated for the large nonfood department, Rourke explained. There are no plans for retrofits, he said.
"While the sections will be going into some new stores with the demographics, we want to see if the concept fits. We'll watch them very carefully to determine how much further we'd want to take it," Rourke said.
A&P's Mid-Atlantic Group based in Baltimore will unveil a similar large children's department at a 56,000-square-foot Super Fresh Market set to open this month in Potomac Mills, Va.
"This section widens our market for general merchandise sales and gives us a better opportunity to compete against the mass merchandiser," said an executive at the Mid-Atlantic Group who asked to remain anonymous.
A&P's Philadelphia Super Fresh Food Markets division, headquartered in Florence, N.,J., implemented a smaller version of the children's merchandising concept at a new Super Fresh that opened last month in Westmont, N.J.
Earmarking display space for this kind of merchandise "creates a more receptive ambiance for nonfood and bolsters the convenience of shopping for this kind of product at the supermarket," said a management source in the division who did not wish to be identified.
"We took a portion of the offering in the Westfield store and incorporated it into our nonfood product mix," added the source. The Westmont store has 4 feet of Lego toys set over reading products in the greeting card aisle; four feet of Disney dolls and hand puppets J-hooked alongside baby health and beauty care; and Disney Baby stuffed Donald, Mickey and Pluto dolls, priced at $13.99, are set out on a 48-foot-long shelf tier over diapers.
Disney infant sleepers and coats are merchandised on a 4-foot endcap and educational products are offered on an 8-foot rack to the right of diapers.