HIGHLAND VILLAGE, Texas -- It has been said that everything is bigger in Texas, and that adage certainly holds true when it comes to the soft drink displays at Minyard Food Stores.
The Coppell, Texas-based retailer, which operates more than 80 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex under the Minyard, Sack 'n Save and Carnival Food Stores banners, has successfully built its soft drink sales through massive displays that can encompass upwards of 1,600 cases. At Minyard there is always some sort of a display in the lobby or the beginning of the shopping pattern centering around soft drinks.
The displays are tied in to promotions and sweepstakes offering Texas-size prizes of cars; boats; season tickets to games played by local sports teams; cold, hard cash, and even custom-built dream homes. On average, a new contest is launched every six weeks.
"With our better promotions, we've seen a 30% to 50% sales increase on the brands that we put up," said Gary Price, vice president of merchandising. "We just put up the core brands. We don't put up the slower brands. It is mainly with top sellers, like Classic Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Dr Pepper."
SN interviewed Price, along with Debbie Ellis, Minyard's public relations coordinator, in the new Minyard store here, which at 62,000 square feet is the largest in the chain.
For the Super Bowl, this store housed a stadium of cases of Coca-Cola and Sprite.
"This [Super Bowl] promotion is different from others we've done because we're giving away vacations. In addition to two trips to the Super Bowl, we had vacations from A to Z that the winner could pick from -- from Acapulco to Zermatt, Switzerland," Price said.
A key to the success of Minyard's promotions is that the company always runs them with partners. Aside from soft drink companies, participants have included snack food manufacturers, car companies, local radio and TV stations, and occasionally other noncompeting retailers, such as Home Depot and Incredible Universe electronics.
"When you're doing a promotion of this caliber and you have lobby displays of this size at the
entrance, the soft drink companies are just a natural. The soft drink companies, being as large as they are, have marketing funds available to us to help us put together promotions of this size," Ellis said, adding that the promotions bring excitement, and more importantly, shoppers to the stores.
"We wouldn't be doing these promotions if that product was not moving out the door," Ellis said. "And that is what it's all based upon: the sales. We want to increase traffic in the stores and attract new people who might not be shopping with us otherwise, but hear about our promotion and want to win a house or a trip to the Super Bowl.
"Companies are lining up to be a part of this because we're giving display space to them for a four-, five- or six-week period. But you have to be selective and the products that are on display have to be sellers. We don't entertain putting anything on the display that isn't a seller."
Manufacturers help to support the promotion by donating prizes. In its current anniversary promotion, Minyard has teamed up with Dr Pepper, Frito-Lay and General Motors Corp. to award a Yukon, a hot-selling motor vehicle that has a 90-day waiting list.
"It really poses a challenge every time we come up with a promotion to bring in the media partners and prize partners. Sometimes we have to buy the prize outright, and sometimes we can barter. GMC is interested in helping themselves sell cars. They helped provide us with the vehicle, so we are not out and out buying it," she said.
Price said manufacturers like the idea of the displays because it increases their sales as well.
"Their sales go up. It's a win-win situation for both of us," he said.
Partnering with media partners, including local TV and radio stations, also helps generate consumer interest in the promotions.
"Traditionally in these promotions we try to get a media partner involved. We pick certain radio stations where we can get across to the broadest spectrum of the market. We don't really want a station that has a 1% share," Price said.
What sets Minyard's displays apart from the competition's in the Metroplex is the size of the prizes that are awarded.
"Our prizes are big and we think that is what makes our promotions successful. Anything that is huge and tremendous attracts customers. Giving away tickets to a game and little things, like a lot of people do, is not going to cause the shopper to stop at a display," Ellis said.
"They are not going to stop at a display if you are just giving away tickets to a [Texas] Rangers game. It has got to be something that is good. That is what makes us different from our competitors. They are doing it to some degree, but nothing this strong. We're in a constant mode and every six weeks we're turning around a new promotion."
The creativity of the displays causes them to be shopper-stoppers, Price said.
"The thing that makes our displays work more than anything is that our store managers and the companies we are promoting with come up with these creative displays. Whatever the theme is, they are going to come up with something really different, and they always do.
"We always have nice point-of-sale materials that are professionally done. We also have a package that goes out to the stores. Each store gets a package that they put up with the display because it is required, so we have a continuity there," he said.
Minyard sends its store managers complete kits that describe the current promotion in great detail, including the theme, brand and media partners, additional in-store support and promotional materials.
To help turn the creative wheels in its store managers' minds, Minyard rewards them with prizes for the best displays. Winners are chosen on three levels, depending on the size of the store they manage. Increases in sales from the year-ago period are also taken into account.
"We always have a different manager prize. For example, when we gave a house away we gave a mortgage payment to the store manager with the best display," Price said.
Ellis warned that the promotions have to be kept fresh; otherwise, consumers will soon lose interest.
"You can just do that so much and then people start taking it for granted. You always have to come up with something fresh, something new, a twist," she said.
"But if you're doing a promotion every six weeks and giving a prize away every six weeks, there are basically three things that people want: cash, a car or [some other] vehicle or a trip. So we're basically giving away the same thing; we're just looking for a different way to do that. It is a constant challenge," she said, adding that Minyard strives hard not to repeat promotions.
To date, Minyard's largest promotion has been last summer's Texas Heat Wave, which awarded his and her Yamaha VXR Waverunners, a Plymouth Voyager minivan and Sea-Doo power boat, a Chevy C/K Silverado pickup truck and Shasta 21-foot trailer, and an in-ground, custom-built, Olympic Pools swimming pool. Store managers vied for a $6,000 top prize.
"That was Coke's most successful program with us and it was probably one of our most successful display programs, because all of these store managers were trying to win a $6,000 prize," Price said.