Many revelers participating in holiday season festivities know their days are numbered. Come Jan. 1, that yuletide joy is replaced by feelings of resolve and determination. Supermarket retailers with literature sections can help ease this transition by stocking books that address the three primary sources of New Year's resolutions: diet, exercise and smoking.
The short list of topics allows even smaller operators, who might not have room for expansive media sections, to generate sales with some creative merchandising. Many publishers offer titles with self-standing shippers for tight floor spaces.
"This time of year is one of the greater untapped sales opportunities out there for retailers," according to Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing Group.
Resolutions are part of a big business. ACNielsen data indicate that consumers spent almost $440 million on health bars and appetite suppressants and $477 million on smoking cessation products last year alone. An additional 28.8 million units of diet and fitness books were purchased last year (based on 52 weeks ending Sept. 10, 2005, excluding Wal-Mart Stores).
The numbers show just how motivated consumers are to make positive lifestyle changes when January rolls around. They should also inspire retailers -- in the weeks and months leading up to Jan. 1 -- to intercept susceptible shoppers before they consider a trip to the book store. Similarly, well-placed displays offer countless opportunities for cross merchandising resolution-related products. The idea is to be ready well before the holidays.
"Our research shows the roller coaster people ride as they attempt to eat more healthily," said Alice Fawver, senior vice president, marketing, ACNielsen. "Year-end, food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to bring about something of a healthy-eating hiatus, followed by a short-term spike in buying healthier products that likely coincides with New Year's resolutions. Clearly, there's a lot of room to grow in encouraging people to make healthy eating a way of life."
It's because of this limited time frame that Wisner suggests getting out ahead of the season by having New Year's resolution-themed, front-end displays available prior to the height of the holidays. Providing easy solutions that help customers turn resolutions into reality can increase loyalty and pull in additional sales, he said.
"It creates an enormous opportunity to generate new sales, especially because you have a preconditioned market. People are already making resolutions for weight loss, smoking cessation and exercise," Wisner said. "Retailers can take advantage of this by providing information and products that create impulse sales during this time."
Operators who are able to provide relevant and usable information will often realize a quick return on investment, as educated consumers tend to put this knowledge into immediate action. Wisner said research by his firm clearly indicates that accessing in-store health information measurably impacts sales. Customers often translate this knowledge into a purchasing decision within the same shopping trip.
"Forty percent of customers interviewed said that every time they access information, they most assuredly bought a product as a direct result of this information," he said.
While effective merchandising is not a one-size-fits-all concept, one thing is clear: Consumers can only purchase something they can find. Placing easy-to-use guides "at the front door as the consumer enters will help them navigate impending choices," according to Jo-Ann Heslin, co-author of The Complete Food Counter series, books that offer up-to-date nutrition information to help shoppers make the best selections in every aisle of the store.
If your customers are wondering, "What should I be buying right now if I want to lose weight, eat better or lower cholesterol?" -- reminding them as they walk in the door can help them make positive choices while generating both book and product sales, she said.
Sorting through the vast array of books that are released each year addressing New Year's resolutions for better health and improved quality of life can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced shopper. Retail operators can take some of the chore out of their hands by prescreening the titles and determining which ones are most likely to interest the local customer base. In-store merchandising must also be considered.
"There are several things retailers can do -- pop-out displays within the regular book section highlighting New Year's resolution-type books," Wisner said. "Pharmacy is certainly a good place, as individuals with health conditions are already shopping in this area. Placing them near products that make sense -- like diet books near Slim Fast and smoking cessation books near Nicorette.
"Retailers have found success with 'Health Smart' installations that contain health information, supplements and exercise equipment all in one place. In these consolidated centers, though, it's the books that are generating the most excitement."
Creating and redefining the store as a different type of destination, particularly when it comes to baby boomers, creates an opportunity not just to provide these items as convenience, but as core categories. Baby boomers are an important segment especially interested in remaining active and healthy. These customers are looking for products, information and knowledgeable employees. "This area has continued to ramp up over the past five or six years and it's now really hitting home with retailers, the importance of providing this information and how it can generate new sales," Wisner said.
Perhaps the ultimate retail holiday "party" might be tying in books and products with events like health fairs, supermarket tours and screenings to create an umbrella approach to New Year's resolution merchandising.
SN Whole Health found these titles to be among the most talked-about this coming holiday season:
The Flavor Point Diet by David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H.
Dec. 27, Rodale, $24.95 (hardcover)
Good Housekeeping: The Supermarket Diet by Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D.
Jan. 2, Hearst/Sterling, $19.95 (hardcover)
The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
Oct. 7, Rodale, $27.95 (hardcover)
The South Beach Diet Dining Guide by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
Dec. 27, Rodale, $7.99 (paperback)
The Abs Diet: Get Fit, Stay Fit Plan by David Zinczenko
Dec. 13, Rodale, $25.95 (hardcover)
The RealAge Workout: Maximum Health, Minimum Work by Michael F. Roizen
March 1, Collins, $24.95 (hardcover)
Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to
Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being by Andrew Weil, M.D.
Oct. 18, Knopf, $27.95 (hardcover)
Staying Sane When You're Quitting Smoking by Pamela K. Brodowsky, Evelyn M. Fazio
Nov. 30, Da Capo Press, $12.95 (paperback)
The Healthy Smoker: How to Quit Smoking by Becoming Healthier First by Charles K. Bens, Ph.D. June 1, Charles K. Bens, $14.95 (paperback)
Stop Smoking For Good by Balasa Prasad, M.D.
Oct. 20, Avery/Penguin , $11.95 (paperback)
Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Stress by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Leslie Godwin