AUBURN, Mass. -- Some supermarkets had success with high-priced seasonal general merchandise this year, according to retailers and distributors polled by SN.
Imperial Distributors, based here, which serves retailers like Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., has successfully expanded its seasonal program with high-ticket items like a 3-foot-tall decorative Santa Claus priced at $80 and imported resin decorative figurines priced up to $20.
"The threshold for supermarkets is getting higher and higher," said Al Jones, senior vice president, procurement and merchandising, Imperial. "If it's a good value, [customers] will buy it."
Jim Kane, director of retail systems, Zupan's Markets, Vancouver, Wash., said the five-store independent limited its holiday merchandise assortment this year.
"We're playing it close to the vest," he said. "We pulled back on holiday [goods]."
However, one bright spot in the holiday assortment, according to Kane, was a high-end Christmas tree stand priced at $80.
"We've been really amazed that people would spend $80 on a Christmas tree stand, but we've sold a dozen of them," he said.
Although seasonal sales got off to a slow start for some -- "We have to have cold weather and snow to get people in the mood for Christmas," said Jones -- others polled by SN said the season was meeting their revised expectations.
One general merchandise specialist at an East Coast-based supermarket chain said the company cut back seasonal goods by 15% this year, but sell-through rates were a healthy 65% to 75% as of two weeks ago.
"We should end up with less than 10% markdowns," an improvement over the normal 20%, said the source, who asked not to be named.
"We're getting smarter and smarter each year in what we buy and we're letting stores have more input on quantities," he said.
He said a September "early Christmas sale" on Hasbro and Mattel items gave a jump start to the season. Also, the stores beefed up party goods sales three to four times last year's level by offering multiple displays.
Steve Urgo, general merchandise buyer, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., was cautiously optimistic in mid-December.
"We had some concern about it with the slight downturn in the economy and the events of Sept. 11, but with people traveling less, people appear to be making the most out of celebrating the season at home," he said.