Retailers and wholesalers have begun an early spring cleaning by revamping general merchandise sections to stimulate sales in the first quarter.
A heavy emphasis on promotions such as in-and-outs, continuities and multipack value pricing also has contributed to solid general merchandise sales this quarter, report retailers polled by SN.
Key general merchandise segments that have drawn retailers' focus include kitchen plasticware and gadgets, ethnic cookware, video and school and home office supplies.
A challenge for Joe Sinkula, director of nonfood at Haggen, Bellingham, Wash., is to keep the general merchandise departments looking fresh throughout the year. This will be accomplished by "remerchandising and changing the sets around more frequently," he said.
A major priority for Jim Miller, director of nonfood at Piggly Wiggly, Memphis, Tenn., will be to keep pricing competitive with other classes of trade. The retailer will use trade allowances as temporary price reductions.
The goal for Jan Winn, director of health and beauty care and general merchandise at Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., is "to keep the customer in our store, so that after buying their groceries they don't leave and go to CVS or Wal-Mart [for general merchandise]."
Gary Schloss, vice president of general merchandise at Carr's Quality Centers, Anchorage, Alaska, said, "We'll be keeping our eyes open to what's new and exciting out there, because in general merchandise you always have to offer the customer something new. Our motto is, if you're doing the same thing this year as you did last year, you're probably doing it wrong."
Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind., experienced success with a gadgets line implemented in a new 12-foot department. As a result, kitchen gadget sales rose 15% to 18%, said Richard Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser. The chain put in power panels and placed them at endcaps, which also contributed to the increased gadgets volume. "We're hoping to increase our gadgets sales about $10,000 per store with the new gadgets program," Sizemore added.
Jerry Willts, director of general merchandise and health and beauty care at Certified Grocers Midwest, Hodgkins, Ill., said, "Our biggest challenge is to be competitive. We will stick with heavy promotion activity and focus on buy-one-get-one-free offers, dollar-day and holiday and seasonal promotions." In the first quarter Willts ran a steak knife continuity that he said did well and had a positive impact on total store sales.
"We ran it as an eight-week continuity with a two-week cleanup. We also have a dollar-day housewares promotion planned for April. It will take a slightly different approach on some items by offering kitchen domestics soft goods in larger package counts."
Willts said the merchandising trend is to the larger package size that offers shoppers better value.
Following the positive sales results at a Big Y test store, the chain began the expansion into ethnic cookware sections with Chinese cooking tools and woks and with an Italian kitchenware section at other stores during the quarter, said Winn. "We began to extend these sections to 15 to 18 other stores based on the positive results at the test location," he added.
During the first eight weeks of the quarter, Haggen reported success with a wicker in-and-out promotion, featuring larger products such as hampers, large decorative baskets and chests that were priced from $5.99 to $9.99.
At Piggly Wiggly stores, a Rubbermaid plastics promotion of 75 stockkeeping units generated strong sell-through, with items priced from $1 to $10. Cross-merchandising greeting cards in floral departments also has contributed to a 10% increase in sales, according to Miller.
In video, the retailer displayed in-and-out sell-through movies in 12 different categories, ranging from action-adventure to exercise and fitness, which retailed at $5.99. Placed at an endcap at the start of the HBC aisle, the titles experienced a 40% sell-through.