Retailers are gearing up for an encouraging fourth-quarter holiday selling period with high-ticket promotional items, from CD-ROMs to appliances.
While most holiday general merchandise orders were finalized, some buyers were still mulling possible last-minute bookings.
Many retailers contacted by SN agreed this holiday season CD-ROMs will be hotter than ever and plan to introduce in-line or freestanding displays as a major part of their holiday merchandise mix.
"CD-ROM is really coming on strong as computers and home office keeps getting bigger," said Keith Beckett, general merchandise and HBC buyer, Niemann Foods, Quincy, Ill.
This fall, Niemann started installing 4-foot CD-ROM sets in some 36 to 48 stockkeeping units priced up to $16. The sections will be up chainwide at stationery and home-office sets in time for the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
"This holiday season should be one of the strongest for the computer area, especially with the growth of home computers," said Beckett. The CD-ROM assortment will range from preschool to adult subjects.
Niemann will highlight its 4-foot computer accessories sections with basic how-to books and magazines for accessing the Internet and connecting with the World Wide Web.
He said two books usually carried on the mainline magazine rack, "Windows 95 Made Simple" and "DOS for Dummies," will be part of the holiday assortment.
"These are good for the average home-computer owner who isn't too computer literate," noted Beckett.
Although most of Niemann's holiday merchandise has been ordered, Beckett added they were still looking for other items that will complement their promotions.
The growing popularity of bath and body products should help holiday gift sets do well this year, according to John Susich, vice president, general merchandise, Hy-Vee Food Stores, West Des Moines, Iowa.
"People are now accustomed to these regular sets in supermarkets. And any time you go to the malls there's nothing but bath shops. If they can be supported at malls there should be pretty good potential for these items at the holidays in supermarkets," said Susich.
Susich, who is looking forward to a fairly good shopping season, said demand for bath and body products is also being driven by their use in bath decor and countertop basket arrangements.
"Products like loofahs and sponges are now being used in small baskets as accessories to match bathroom decorations."
Hy-Vee's holiday bath and body gifts will be priced under $10. It will also promote some 15 different pieces of exercise equipment, priced up to $40. The retailer will highlight products, normally seen in national TV ads by promoters of general merchandise, around a theme of "as seen on TV."
Exercise equipment is a segment of the market Hy-Vee is trying to reach. "You pick those items seen on TV spots, and then try to ride piggyback on the ads' hype," said Susich.
Hy-Vee offers exercise gear throughout the year, and will display the holiday items at seasonal areas with boxed merchandise nearby.
At Ingles Markets, Black Mountain, N.C., the holiday mix will highlight imported toys from Asia, "and many Mattel toys including baseballs, footballs and Barbie dolls, which did exceptionally well last year," said Tony Federico, vice president, nonfood.
Federico, who anticipates a strong selling season, said fourth-quarter toys will be priced at $2.99 to $19.99 and merchandised on cardboard step displayers with header signs.
Ingles will also promote Sky Dancer dolls, and this month, kicks off a "half-off" Rubber-maid promotion that runs through December, using large displays with a vast array of featured plasticware products.
The chain has also scheduled bakeware and gadget promotions to coincide with the start of the baking and cooking season. "We're in baking country, and larger stores will use four-sided walk-around displayer of bakeware implements," said Federico.
He said the displays offer a variety of bakeware merchandise regularly carried at in-line gondolas. "The displayers hold essential products, including pie and baking pans and are being supplied in a cross-docking program that's very easy to bring into and set up in stores," he added.
Roger Hartley, the director of grocery and pharmacy merchandising at Kessel Food Markets, Flint, Mich., plans more aggressive and larger holiday nonfood displays.
While fourth-quarter promotions will involve plush animals, sell-through kids' videos and seasonal greeting cards, toys will be out of the mix "because you can't out-toy Toys 'R' Us," he stressed. Product displays will feature small electrical tools and battery-powered screwdrivers and snake-type flashlights "a woman would buy for her husband, all priced under $20," he said. The products will be merchandised in various locations, depending on space constraints and store size, he said.
Anticipating the upcoming holiday buying spree, Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, began introducing this month CD-ROM displays with 40 to 60 SKUs at some 15 to 20 stores, according to Dean Owens, director of general merchandise.
"We're putting in spinner-floor displays at service-center areas in a wide variety of subjects for adults and children priced up to $19.95," said Owens.
Minyard also plans to promote a wide assortment of toys "from bulk plastic and plush to what's hot in licensed 'Toy Story' items," he said. The chain's top price point will come in at $39 for a girl's vanity with mirror and accompanying tabletop accessory pieces. Holiday general merchandise will be displayed in promotion areas and lobby locations.
Riser Foods, Bedford Heights, Ohio, will feature a CD-ROM consignment program and pay only for products going through the checkouts. "CD-ROM is high pilferage and we pay for only what goes through the front end," said Rich Channell, merchandise manager, general merchandise and HBC.
The CD-ROMs will be merchandised off-shelf at seasonal nonfood promotions sets at $9.99 to $4.99 in some 90 or so SKUs. Riser will promote assorted toys including Barbie, with $20 as the highest price for Mattel selections. The mix will contain "Toy Story" tie-in figures, coloring and reading books cross-promoted with the sell-through video at the front end, "which should be hot," added Channell.
Richfood, Mechanicsville, Va., is still in start-up mode with its in-house nonfood program, so holiday offerings will focus on limited toys, with other promotions centered around batteries, foilware, automotive supplies and bakeware, noted Ron Turner, vice president for nonfood.
Holiday promotions will include small kitchen appliances in 40 to 50 SKUs, including can openers, mixers and similar items "and an extended line of Barbie, which will be a good opportunity," said Turner.
He said Richfood has been involved in re-merchandising nonfood sets at retailers, and completed resetting the general merchandise and HBC sections at 45 stores during the past few weeks.