Retailers said they are capturing profitable general merchandise sales with larger seasonal and holiday displays.
The margins that seasonal general merchandise promotions carry have prompted nonfood buyers to increase display space along the wall of values and promotional aisles, at checkout racks and on shared grocery endcaps.
With seasonal promotions accounting for about 20% of annual general merchandise volume, Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., has general merchandise promotions "running all the time since they generate at least that much volume throughout the different seasons," said Art Bundy, director of nonfood. Promoting general merchandise at a 40- to 80-foot seasonal aisle, on endcaps and four-sided island racks during the different seasons is now a priority at Harps.
"At Halloween we'll pull together grocery products, candy and the related tie-in Halloween accessories and costumes. We'll do the same at Christmas with candy and other general merchandise," Bundy said.
Harps considers shared display space with grocery as a natural progression of supermarket nonfood merchandising. "If grocery has something big going they'll expand a display, and we'll do the same in a shared relationship with that department," Bundy added.
A steady flow of seasonal promotions arranged in one area can pique shopper curiosity about general merchandise, and is "tremendously important" to sales, said Kyle Holdaway, nonfood manager at Harmon's City, West Valley City, Utah.
About 60% of Harmon's general merchandise sales are displayed in the nonfood, hardware section of stores. "That's where the majority of our seasonal general merchandise promotions are set," said Holdaway. Harmon's devotes over 200 running feet to its seasonal general merchandise promotions, including space at a grocery gondola promotion section.
Holdaway said among seasonal general merchandise promotions dollar-day events work well, and he's looking for a new twist for upcoming nonfood promotions.
Positioning point-of-sale materials builds excitement and alerts customers to featured items and pricing. This, he said, is crucial to successful seasonal general merchandise promoting.
When Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash., promotes general merchandise at major holidays throughout the year, the chain's nonfood merchandisers "stack it high and we sell a bunch of it," said Norm Carpenter, director of general merchandise.
Rosauers maximizes its seasonal displays with dedicated display areas set up on 16 to 20 feet of gondolas on two sides of an aisle. Moreover, a 12- to 14-foot-long table is positioned in the center of the aisle, with additional displays arranged on endcaps and at lobby areas.
The chain purchases some seasonal promotion on a guaranteed basis. On outright purchase programs, "you've got to make your money on selling 80% and giving the last 20% away and hope the blend works out in your favor," said Carpenter.
"Whether we do the best job in being competitive in the products is difficult to say. With all the mass market retailers around, we try to watch our margins," added Carpenter.
The buyers, store managers and general merchandise clerks at Ray's Food Place, Brookings, Ore., attend nonfood shows with buying decisions based, in part, "on the display space allocated for each seasonal event," said Dan Van Zant, supervisor buyer of general merchandise and health and beauty care.
Ray's allocates endcaps and lobby areas to seasonal general merchandise event promotions, ranging from gardening and spring cleaning to outdoor living and Thanksgiving.
General merchandise-themed event promotions are planned well in advance of the different seasons, with space considerations always lurking in the background, according to Van Zant.
For example, at an upcoming nonfood trade show buyers will book orders for the first half of 1997 linked "to a precommitment of [store-level] space being set aside for these products," said Van Zant.
General merchandise seasonal promotions are growing in importance and size at retailers supplied by Associated Wholesalers Inc., York, Pa., according to Charles Yahn, vice president of general merchandise.
About 20% more space is being devoted to seasonal promotion displays at store level, with the added room coming from the grocery department.
"Seasonal displays used to be built out of typical dry grocery products, but this has changed. More general merchandise products are now being integrated into larger space at seasonal aisles," said Yahn.
Sales per linear foot vary by product type, quality level and price point, according to the wholesaler executive.
"If you put out good quality items priced correctly, sales per linear foot will be increased. Consumers recognize value more now and are more price-sensitive on branded items," said Yahn.
Angeli Foods, Menominee, Mich., gives seasonal general merchandise promotions a big play at prominent positions "since they are key to moving general merchandise," said Polly Smith, general merchandise coordinator.
"Seasonal promotions give us the highest rings, and they seem to be getting bigger every year. We no longer have to fight for space. Many of these promotions just make the store click," said Smith.
Angeli featured a 24-foot back-to-school set with a vast array of items, and in October will promote window clings, pails, pumpkin carvers, masks and costumes in that area. "We run this type of promotion all the time, including at the front end," added Smith.
Angeli's spring-cleaning promotion was set against a wall of value, with laundry soap and cleaning implements tied-in on 8 feet of space. "We do the same with Rubbermaid food storage containers, and cross-merchandise these seasonal promotions on many of the 20 to 30 endcaps in our stores," added Smith.