Supermarkets are getting an extra bang out of their seasonal and holiday displays with greeting cards and related partyware merchandise.
More retailers are making a conscious effort to place social expression selections in the pet aisle, pharmacy, cosmetics department and at checkouts. They are using special fixtures such as clip strips, lane blockers and other secondary displays to pump up their impulse volume and enhance their customers one-stop shopping experience.
For example, Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., in a move aimed at boosting card-section volume, for the past several months has offered Ambassador Cards' decorative stickers on a 3-foot display at one checkout lane per store.
Merchandising stickers (that kids use to decorate school books and reports, and adults use to attach to envelopes) at the front end makes sense because this "is a high-traffic area for greeting card department products," said Jack Mahon, Genuardi's category manager for general merchandise.
"The right-hand side of the checkout lane, where gum, mints and candy are usually offered, is good for impulse sales," added Mahon, who plans to monitor sales over the next several months to measure movement away from the regular card section.
Supplemental card displays throughout the store landscape can actually keep shoppers from going to competing card shops during holidays like Mother's Day and Christmas.
Merchandising ranges from lane closures at checkouts to freestanding fixtures stocked with cards and party goods at a bakery showcase. It stimulates seasonal card sales by as much as 30% to 40%, according to Steve Kosmalski, senior vice president of marketing at Gibson Greetings, Cincinnati.
"With only 14% of supermarket shoppers actually going down the card aisle, a lane-blocker fixture is an ideal vehicle for picking up a last-minute card, gift bag and plush animal at the front end," Kosmalski said.
Sales of partyware merchandised on secondary displays at bakery counters, paper goods and cake mix aisles are actually higher than at the regular greeting card department, he noted.
With that thought in mind, several major chains have already started or are about to start cross-merchandising permanent partyware displays at fresh bakery counters and the paper goods and cake mix aisles.
At Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie, almost all divisions now promote cards on checkstand lane blockers, and party products on freestanding display tables and stands at bakery counters and in the paper goods and cake mix aisles, according to Kosmalski. A Winn-Dixie official declined to comment.
Safeway also plans to install similar display tables at bakery counters in November at its San Francisco, Phoenix and Washington divisions, Kosmalski said. The top two levels contain freshly made cakes, with bottom-shelf tiers devoted to assorted partyware plates, napkins, favors and decorations and invitation cards.
The everyday partyware mix displayed there can be changed according to the seasons and holidays throughout the year.
Kroger Co.'s Delta Marketing Area, Memphis, Tenn., and Houston Marketing Area also began promoting greeting cards on lane blockers and similar display tables at the bakery area in August and September. The divisions had no comment.
Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif., capitalizes on the high impulse value of cards with six-pocket acrylic plastic displayers at two express checkouts per store in the chain, according to Jerry Scorsatto, Vons' director of merchandising.
Scorsatto told SN, "There's a lot of that kind of cross merchandising of cards going on now in the chain, more for impulse." Von's also cross promotes cards on checkout lane closures and partyware display stands placed at bakery counters for unplanned impulse purchases, he said.
Cross promoting at the heavily trafficked checkouts is high up on a list of new sales opportunities Abco Foods, Phoenix, will examine to boost its greeting card sales, noted Nick Borze, nonfood merchandiser.
Borze said merchandising out of section, especially on secondary displays built with seasonal cards and related accessories, can hoist greeting card department sales by at least 30%.
Abco benefits from the added sales mileage garnered from outposting cards, partyware and ancillary products in holiday and seasonal displays. "People now expect to find these in our stores," said Borze.
The chain's supplemental floor displays promote boxed holiday cards, calendars and appointment journals at high-traffic points or endcaps, "or wherever it makes sense," in advance of upcoming major holidays to spur unplanned sales, said Borze.
"Small spinners of get-well cards and sympathy cards arranged at the pharmacy department, and varied seasonally themed cards at floral sections also do well," he added.
When Camellia Food Stores, Norfolk, Va., outposts seasonal and promotional gift bags, partyware, candles, novelties and plush animals at likely tie-in locations, "sales have been great," said David Scully, director of retail operations.
Displaying gift-bottle bags in the wine department "is the perfect kind of tie-in merchandising," said Scully.
Camellia has found that cross merchandising Halloween partyware, novelty items and plush products with Halloween candy and Halloween bake-shop products, creates excitement, added Scully. The chain's Halloween displays also combine orange and black candles with pumpkins and other holiday decor.
Camellia generates added sales with cards, party plates and other holiday table-top decorative products set up in the floral area -- "an area always good for that extra sale, " said Judy Lane, Camellia's nonfood buyer.
Indeed, merchandising cards at high-traffic points can bring higher greeting card rings, according to Sara Eames, spokeswoman, American Greetings, Cleveland.
During an 11-week test at a major food chain, greeting cards displayed on a spinner at checkout gum racks generated, "$100 in incremental sales per week, per store," said Eames. The chain, which she declined to identify, has since adopted the eight-pocket card fixture companywide following the test conducted last year.
And as consumers seemingly grow accustomed to general merchandise offered away from the main line section, party goods promoted at a bakery counter can advance the one-stop shopping concept.
This is especially so "when a parent comes in to pick up a birthday cake," and a core selection of party items are nearby, said Todd Holmes, marketing manager, supermarket team, Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, Kan.
Holmes said checkouts in particular are a highly profitable area that work really well for last-minute shopping at impulse seasons like Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween.
When greeting cards are promoted in unexpected areas, the results can be surprising, said Holmes. Such was the case at Randalls Food Stores, Houston, when the chain tested positioning a large bunny standee at the milk/dairy case with a 10-pocket display of cards last Easter.
Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Co., Akron, Ohio, is a "great believer in cross-promoting greeting cards for the incremental card sales it brings," said Jim Trout, director of general merchandise.
Displaying cards at the front end and party goods with grocery and bakery,"capitalizes on the impulse nature of greeting cards. If they're not planning on going to the regular section, but go to floral for Mother's Day, they'll likely pick up a card there instead," Trout said.