Gerland's is not the only chain pumping up its volume of specialty food sales by marketing such foods near their mainstream counterparts.
Two other retailers, who along with Gerland's participated in a study conducted by Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., also scored big with what is being called the "store-within-a-store" concept. The study was performed for the National Food Distributors Association, Chicago.
"The racks are just a nice vehicle that gives the retailer clear-cut merchandising guidelines," said Bruce Axtman, senior associate at Willard Bishop. "They're not going to get pushed around; the lines are not going to get blurred. It also provides the opportunity to outline the section and use separate signage."
Axtman, who declined to name the other two chains, said all three had been integrating their specialty foods with mainstream products before the study began. The number of racks being used varies throughout the three chains, with Gerland's being the most aggressive.
Results of the study were generated through in-store tests by measuring sales and profit performance as well as through information gathered from consumer focus group comments.
The numbers tell a story of increased profits and sales. In the 15 categories tested, the average sales boost against control stores was 43.6%; profits rose 43.3%. Sales of all specialty foods rose by an average of 12%, while gross profit increased more than 14%.
Axtman outlined five findings gathered through the focus groups:
1. Specialty items can help retailers enhance variety image without necessarily changing the variety they're offering on the shelf.
"I may not buy specialty items very often, but the fact that they have them makes you feel it's a better store," said one focus group member. 2. Consumers associate the availability of specialty foods with one-stop shopping.
3. The store-within-a-store concept simplifies the shopping process for time-pressured consumers.
"I want to be able to go through the store in my route and pick up the specialty items along the way," one shopper said.
4. The specialty food racks help people find things more easily and give them the ability to compare items.
5. The concept increases sales of specialty foods.
Axtman said that statement can't be proved through a focus group, but consumers said if buying specialty items was made easier, they would likely buy more of them.