Traditional summer items have been posting good sales returns for supermarkets around the country with the help of favorable weather, special promotions and an improving economy in some regions.
In an SN survey, many retailers reported an increase in sales this summer over the comparable period last year.
Items like cold sodas, barbecue meats, ice cream, hot deli entrees and outdoor accessories were big sellers. While some retailers cut back on promotions, others turned more aggressive, with specials like two-for-one sales and stepped-up advertising.
While the Midwest avoided a repeat of last summer's flooding, sales in the Southeast were influenced by flood waters this year.
Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, had a strong season, according to Anne-Marie Davee, the chain's manager of consumer affairs. After adjusting for some new acquisitions, Hannaford Bros. showed improved figures overall, she said. "We're very pleased with the positive trend. Sales are up slightly over last summer," she said.
The hot weather helped galvanize sales, she said. Cold beverages were big sellers, as were fans, lawn chairs and coolers.
Davee said Hannaford has cut back on the number of promotions it is staging. "We're emphasizing our everyday low prices and have shied away from special promotions," she said.
Sales at Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., were "moderately positive," according to Claire
D'Amour, vice president of corporate affairs.
"All summer goods moved very well," she said.
The unusually warm weather helped, she said. "Because of the heat, we had higher sales in beverages, ice cream, insecticides and suntan products."
Deli and prepared foods also sold well, since no one wanted to cook in the heat, D'Amour said. Charles Collings, president of Raley's, West Sacramento, Calif., said a better economy helped improve sales this year over last.
He pointed to the improving employment picture in the region as a prime reason for the better trend.
Collings said the company was a little more aggressive this summer with its promotions. "We must be doing something right," he said. Sales at Hy-Vee Food Stores, Chariton, Iowa, were less volatile compared with last summer, which was marked by flooding. "This was a more normal year," said Ruth Comer Mitchell, director of communications. While Mitchell didn't characterize sales as outstanding, she said store promotions helped, and pointed to successful barbecue items. "We always push summer items," she said.
Last year, sales were erratic throughout flood-affected areas, Mitchell said. Some stores did very well, but for other stores, neighborhoods were almost deserted.
Sales this summer were strong at Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis., said Kris McLaughlin, advertising director.
"Our trends have been good," said McLaughlin. "We're on a roll." McLaughlin said traditional summer items such as bratwursts and soda were hot sellers. "We do well with our grill items," she said.
Aggressive promotions have helped sales, she said. In May, the company celebrated its 102nd birthday with a big promotion. Copps continued special promotions through the summer, with a Fourth of July promotion, a kids' week, buy-one-get-one-free sales and a giveaway of a Ford Mustang in conjunction with a Coca-Cola promotion.
Sales were also up at Gerland's Food Fair, Houston, said Kevin Doris, senior vice president of operations. "Comparable stores had small increases this summer vs. last summer," he said. Doris said an increased emphasis on produce made it the summer's hot item. Gerland's also used more television advertising this summer compared with last summer, he said. "That was the difference," he said.
Gerland said Texas was no hotter than usual this summer, so he didn't notice a sales increase in cold beverages.
"We saw the normal trends in soda, beer and wine," Doris said.
Despite flooding this year in Georgia, overall sales were good at Harvey's Supermarkets, Nashville, Ga., said Barry Robinson, executive vice president. "The floods probably actually improved sales," he said. People rushed to buy "panic" items like bottled water, canned meat and ready-to-eat foods when they heard about the floods, he said.
Despite new competition in the market, sales increased overall between 2% and 3%, Robinson said. "We've been very well pleased," he said.
Harvey's managed to post the increases even though it did not introduce any new promotions this year, Robinson said. "We've always been aggressive," he said. Deli items sold very well, primarily because the government temporarily lifted its ban on purchasing hot, ready-to-eat foods with food stamps, Robinson said. The food-stamp regulation was suspended nearly a month and allowed those without electrical power or a home to purchase hot foods with their stamps. "It had a definite impact," Robinson said. Robinson said Harvey's also did quite well by catering to the many government workers who were in Georgia to help with emergency relief.