With every change in season, there's a change in the merchandise mix in the supermarket's front-end aisle.
To promote the Fourth of July, for example, retailers across the country promoted such seasonal merchandise as coolers, pitchers, cups, ice packs and barbecue grills.
food products, contributes greatly to the grocery chain's overall general merchandise sales. Some retailers polled by SN said these sections have helped them increase sales by up to 20%.
"The displays create excitement and a newness in the store at a prime time to take advantage of those holidays or seasons. They can also slow down the shopper as she browses," said Terry Green, general merchandise corporate director at Cub Foods Stores, Stillwater, Minn.
Some chains have created seasonal areas at the front end or perimeter walls of value, while others are using high-traffic areas such as frozen food or deli.
Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., sets up 12- to 16-foot general merchandise areas either in an aisle or on three to four endcaps. The seasonal format depends on the space a particular store has to work with, said Jan Winn, director of health and beauty care and general merchandise. "The seasonal sections work better at the start of the shopping trip at perimeters, which are predominantly high-traffic areas," she added.
During the spring season, Big Y rolls out picnic displays in shippers and on shelving. This placement benefits from the customer flow, Winn said. Promoting lightbulbs, food storage containers, batteries, kitchen gadgets, barbecue tools and other seasonal selections is a growing trend among retailers who find themselves faced with increased competition from Wal-Mart Stores, said Jim Morris, head merchandiser at Roundy's Eldorado, Ill., division. In the past year, about 30 Roundy's retailers have found space for a seasonal promotion area in perimeter aisles and lobby areas, as well as in frozen food. Picnic coolers, for example, have been displayed above the freezer doors in the frozen food section, he added.
"To make a stronger statement in nonfood, retailers are devoting space to seasonal promotions from 68-foot-long aisles to lobby areas and endcaps," Morris said. A 40- to 120-foot seasonal promotion section has become an integral part of nonfood merchandising at Cub Foods.
Cub, a 55-unit corporate store subsidiary of Supervalu, Minneapolis, is trying to determine whether the front of the store or a wall of value by the soda aisle at the center of the store is more effective for promoting seasonal nonfood, Green explained.
"We want to see which area is more effective in attracting traffic flow and general merchandising sales from the massive case stacks, normal shelving and prepack shippers in these promotion aisles," he added. Most stores currently position the seasonal promotion area at the front of the store. Cub's seasonal sections create 10% to 15% increases in general merchandise sales, Green said.
Hartville Foods, Hartville, Ohio, has seasonal sections in high-traffic locations, such as the produce and deli departments. Cleaning implements, brushes, dishcloths, sponges and feather dusters for spring cleaning do well in these locations, according to Jennifer Cline, nonfood director.
"A seasonal wall of value is good for impulse sales and gives us 20% higher annual general merchandise volume," she said.
Hartville's 14-foot-long general merchandise wall of nonfood values is usually dotted with food specials, which cross-promote well with the other items and catch the shopper's eye, Cline said. Margins on nonfood items merchandised in that location are about 26%. Cline said seasonal promotions that sell particularly well are food storage containers, holiday decorating products for the fourth quarter, and gardening gloves, tools and barbecue implements in the spring. The products are displayed in shippers, on peg hooks and in cut cases arranged on empty milk boxes. Hartville promotes its nonfood wall of value items, which are displayed for about four weeks, in ads and over the public address system. An increasing number of retailers that get nonfood from Associated Wholesalers, York, Pa., are dedicating areas for promoting seasonal and holiday general merchandise. About 75 to 100 stores, up from 60, will have seasonal sections this year.
The space is being used to fight competition from Wal-Mart and to better highlight nonfood, said Charles Yahn, vice president of general merchandise. "The retailers are also searching for ways to make money as they continue to give away groceries, and this is a good way to get that general merchandise gross a little higher," he said. For example, by displaying a mix of lower-end and higher-end lawn or beach chairs in the seasonal section most consumers will pick up the better quality chair for a better overall gross profit in the mix. Most of Associated's retailers have a 60-foot nonfood promotion area interspersed with some food products. In the spring, charcoal grills, food storage products and paper goods are cross-merchandised with snacks and condiments. At Easter, Yahn added, stuffed animals are merchandised with candy, egg decorating kits and baskets. Setting up the designated promotion area close to the front end "sets up the decor theme for the whole store such as at Easter, Halloween or Thanksgiving," Yahn said.