SALT LAKE CITY -- Associated Food Stores here has wrapped up a project that expanded general merchandise to better position its retailers against Wal-Mart and other mass merchandisers.
The campaign was completed earlier this month at 300 of the 675 member stores Associated supplies with nonfood. Associated targeted those stores, which are as large as 60,000 square feet, because they have the space to accommodate the new departments, said John Harris, corporate merchandiser for general merchandise and health and beauty care.
Display space allocations were increased by 10% in categories like stick goods, film, batteries, home-office and school supplies, housewares and pet care, Harris said.
At stores with the recast departments, "dollar purchases in these categories have increased 7% to 25%, with film and batteries leading the sales gains, followed by kitchen housewares and pet supplies," Harris said. The program was launched a year and a half ago.
With the added space, retailers have been able to enhance displays and widen assortments for a more complete general-merchandise presentation. The pet care department, for example, has grown to 40 feet, the bulk-rawhide set alone taking up 4 feet.
School, office and home-office accessories now take up a 40-foot-long section. Revamped stores also offer wider varieties of plasticware, film and batteries, including larger value packs.
"We've put on a huge push over the last 18 months, including larger 16- to 20-foot in-line film and battery sets, up from the previous, smaller 8-foot departments," Harris said. "The larger sections provide space for audio and video accessories, single-use cameras and value packs."
The larger battery value packs are placed at eye level to encourage "higher-ticket rings, while smaller two- and four-pack batteries are positioned lower on the display," he said.
Plasticware, including drinkware and children's plastic utensils, Pyrex, bakeware and other assorted kitchen equipment are now housed in 16- to 32-foot housewares sections.
During the past year, retailers with the enhanced nonfood departments have taken a more aggressive approach in their weekly ads, Harris said.
"We'll be as competitive in the ads on promotion features as Wal-Mart is every day, including matching prices on items like film value packs and Kodak 200-speed film," he said.
Harris said this month Associated also completed a shift in its stick-goods program, from Holliston, Mass.-based Suburbanite Industries' Butler brand to O-Cedar/Vining Household Products Co., Springfield, Ohio.
Although the size of stick-goods departments, which run up to 16 feet, remains unchanged, the number of different stockkeeping units has increased by 15%, Harris said. New items include cleaning accessories like pumice scouring stones for removing rust spots and clothing stains.