HOUSTON -- Everyday in-line housewares sales at Fiesta Mart shot up 30% after the mix was integrated with related grocery items, according to local observers. Formerly located in general merchandise sections, gadgets are now close to jarred pickles and salad dressings, while plasticware has been moved to the juice aisle and bakeware to the baking section. At the same time, the soap aisle now features kitchen domestics, stick goods, and pots and pans.
The sales increase, reported in January and February, is expected to continue. Chain officials said the assortment is performing better because the products are now in high-traffic areas.
"When general merchandise is separated [from groceries], customers will walk right by it," said Duane Robelia, director of general merchandise and health and beauty care. Robelia declined to give exact sales figures.
Shifting the in-line general merchandise sections to an integrated approach was a big change for the 33-store chain, which previously grouped housewares with other general merchandise lines on separate gondolas in several 24-foot-long nonfood aisles at the front of the store. Fiesta launched the integrated presentation for everyday general merchandise after a three-month test early last year. It already has remerchandised 12 stores, and plans to roll out the planograms to five additional stores this year. Other units also are slated to be reconfigured, though the chain has not decided exactly how many.
Fiesta's in-line kitchen domestics, sewing items, kitchen gadgets, aluminum, metal and glass bakeware, food storage and automotive products represent 20% of the chain's general merchandise sales, according to Lance Humphreys, vice president of marketing at Jack's Service Co., Oklahoma City, Okla., the service merchandiser racking the sections. The sections are 4 to 16 feet long.
Eighty percent of Fiesta's general merchandise mix is devoted to items purchased direct, such as seasonal promotions, in-and-outs and close-outs. These items are featured in seasonal aisles, on speed tables and gondola endcaps, said Robelia. Buying direct eliminates the need for a service merchandiser, which reduces product costs. "Direct purchases help reduce price points, which is important since this is a very competitive market," stressed Robelia. In its bid to reach out to its large Hispanic customer base, Fiesta offers an array of different cookware and kitchen utensils and accessories commonly used for Mexican cooking, said Robelia. It offers two styles of tortilla warmers: a hard plastic model priced at $5.99 and a styrofoam model at $1.89. Both are merchandised on a stand under refrigerated meat display cabinets. They're also located on the bread rack near packaged tortillas.
Among Fiesta's extensive cookware are Lodge heavy cast iron products priced at $6.99 to $32.99, and enamel cookware, $4.99 to $14.99. The cookware assortment also contains about nine different sizes of cast aluminum enamel caldero pots, which are typically used to prepare menudo, an ethnic soup.
The caldero segment is priced at $6 to $40 and displayed in a 12-foot section. "These pots are strong sellers. They do very well," said the retailer. The cookware assortment features many popular colors. Many are purchased as display pieces.
"Enamel pots also do well on an everyday basis with the top seller black with white speckles, and also in white with blue speckles, and green with white speckles," said Robelia. Fiesta also offers matching long-handled kitchen implements, including spoons and ladles priced from $1.99 to $3.99, and coffee pots and mugs.
The mix also contains sharpening stones, and mortar and pestle sets for grinding dried corn. They retail for about $8. Large 20-quart tamale pots priced at $17.99 are also merchandised on the top of grocery gondolas and over refrigerated meat cases. The chain also cross-merchandises fast-moving selections on power panels and J-hooks to boost general merchandise impulse sales. For instance, plastic cutlery is located near paper goods and plastics; scourers and gloves, near detergents; and can openers and peelers, in the canned goods department. Other faster-selling power panel items are flexible straws in 50- count and 100-count packages, children's dinosaur mugs priced at $1.99, copper mesh scourers and ice cube trays. In an effort to keep nonfood traffic flowing through grocery aisles with general merchandise selections, Fiesta runs about 20 temporary price reductions a month, usually at 25% off, featuring items from most categories.