HIGHLAND, Ind. -- Strack & Van Til Supermarkets here will begin testing an 8-foot bath section in one of its units in early 1995.
If successful, the chain may ultimately roll the concept out to its other stores, said Joe Kolavo, nonfood buyer.
Strack & Van Til will add the section, which will include about 40 to 50 stockkeeping units of bath and shower gels and other upscale items, to "one of our megamarts" in an attempt to cash in on the sales craze the products have enjoyed in specialty bath boutiques like the Body Shop, he explained.
"When we were at a [Food Marketing Institute trade show] there must have been at least 10 booths with bath and shower items and it seems to be an increasingly hot trend," said Kolavo. "There are also these franchises like the Body Shop and such that are opening up in malls.
"Given that," he continued, "we felt there might be a market for supermarkets in bath, too, and now we're going to try and develop some of those sales."
Kolavo said his chain will test the section not only to attempt to fill customers' demand for bath products, but also to try and reap high margins. The products will range in price points between 99 cents and $10.
"From health and beauty care standards, margins are really good in the bath section," said Kolavo. "You can make 25 to 30 points and still be competitive [with specialty shops]." There is "no doubt" bath shops situated in shopping malls reap huge margins on their products, he said.
"There are a number of our stores near major malls, both in Illinois and Indiana. All the malls have at least one franchise, and a few of them have four or five bath shops," said Kolavo. Strack & Van Til hopes to promote its bath section as an everyday destination and also as a high-impulse gift area for Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and other holidays. "We'll try to do some promotions during those times," Kolavo said. The chain also is tinkering with the idea of getting point-of-sale materials or decorative devices from its supplier, Supervalu, Minneapolis, to "make a statement [in the section]. We want to set it apart from the rest of the HBC section. We don't want it to be just an 8-foot set of bubble bath."
Brands planned for the test store bath section include Sarah Michaels, Stoughton, Mass., and San Francisco Soap Co., Petaluma, Calif. The chain has already had success merchandising "some isolated bath items off the shelf in the health and beauty aids sets," said Kolavo. One product, Showering Bath Foam and Gel, available in six or seven flavors, sold faster than the chain anticipated.
"Our original order was around six pallets of the product and we've re-ordered twice since then," Kolavo said of the premium packaged product, which retails at "just under $2 for 24 ounces."