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Hunkered Down for the Holidays

Hunkered Down for the Holidays

It’s that time again, retailers — time to look ahead to the holiday season. Unfortunately, as with last year, there’s not much to get excited about. The National Retail Federation is forecasting November and December sales to decline by 1%. Supermarkets are in a better position than most other retailers. But even so, it’s going to be tough to move those gourmet chocolates, flowers, gift baskets and big, beautiful Christmas hams.

ornament.jpgIf there is one bright spot amidst the coal dust of the recession, analysts say, it’s products that offer whole health benefits. Thom Blischok, trends guru with the data firm Information Resources, said as much at a recent seminar at FMI’s FutureConnect, going on this week in Dallas. The NRF and various other sources seem to agree, citing the commitment to all things eco-friendly, green and sustainable — however you want to coin it — that many consumers won’t easily give up.

But ok, so we all know that “green” is big these days. Big whoop. What’s the real takeaway in all of this?

Tom Pirovano, directory of industry insights with Nielsen, offers an interesting nugget. That is, it’s not enough just to be “green” — there has to be a cost-saving or convenience component as well. That’s been the case throughout the year — with more and more people paying more for, say, CFL light bulbs so they’ll save on energy bills in the long run — and it should continue into the holidays.

An increased emphasis on private label seems to be key. And supermarkets are poised to capitalize, with many having expanded recently into sophisticated gourmet, natural and organic lines. A&P stocks Green Way, as well as premium lines like Via Roma and Hartford Reserve, which includes gourmet cheeses and chocolates classy enough for a party platter or as a stocking stuffer.

(photo by Steve Snodgrass)