BATH AND BODY SHOP DEBUTS AT VMC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Valu Merchandisers, the nonfood subsidiary of Associated Wholesale Grocers here, has developed a bath category merchandising scheme called "The Body Shop." The wholesaler introduced the concept to more than 750 attendees at a trade show in Overland Park, Kan."We're trying to make it attractive, much like they make it in the bath and body shops at malls all over America," said

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Valu Merchandisers, the nonfood subsidiary of Associated Wholesale Grocers here, has developed a bath category merchandising scheme called "The Body Shop." The wholesaler introduced the concept to more than 750 attendees at a trade show in Overland Park, Kan.

"We're trying to make it attractive, much like they make it in the bath and body shops at malls all over America," said Ken Nemeth, president of VMC, which services 860 stores. "And that has to do with baskets of soaps and loofa sponges; it all has a certain appeal in the general merchandising presentation." To attract incremental spending from the specialty bath consumer, products will be sold on wooden fixtures and hanging banners will call shoppers into the new department.

A mock up of the department was set up on the trade show floor last month. The department included two facing 20-foot gondola runs with endcaps featuring a line called State of Mind (Mana Products), Nivea shower gels and a number of herbal shampoo brands. Special display units overflow with shower gels, brushes and other bath paraphernalia.

"It was the first time that we had shown it," said Nemeth. "We took the view that it all needed to be merchandised together -- hair color, shampoo as well as the face creams -- a destination shop if you will," he explained.

Enthusiastic retailer response was limited, according to Nemeth. "A lot of folks said it was nice but didn't quite know where it would fit in their operation." One retailer told SN, "We might get a modified version." He added that, although "bath and body is popular, the core business is grocery."

But Nemeth pointed out retailers can choose to roll out an unlimited number of variations on the concept. He expects rollouts to begin after the first of the year. "We're going to make some minor changes in the presentation based on the [retailer] feedback we did receive."

VMC has been merchandising the bath category in-line, one company official said. Differences between the old and new schemes, according to Nemeth, include product variety and selection. "I think selection is probably the biggest difference. We have multiple variations of price points -- from 'economy' brands through very much upscale brands," he said.

Several retailer models, including Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., were used in developing the destination, VMC officials said. "We've seen some shops at H.E.B. Grocery down in San Antonio, as well as Hy-Vee [based in West Des Moines, Iowa] here in Kansas City," Nemeth said.