CERTIFIED CUTS ITEM MIX, STRENGTHENS HOUSEWARES

CHICAGO -- Certified Grocers Midwest here is re-evaluating the mix of its housewares lines, initially reducing its stick goods item mix by 60%.According to Chuck Witt, general merchandise and health and beauty care buyer for the co-op wholesaler, "Our goal is to increase the sales and profits in a category that can be a more powerful impulse area, with a better mix of goods all around." Certified

CHICAGO -- Certified Grocers Midwest here is re-evaluating the mix of its housewares lines, initially reducing its stick goods item mix by 60%.

According to Chuck Witt, general merchandise and health and beauty care buyer for the co-op wholesaler, "Our goal is to increase the sales and profits in a category that can be a more powerful impulse area, with a better mix of goods all around." Certified expects to achieve a better product variety by cutting brands and supplementing the mix with lower-priced, value-added choices. The goal is to increase sales 10% in targeted categories.

The remerchandising effort started last month with stick goods where the category item mix went from 72 products to 28. "We freed up space in stick goods for slotting some other smaller categories, like potpourri," Witt explained. The revised stick goods assortment in the 4 to 16-foot departments will now offer fewer major brands. It will be supplemented with several smaller suppliers of lower-priced, value-added choices to give the section wider appeal, Witt said. Previously, the section offered as many as five to six nationally branded lines, along with several small regional products. Other housewares categories targeted for re-evaluation are kitchen gadgets, cookware, lightbulbs and electrical supplies and accessories.

Certified, which supplies general merchandise to 350 of the 484 stores its co-members operate, also plans to reduce the number of brands and category suppliers in those categories. As Certified fine-tunes the housewares mix, retailers are being encouraged to price high-impulse general merchandise more competitively with the mass merchandisers and discounters.

Plans include 10% discounts on different stick goods items for spring and fall cleaning promotions, which could also feature cents-off coupons, Witt said.

The wholesaler also may run pallet lightbulb promotions so that its retailers can price 4-packs of bulbs more competitively. It hopes to have the pallet promotions in place by November. "This should enable [retailers] to stay within reach of the mass merchants," Witt said. "If everyone participates, we'll be able to buy better. That would bring the cost of goods down. Stores could retail a 4-pack of 40-, 60-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs at $1.59. Some retailers now are as high as $3.89 on a 4-pack of bulbs." Electrical accessories and lighting centers set up on endcaps and up to 12-foot sections are being cut from five to two vendors "for better control, although the same amount of product will be offered from fewer suppliers," added Witt. In other housewares areas, cookware in similar sizes and styles in Anchor Hocking, Corning and other lines are being eliminated, while dust pans will be cut back from six to two stockkeeping units. Certified, whose members operate up to 24-foot kitchen gadget and cookware sections, is working to reduce gadgets to one major brand from several lines.