CHAINS SLIDE SOAP TO BUBBLE HBC SALES

New England grocery chains are test-merchandising bath soap in the health and beauty aisle in order to drive more impulse sales in the health and beauty care department. Supermarkets that have moved soap from the detergent aisle to HBC include Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass.; Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.; Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass.; Star Market, Cambridge, Mass.; and Demoulas & Market

New England grocery chains are test-merchandising bath soap in the health and beauty aisle in order to drive more impulse sales in the health and beauty care department. Supermarkets that have moved soap from the detergent aisle to HBC include Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass.; Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass.; Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass.; Star Market, Cambridge, Mass.; and Demoulas & Market Basket, Tewksbury, Mass., according to Bill Swartz, senior vice president at MAI-Alper, a broker based in Framingham, Mass.

"It seems to be an emerging trend. A number of accounts are testing it right now," Swartz said. "Preliminary results show no change in volume of soap sales, and an overall lift in HBC, with anywhere from a 5% to 8% increase in categories adjacent to soap, such as skin care."

Except for Big Y, which did confirm it was testing the concept with both bar and liquid soaps, other chains could not be reached for comment as of press time. Stop & Shop declined to comment.

"It was something we had seen in other markets and we thought it was something we would try," said Claire D'Amour, a spokeswoman for Big Y. "The positioning varies depending on the store. So far, it is a little hard to tell what the results are. It has taken a while for customers to adjust to the new placement of the soap. We are looking at the numbers now," she said.

Moving soap from one position in a supermarket to another is an educational process for customers, Swartz said. "It is a big change for them. Supermarkets are doing some couponing to get them [shoppers] over there.

"Supermarkets have to work on getting more traffic in the HBC aisle," he added, pointing out that national numbers show that only one out of four people walk down the HBC aisle.

With HBC being a high-impulse category, the mere fact of getting more traffic in the HBC aisle will sell more products, the broker said.

In-store couponing is one of the things that will encourage people to shop the HBC aisle more often, Swartz said. For example, supermarkets can offer a coupon for a cold product in the facial tissues area, he said. "That would get people from the paper aisle over to the HBC aisle.

"Why not put Tagamet and Tums at the Mexican food counter?" Swartz pondered.