HOUCHENS HONES HBC SPACE FOR NEW PRODUCTS

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Houchens is attempting to boost health and beauty care sales and department traffic with a fresh mix featuring new products.The retailer is removing slower-moving items to create space for the latest HBC introductions, such as new Motrin products, and new prescription to over-the-counter switches, including Tagamet HB and Pepcid AC, said Dale Green, director of general merchandise

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Houchens is attempting to boost health and beauty care sales and department traffic with a fresh mix featuring new products.

The retailer is removing slower-moving items to create space for the latest HBC introductions, such as new Motrin products, and new prescription to over-the-counter switches, including Tagamet HB and Pepcid AC, said Dale Green, director of general merchandise and HBC, and soft drink coordinator.

"We wanted to make sure we have everything up-to-date so that we can keep this business from going to Wal-Mart and the drug chains and discounters," Green said.

Houchens, which started reconfiguring its HBC variety late last year, plans to complete the recast at all 42 stores by the end of the first quarter.

Houchens started aggressively deleting HBC items that had not been performing well. This effort "will become especially crucial this year as new OTC items entering the industry put a squeeze on shelf space," Green said. Recent OTC items have been a variety of new heartburn medications. Along with Tagamet HB and Pepcid AC, which have been on supermarket shelves for the past several months, there's Zantac 75, which just received OTC approval by the Food and Drug Administration. It is scheduled to ship early this year. "These are the items that are definitely selling, so you must go in and make room for them," said Green. A fourth

heartburn product, Axid, is expected to receive OTC status next year.

Most products featured in the 28- to 50-foot-long HBC sections are merchandised in one to three sizes, Green said. According to Green, HBC sales were 10% higher in 1995 than the year before. He said the higher HBC volume was achieved in the year in part through targeting 20 to 30 items a month at low retails that match anyone's in the market. Houchens runs five items as weekly ad specials at hot prices in shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, mouthwashes and similar image items.