KROGER MAGAZINE SITES LIFT VOLUME

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A Kroger division here has experienced explosive unit growth in periodical sales with a program that displays magazines in nontraditional locations, including frozen foods, florals and dairy.The retailer is seeing 40% margins and a 275% to 1,000% sales unit increase on titles included in the program, according to Terry Massaro, vice president of marketing for Scherer Cos., Dublin,

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A Kroger division here has experienced explosive unit growth in periodical sales with a program that displays magazines in nontraditional locations, including frozen foods, florals and dairy.

The retailer is seeing 40% margins and a 275% to 1,000% sales unit increase on titles included in the program, according to Terry Massaro, vice president of marketing for Scherer Cos., Dublin, Ohio, which handles the program. Scherer is a wholesale magazine distribution company and parent of Ohio Periodicals here, which provides magazines to most of Kroger's Columbus stores.

"Sales are beyond our expectations," Massaro said.

The campaign, called the Impact Merchandising Program, was tested for about 90 days before being officially launched last month in about 50 stores. It is designed to make use of supermarket areas that previously haven't been considered appropriate for displays.

"This program is intended to utilize dead space and increase incremental sales over the checkout and mainline," said Massaro. Kroger officials were unavailable for comment.

Under the program, each Kroger store features about six vertically aligned units installed on the sides of high freezers, low freezers, pillars, endcaps and service counters. Each unit contains between three and 20 magazine facings, depending on the size and location of the fixture. Units have been custom designed to blend with each store's layout and traffic patterns. They are only used in high-traffic locations.

"We used the traffic flow as a barometer," Massaro said. "This way, when people turn a corner, they're hit with about six facings of the same magazine, which makes a strong impression." This, in turn, helps increase impulse sales. One magazine, which Scherer declined to name, went from two sales per month to 37.

"This program has been put together to drive magazine unit sales," Massaro said.

The units hold a variety of special interest periodicals from about 20 major publishing companies. Titles include "Smart Money," "People extra," "Garden Deck & Landscaping," "Snow Country" and "Skiing." A wide range of comic books is also offered.

"We tried to pick titles that the majority of customers would read. We wanted to appeal to the mass public," Massaro said. Though some titles relate to the department in which they're displayed, Massaro stressed that the campaign is not a cross-merchandising program. One Kroger store, for instance, is displaying crafts books in its dairy aisles, and skiing periodicals on endcaps next to its instant breakfast selection.

Titles in the displays are changed every 30 days, which improves variety and aesthetics.

"There's a constant change of scenery with change of magazines," Massaro said. "It brings color to the store."

According to Massaro, each Kroger unit will receive in-store service to ensure that fixtures remain fully supplied and maintained.