MERCHANDISING STUDY FOCUSES ON WOMEN

PHOENIX -- Health and beauty care is the focus of the second part of the "Merchandising for Success" study from the General Merchandise Distributors Council's Educational Foundation, New York.The results of the study will be presented at GMDC's HBC Marketing Conference here this week. The topics will include the competitive environment; developing the Women's Well-Being concept, which was introduced

PHOENIX -- Health and beauty care is the focus of the second part of the "Merchandising for Success" study from the General Merchandise Distributors Council's Educational Foundation, New York.

The results of the study will be presented at GMDC's HBC Marketing Conference here this week. The topics will include the competitive environment; developing the Women's Well-Being concept, which was introduced in a previous GMDC study; and taking better advantage of adjacencies, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill., who conducted the study for the association.

"Studies like this, especially in today's competitive environment, are very, very helpful," said Gary Crawford, director of nonfoods, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, and GMDC's chairman of the board. "They give you an opportunity to hone in on the categories and merchandising opportunities you need to, and make good decisions."

The HBC business is in constant change, he said. This kind of study "helps you recognize the changes that are happening in the business and where you need to focus. It helps maintain and achieve your sales goals in these categories," Crawford explained.

"The study provides new information on the powerful role HBC can and should assume in supermarkets," said David McConnell, president and chief executive officer of GMDC, Colorado Springs, Colo. "It also shows how channel blurring has reached a point that retailers, regardless of trade class, can now merchandise HBC products for excellence and become the customer's preferred destination for those products.

"An important part of this study is the deeper, more detailed insights on how to establish a Women's Well-Being concept in the store."

The second part of "Merchandising for Success" picks up one of the central themes of the first installment, that retailers need to be recognized by shoppers as the best, not just the best in class. "You can merchandise for excellence no matter what you happen to be, so our final point is be only the best," stated Roy White, vice president, education, GMDC Educational Foundation, which is based in New York. "You don't have to do what your channel has done traditionally."

In HBC, consumers seek out what they feel is the best solution for them, Wisner said. As opposed to general merchandise, where shoppers tend to make judgments about retailers' price positioning on a category-by-category basis, consumers tend to see HBC as one "mega-category" in terms of price, and will more frequently stock up when they go to stores, instead of picking up items as they need them, he said.

Taking advantage of Women's Well-Being concepts is a way for retailers to differentiate themselves, he commented. This extends across the continuum of product needs, ranging from the emotional to the functional.

Price is still important to about a third of HBC consumers, which Wisner said is lower than expected, and 14% wanted selection. Most wanted a simplified shopping experience. That means getting adjacencies right, he stressed. For example, family planning products and lubricants should be positioned adjacent to feminine hygiene.

"The simplest thing is, retailers absolutely have to make HBC a priority category in terms of their overall business strategy. The risk of not doing that is just too great. These are relatively space-efficient categories in terms of demands and getting to appropriate kinds of selection. It is something that any channel is capable of executing successfully," Wisner said.