MINYARD FOOD STORES TESTS GENERAL MERCHANDISE ITEMS

COPPELL, Tex. -- Minyard Food Stores here has begun testing a 12-foot, licensed, Disney children's clothing section at a unit of its Carnival Food Stores group.The chain began experimenting with the in-line set at a new 55,000-square-foot Carnival store that opened last month in Dallas. This is the retailer's first entry into apparel, aside from merchandising socks.The mix of items, priced between

COPPELL, Tex. -- Minyard Food Stores here has begun testing a 12-foot, licensed, Disney children's clothing section at a unit of its Carnival Food Stores group.

The chain began experimenting with the in-line set at a new 55,000-square-foot Carnival store that opened last month in Dallas. This is the retailer's first entry into apparel, aside from merchandising socks.

The mix of items, priced between $4.99 and $16.99, includes shirts, dress and pant outfits, sleepers, jackets, shoes and blankets for infants to 20 months.

"We're trying this out at one location before the program is expanded to other stores," said Dean Owens, Minyard's director of general merchandise. Besides the 17-store Carnival group, Minyard operates 46 stores under its name and 21 units under the Sack'N Save Food Stores banner. With the introduction of children's apparel, the retailer hopes to better compete against Wal-Mart and other clothing retailers. Owens said there are several clothing stores that operate around the new Carnival store. "We want to see if we can get some of that market," he stated.

If the set is rolled out to smaller Carnival stores, which are 18,000 square feet, the retailer would use a free-standing, circular wire clothing rack. Carnival's customer base is mainly Hispanic.

In addition to the licensed Disney apparel, Carnival has added 18-inch-high ceramic Mickey and Minnie banks in 15 stockkeeping units. The items are priced from $5.99 to $10.99. The retailer previously promoted these as in-and-out merchandise, but they are now being carried as everyday items in the new Carnival unit. The banks are merchandised above the frozen-food display case.

The new Carnival site added aluminum cookware in eight- and 12-foot sets to broaden its mix. The cookware, priced from $4.99 to $22.95, consists of 8-, 12- and 16-quart pots, and a 35-quart steamer.

"Sales just blew us away, and we had to reorder after three days," said Owens. He added that the cookware also is cross-merchandised for added exposure near fresh-meat cases and on overhead shelves above the refrigerated display cabinet.

According to Owens, the aluminum cookware is outselling enamelware at the new Carnival store, and plans call for expansion of the mix to other stores in the chain. Because of space constraints at regular housewares sets, secondary displays of the aluminum cookware will be arranged near meat cases and elsewhere in the store.

In other general-merchandise areas, the chain expanded assorted battery-operated wrist and pocket watches to 40 stores, including all Carnival units. The watches, priced at $9.99, are merchandised from a locked, plastic floor stand positioned at the front-end checkout area. This follows a successful five-month test at two Minyard stores, two Carnival locations and two Sack'N Saves.

During the test period, stores on average sold 55 watches a month, according to Owens. The new Carnival store alone, for example, sold 51 watches in 10 days after its opening.

Supplied on a guaranteed basis through an outside rackjobber, "the display of 80 watches is a good item for the 18 inches of space that the floor stand takes up," Owens said. The watches that carry 30% margins come with vinyl and stretch bands.

This was the first time the retailer had merchandised watches away from the service-center area. "But in most cases the watch display is still close enough to the front end so managers are available to come out and unlock the display case," Owens added.