PRICE CHOPPER SET TO BYTE INTO COMPUTER ACCESSORIES

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. --In the next two to three months, Price Chopper Supermarkets here will install 4 linear feet of computer accessories in about 20 of its stores, a first for the 110-unit chain.The computer accessories section will be part of an expanded stationery set already installed at locations in Auburn, Mass.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and Loudonville, N.Y., according to Marc Lajoie, stationery

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. --In the next two to three months, Price Chopper Supermarkets here will install 4 linear feet of computer accessories in about 20 of its stores, a first for the 110-unit chain.

The computer accessories section will be part of an expanded stationery set already installed at locations in Auburn, Mass.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and Loudonville, N.Y., according to Marc Lajoie, stationery buyer for Imperial Distributors, Auburn, Mass., which is servicing the set.

"They want to move this category and not let the office superstores get any more of the business than they have to," said Lajoie.

"They're highlighting the whole stationery category more than they ever have before," added Don Polsi, Imperial's vice president and market manager for general merchandise. "It's making stationery more than just a back-to-school category; it's making it productive 52 weeks out of the year."

Bob Hunt, Price Chopper's director of general merchandise, did not return calls seeking comment.

The typical Price Chopper stationery set is 24 feet or less, Lajoie said. At most of the stores involved in the rollout -- Loudonville, for example -- the space devoted to stationery will grow to 40 feet. At the Auburn and Saratoga Springs locations, which are new, 36-foot sets were recently installed.

L-bar-supported signs above the aisle "call out how the stationery department breaks down," Polsi said. For example, one sign specifies which products are meant for home use, and another designates office items.

Price Chopper's computer accessories assortment will comprise a total of 36 stockkeeping units. Mead will be the most heavily represented manufacturer, with 21 SKUs in CD-ROM storage, mouse pads, wrist rests, desktop "social" stationery and computer paper.

The section also includes four SKUs from Esselte, including 3.5-inch-disk files, a multimedia storage box and CD jewel cases; four SKUs from Aspect, including CD wipes, a disk cleaner, a CD lens cleaner and canned air; six SKUs from Avery-Dennison, mainly labels; and one SKU -- 3.5-inch disks -- from Maxell.

Lajoie said suggested retail prices for the computer accessories will range from $1.99 for Mead's desktop stationery to $16.99 for Mead's CD-ROM storage case. He added, however, that Price Chopper is "very aggressive in discounting" and will be discounting its computer accessories across the board.

Retail margins on the computer accessories, "even with discounting, are a minimum of 30%, but they can be as much as 45%," Lajoie noted.

An employee in the general-merchandise department at the Saratoga Springs Price Chopper, which opened about a month ago, would not comment on stationery sales. An employee contacted by SN at the Loudonville store said the expanded stationery set had been in operation only two days.

"It's a little early to tell as far as product velocity goes," said Lajoie. "But I'm definitely getting reorders, and not just on the items that were already in the previous set."