RESETS HELPING RETAILERS DRIVE ICE CREAM SALES

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Several chains across the country are scooping up additional ice cream sales thanks to Aisle Enhancements, a category management initiative designed by Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream here."My frozen food manager has seen an impact," said Ron Brown, manager of a ShopRite in Waterbury, Conn., a store owned by Wakefern, the cooperative wholesaler based in Elizabeth, N.J. "Just from the stock

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Several chains across the country are scooping up additional ice cream sales thanks to Aisle Enhancements, a category management initiative designed by Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream here.

"My frozen food manager has seen an impact," said Ron Brown, manager of a ShopRite in Waterbury, Conn., a store owned by Wakefern, the cooperative wholesaler based in Elizabeth, N.J. "Just from the stock level, from how much he's ordering, he saw an immediate lift right after we did it," Brown said, noting the aisle was reset in January.

"I'd say our ice cream sales are up 15%," said the frozen food manager at a store operated by Smitty's, Phoenix. Rich Peterson, new ventures manager for Dreyer's, said 14 Smitty's stores have been redone, with 13 more slated for completion shortly.

Enhancement programs are also being tested in stores operated by King Soopers, Denver, Pathmark, Woodbridge, N.J., and other ShopRite stores in New Jersey.

Retailers are experimenting with varying levels of enhancements. In general, the program consists of color-coding the sections containing the various segments of the ice cream category. In-dulgent flavors are in a section with purple signage. Traditional ice cream is in a red area. Better-for-you products are marked in green and novelties are in a yellow-colored section.

For those looking to make a major enhancement, graphics for coffin cases, coffin-case dividers with graphics, canopies and floor tiles matching the canopies can be added to the aisle.

"I like it," said Brown, whose store was enhanced only with the color-coded signs and ceiling danglers. "You see customers walking down here and it appears it's a bigger variety. It's easier to shop. I hear that a lot from the customers. Everything's sectioned off. It's easier to read. Normally, everything is jumbled up and hard to understand."

Peterson said the goal of the program is to make it easier for consumers to shop the ice cream aisle.

"If a consumer is looking for yogurt, she can now find yogurt much more easily than before where you had a little yogurt here and a little yogurt there. We think -- and the numbers are showing that -- it makes for a more pleasant shopping experience. It's another way for the grocer to gain incremental sales and profits that does not concern promotion," Peterson said.

Peterson used six-month figures based on statistics from Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, and Wakefern internal data to illustrate the impact at a ShopRite in Lacey, N.J.

"In packaged ice cream vs. a year ago, the store recorded a 12% increase in dollar sales," Peterson said. "Meanwhile, total sales of packaged ice cream for ShopRite in that six-month period were down 2.1%. Ice cream sales in the entire New York market were up 2.9% during the six months. So we're seeing about a 10% spread between the market and that store and a 14% spread between all ShopRites," he said.

The spread was greater in novelties, he added. The Lacey store experienced a 27% increase; novelty sales in all ShopRites were down 3.4%; novelty sales in the New York market were up 6.4%. "That's a 21% spread vs. market and about a 30% spread vs. other ShopRites," Peterson said.

During that six-month period, the Lacey ShopRite saw increases in ice cream of 17% in dollars and 22% in units. "In terms of the market, you're seeing about a 13% spread above the market in a very profitable category," Peterson said.

"We've only had it in place for about two months," said the Smitty's manager, "but we've seen a jump. I've heard shoppers say how easy it is to find products. If they want healthy, they go to the area with the green sign. It's pretty simple."

The new layout is also making it easier to manage the section, he noted.

"You can readily see which segments are selling best," he said. "For us, the green section -- the one with the healthy products -- has needed more attention in terms of stocking than the other sections. I think we'll start seeing a little more action in novelties soon, too."

The frozens aisle in the Waterbury ShopRite is in the middle of the store, something that could help further boost ice cream numbers, Brown said.

"I think it could very well bring some impulse sales," he said. "It's something that's going to catch people's eyes as they go to check out -- or while they're waiting on line to check out. I've seen it happen already."

A store-level source at a store operated by Pathmark said he thinks impulse sales have increased since his store's ice cream aisle was reset.

"It seems like we're selling more," he said. "I guess one of the true tests will come when the weather gets hotter. I'm sure sales will continue to be above average because it's really hard to miss the aisle now."

One thing the retailers like is the flexibility of the program.

"If we find we want to add some space for novelties at some point, we can do it pretty easily," said ShopRite's Brown.