RETAIL SELL-THROUGH, MARGINS STRONG ON VALENTINE SPECIALS

Supermarkets reaped strong sell-through and high margins on selected Valentine's Day promotional merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs, cards, dolls and stuffed toys.Among stores polled by SN, Abco Foods, Phoenix, Ariz., reported 80% sell-through and 45% margins with a Valentine's Day T-shirt promotion, while Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, Highland, Ind., said a stuffed bear campaign brought in 30% to

Supermarkets reaped strong sell-through and high margins on selected Valentine's Day promotional merchandise such as T-shirts, mugs, cards, dolls and stuffed toys.

Among stores polled by SN, Abco Foods, Phoenix, Ariz., reported 80% sell-through and 45% margins with a Valentine's Day T-shirt promotion, while Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, Highland, Ind., said a stuffed bear campaign brought in 30% to 40% margins. Vic Anthony, nonfood buyer at Abco Foods, said his company's T-shirt promotion was a big hit with customers.

"It produced an extremely good sell-through," he said. The shirts, which ranged in price from $9.99 to $12.99, were offered in red, pink and white. They were available with messages reading "I Love You" or "Love and Kisses," and were merchandised on racks near Valentine's Day candy.

"They were good items that we had tremendous sales with in the past and very little residual," Anthony said. "These shirts were a good Valentine's in-and-out with a 10-day sales window, and they started selling before the holiday hit." Abco also reported about a 60% sell-through with a line of Valentine's Day Barbie Dolls retailed at $9.99, displayed near candy in a Valentine's promotion area. The chain picked up strong incremental greeting card sales from card shippers outposted at the floral and liquor sections, said the retailer. A Valentine's promotion for "Sweetheart Deals" that ranged from plush and stuffed animals to greeting cards at Fry's Food Stores, Phoenix, Ariz., "went pretty good," according to a store source at a Fry's unit. At Strack & Van Til Supermarkets, just about every Valentine's Day coffee mug and plush animal sold out by 4 P.M., said Carol Bouslog, nonfood buyer at the 11-unit chain. Gift-boxed Valentine's mugs retailed at $1.99 to $3.99 and small stuffed bears holding a heart sold at $2.99 to $9.99 price points. Both carried 30% to 40% margins.

In addition to a Valentine's Day display, some plush items also were hung from the ceiling near each checkout. "We highlighted greeting cards for the holiday with a free 6-oz. chocolate heart or chocolate bar with the purchase of three American Greetings "Forget Me Not" cards. The chocolate, which carried a message reading 'I Love You,' normally sells for $1.99," said the buyer. By the end of the holiday the chain had given away 3,600 packages of chocolate, said Bouslog. "It was a good way to encourage multiple sales since people probably figured they could get the chocolate free if they bought two more cards," she added. Based on how well sales went a week before the holiday, the retailer will probably "go a little more aggressive in the amounts of products supplied to stores next year," said Strack & Van Til's Joe Kolavo, buyer supervisor of general merchandise and health and beauty care. Fry's Food Stores ran ads promoting assorted Valentine's greeting cards in boxed selections in 38 to 42 counts at $1.49, Power Ranger cards at $1.99 in a 30-count package and musical cards at $1.49. The chain displayed "Sweetheart Pet" dolls at $4.99, Hugs & Kisses bears at $9.99 and included an in-ad coupon worth $1 off the purchase of five Ambassador products. Smitty's Supervalu, Phoenix, Ariz., highlighted a cross section of mostly general merchandise and some fragrances at $19.99 in a Valentine's Day advertising circular, with the prices imprinted over a small red heart. Specials included assorted Paper Magic heart stickers, 99 cents; women's knit shirts, $9.99, and sterling silver letter charms, five for $19.99. The retailer offered Conair telephones at $9.99, Braun hair dryers at $24.99 and a Shiatsu massager and Norelco Wet & Dry ladies' cordless razor for $19.99 each. Costume jewelry was 20% off. Tom Thumb Food & Drugs, Dallas, featured 20-inch cuddle bears at $9.88 and offered $1 off any greeting card with the purchase of a 7.87-ounce or larger box of Pangburn Valentine's candy.

It also advertised Giorgio or Casmir fragrances at $29.99, and set up a display of Valentine's gift mugs with an assortment of plush animals at $3.99.