SUPERMARKETS NEED A FRESH APPROACH TO HBC, SAYS STUDY

PHOENIX -- With consumers looking for the best store to shop in, regardless of channel, supermarkets need to open up to new merchandising approaches in selling health and beauty care, as well as other nonfood products.This was one of the findings of the second part of "Merchandising for Success," a study by the New York-based Educational Foundation of General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado

PHOENIX -- With consumers looking for the best store to shop in, regardless of channel, supermarkets need to open up to new merchandising approaches in selling health and beauty care, as well as other nonfood products.

This was one of the findings of the second part of "Merchandising for Success," a study by the New York-based Educational Foundation of General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo. The HBC component was presented during the association's HBC Marketing Conference here last month.

The study pointed out that HBC is a critical driver as to where consumers shop. It also highlighted the need for food retailers to pay attention to the needs of women when merchandising HBC, and to closely examine the effectiveness of product and category adjacencies.

"The consumer is no longer responding to the channel when they are purchasing. They are responding to the merchandising and to the product presentation, no matter what the store," said Roy White, vice president of education, GMDC Educational Foundation.

Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill., who conducted the study for GMDC, noted that HBC has to be recognized as a core category.

"Many of the people running the supermarket business grew up in an era when HBC was that other stuff we carried as support items," he told SN after the presentation.

Today HBC is a critical drivers in choosing where to shop, he said. In that context, supermarkets need to pay more attention to the needs and preferences of women, who represent the greatest percentage of grocery shoppers, Wisner said. To that point, the "Merchandising for Success" study elaborated on earlier GMDC research on "Women's Well Being."

For example, Wisner pointed to the recent Revlon Express concept in which the manufacturer took fewer, faster-moving stockkeeping units and located them in a more prominent part of the store than the low-traffic aisles their larger selection had been relegated to. The company's idea, he noted, was "to put the product in danger of being purchased."

The study, White said, "puts together a lot of these little things that, when added up, give you some sense of what you can do to merchandise categories that already exist."

Retailers at the conference agreed with some of the study's findings. "I think you have to identify key products in every category at the right time of year," commented Gary Crawford, director of nonfoods, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, and current chairman of GMDC.

Bill Mansfield, vice president of general merchandise and HBC, Pueblo International, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the immediate past chairman of GMDC, said, "Underlying that presentation was the fact that health and beauty care products are now sold by everyone. The distribution of those products has gone everywhere."

Other retailers appreciated the detail in the study, such as the numbers from ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill. "We took some information away from that presentation that will allow us to go back, take a look at those categories, and maybe treat them a little differently as we promote them to our customers," admitted Al Jones, senior vice president of procurement and merchandising, Imperial Distributors, Auburn, Mass.

GMDC studies provide information "you can take back to your management and say, 'Look, we've ll been saying this, but here are some more facts," said Charles Yahn, vice president of merchandising, Associated Wholesalers Inc., York, Pa.