'Tis Always the Season to Spend

PAYING YEAR-ROUND attention to seasonal opportunities could be the most effective way for supermarkets to sell general merchandise items. Seasonal Best Practices: A Plan for Seasonal Merchandising, released in May by the Educational Foundation of GMDC, Colorado Springs, with data from Information Resources Inc., Chicago, found that the five-year annual growth rate of seasonal products (2000 to 2005)

PAYING YEAR-ROUND attention to seasonal opportunities could be the most effective way for supermarkets to sell general merchandise items.

“Seasonal Best Practices: A Plan for Seasonal Merchandising,” released in May by the Educational Foundation of GMDC, Colorado Springs, with data from Information Resources Inc., Chicago, found that the five-year annual growth rate of seasonal products (2000 to 2005) is up 10%, compared to a 1.2% rise for HBC categories and a 3.8% decline for GM.

One explanation for seasonal splurges is American consumers' penchant for buying gifts, revealed in a shopper survey released by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Greenwich, Conn.

The survey found that 80% of dog owners, 63% of cat owners and 72% of bird owners buy gifts for their pets, spending an average of $17 per gift. Christmas and “anytime” were the most common reasons to give.

Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass., added 100 SKUs of holiday pet items to last year's mix. Although it doesn't have the shelf space of a pet superstore, Stop & Shop “keeps ahead of the current trends and has the items most requested by customers,” spokesman Robert Keane told SN.

The growth of gift cards is another example. Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., through its Blackhawk Network Subsidiary, is expanding the amount of prepaid gift cards in its own stores and providing them to other chains. Steve Burd, chairman and chief executive officer, said in August that gift cards are the supermarket's fastest-growing category.

Taking gifting a step further, Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, which implements a Blackhawk gift card program, promotes the sale of other companies' gift cards to earn fuelperks! 10 cents off per gallon of gas for every $50 spent in the store.

“Given the recent dramatic and broadly felt increases in gas prices, we think fuelperks! has played an increasingly important role in communicating Giant Eagle's total value for shoppers,” said Jim Hertel, senior vice president of consulting firm Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill.

While gas rewards are popular, they can be considered unfair to competitors. In November, Kroger-owned King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado had to reduce their value program after a district court ruled the program violated Colorado's Unfair Practices Act.

For every $100 worth of groceries the per-gallon discount was dropped from 10 cents to 3 cents. Kroger indicated it would appeal the ruling.