Socially conscious and health-focused fare are receiving top billing on prominently positioned endcaps.
In addition to catching the eyes of shoppers to which these premium items already appeal, these displays are encouraging mainstream trial while driving sales of complementary products.
“We frequently feature organic or health-related items on endcaps,” noted James Field, category manager and business analyst for Heinen's Fine Foods, Warrensville Heights, Ohio.
The retailer's most successful efforts have involved foods that focus on a specific health benefit or dietary restriction, he noted.
With its biannual gluten-free-themed display, the 17-store chain was able to double sales of items including Glutino Brown Rice Pasta, Amy's Organic soups and Bone Suckin' Sauce.
“It was successful because the group that is looking for that [gluten-free] category finds these items hard to locate [in-line] and also because we put those items on sale,” said Field. Gluten-free signage and an ad in the retailer's weekly circular helped reinforce the theme and call attention to the display. In addition to the sales lift, Heinen's was rewarded with positive customer feedback.
“People who were looking for gluten-free products for their children said that having that display really helped,” noted Field.
Likewise, Big Y is drawing consumers to healthier foods via unique endcaps as part of its “Living Well Eating Smart” program. The Springfield, Mass.-based retailer rotates products every few weeks under a different theme such as “better-for-you holiday meals” and “healthy snacks.”
“People typically shop the aisles the same way, so they overlook certain items,” Carrie Taylor, dietitian for Big Y, told SN last month. “But once it's put on an endcap or tied in with other products, they stop and take notice.”
One successful example was an endcap that drew attention to products that are normally merchandised in several separate departments. Big Y's “Preventing Cold and Flu” endcap ran Nov. 29-Dec. 12 and featured Kleenex tissues, Seventh Generation cleaning products, Carnation Instant Breakfast and Sunset Campari tomatoes.
The cleaning products earned their positioning because they provide a way to keep surfaces free of germs, while Carnation Instant Breakfast promotes immune system health, according to Taylor.
“One way to hurt your immune system is by skipping breakfast,” she noted. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, so they also help build immunity, she added.
Sunset executives were anxious to participate in the December endcap after they saw a significant sales lift resulting from a “Foods to Fuel Your Body”-themed endcap that Big Y featured earlier in the year.
“The first time, their movement was astronomical, possibly because people don't always see [tomatoes] in-line” in the produce department, Taylor said. “They saw such a spike in sales that they decided to do it again.”
Taylor believes in grouping products together in an endcap based on their nutritional benefits rather than by category affiliation such as Italian food. “Shoppers can shop with a reason in mind, and know that this product is good for this condition,” she said.
To that end, the permanent “Living Well Eating Smart” endcap, which is near the front of most Big Y stores or by its pharmacy, includes articles and information on the health condition or wellness topic featured during that two-week period.
Target Corp., Minneapolis, is also grouping more complementary products together at endcaps to draw attention to its health and wellness offerings.
“We are expanding our assortment of healthy alternatives in our food categories, and we will be featuring those products more prominently in our circular and on endcaps,” said Gregg Steinhafel, president of Target, during a recent phone call with investors. Target's upscale, private-label Archer Farms grocery products are also being displayed on endcaps in its stores.
Retailers are also helping to spread the word about social causes by prominently featuring Fair Trade Certified coffee, sugar and chocolate together on end-of-aisle displays.
During Fair Trade Month in October, Wegmans, Fred Meyer and other chains partnered with TransFair USA to promote these items with demos, point-of-purchase materials, endcaps and corresponding promotions.
Last year, Wild Oats' Mason, Ohio, location promoted Fair Trade Certified coffee, tea, hot cocoa and chocolate bars with an eye-catching display. The retailer used Fair Trade Certified coffee packages to construct a figure that looked like a farmer who was wearing overalls.
Clever endcap designs don't have to be as elaborate to be effective.
Publix's GreenWise Market store in West Palm Beach, Fla., recently cross-merchandised its GreenWise Market-brand natural cereal on an endcap with a shelf-stable soy milk product. An open cereal box turned on its side was suspended in the middle of the display with a bowl underneath it.
Another of the retailer's endcaps featured Snapea Crisps snacks in large baskets along with bottles of juice. Large vases of faux lemongrass sat at the top of the display, to give it an all-natural look and catch the eyes of shoppers.
“Our goal is to offer a shopping experience rather than a trip made out of necessity to buy items for the week,” said Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens. Natural, organic, gourmet and ethnic items are often highlighted on GreenWise Market's encaps. “We are raising awareness of different alternatives to conventional or national-brand items,” Stevens said. The retailer often demos the products it features on end-of-aisle displays.
The practice of merchandising complementary items together is also building the reputation of certain retailers as providers of meal solutions.
“The whole concept is synergistic,” said Robert Passikoff, president of research consulting firm Brand Keys, New York. “It is a really neat way to co-brand, without officially co-branding.”
Instead of just featuring one brand of pasta, many chains now feature spaghetti sauce, Parmesan cheese, pasta utensils and other complementary products on their endcaps.
“It increases sales, compared to what we'd get if we just displayed them separately,” said Field. “If we have creamer and a filter, it makes sense to display them with coffee.”
Heinen's also had success when it featured several varieties of Newman's Own sauces and salad dressings with DVDs of Paul Newman's movies. Store managers set up the promotion in-house and worked with the food broker that handles Newman's Own products. Consumers who bought the food items during the promotion could be entered to win the DVDs, which were not available for sale.
Publix groups complementary products for meals or snacks on a regular basis. Permanent endcaps include 8-foot-wide sections that cross-merchandise soda and peanuts along with another that features ice cream toppings, ice cream cones and dessert glasses.
PROVIDE GOOD BACKUP
While the strategy of presenting themed endcaps can be successful, grocers' efforts can fail without sufficient inventory.
“Unless the retailer backs it up with a mass of critical products, it may backfire and be perceived as an empty gesture,” said Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights.
For example, if a grocer is featuring organic personal care products on an endcap but is not really committed to the category with selection and consistency, the endcap likely will not succeed.