Retailers Employ Seasonal Selectivity

Even as the economy suffers, grocers are putting just as much emphasis on seasonal promotions. At the same time, they are more creative with ordering and shipping products, and more selective with products displayed for seasonal programs. In stores across the country, I am seeing as much seasonal as I've seen before, but with very aggressive price points. A couple of years ago, I saw retailers successfully

Even as the economy suffers, grocers are putting just as much emphasis on seasonal promotions.

At the same time, they are more creative with ordering and shipping products, and more selective with products displayed for seasonal programs.

“In stores across the country, I am seeing as much seasonal as I've seen before, but with very aggressive price points. A couple of years ago, I saw retailers successfully selling very high-ticket items,” Jon Hauptman, partner, Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., told SN.

While supermarkets are still selling patio sets, for example, they are selling “middle market” sets rather than high-end merchandise, Hauptman said.

Mary McMillen, director of consumer affairs, Buehler's Food Markets, Wooster, Ohio, said that the retailer is also choosier about seasonal merchandise displayed.

“Customers are being more selective in their choices, and we are seeing fewer impulse buys. Categories such as sun care will continue as strong. However, fringe categories such as sunglasses will be less of a priority,” McMillen said.

Meanwhile, Day's Marketplace, Heber City, Utah, is still selling high-end home decor items with price tags between $200 and $300 each. “We don't have a problem selling those items, but quantities aren't as large as last year or the year before,” said Preston Phillips, nonfood manager at Day's.

Because a “good mix” of higher-end and lower-end customers shop at the store, Day's still sells a good amount of high-end seasonal items, Phillips said. The bad weather in the area — a heavy, long winter — has hurt customer traffic more than the economy, he added.

Still, certain seasonal items, such as patio furniture, have become too expensive for Day's Marketplace to carry. “The cost of heavy-duty Adirondack-type chairs probably doubled, so we chose not to carry them. Prices on a lot of the plastic and other petroleum-based products have gone up,” Phillips said.

Because the cost to ship goods has risen 25% in some cases, Phillips has had to get more creative with ordering. “We have probably ordered as much for seasonal this year, but we have ordered from some different companies that will put a freight cap on the order, or offer incentives if we meet a certain dollar amount,” Phillips said.

Buehler's Food Markets is also choosier about the seasonal items it takes on. “We're looking longer and harder at the promotional items available — the better the deal, the more likely we are to purchase,” McMillen said.

Still, with the right mix of product, seasonal can still be a profit center for grocers.

“The supermarket chain that understands the consumer's value equation can still take advantage of seasonal nonfood product sales. These products often have excellent price/value statement, and they can provide a great, positive atmosphere for the supermarket,” said Bill Mansfield, a former supermarket nonfood executive and now president and chief executive officer of consulting firm VIP International, Garland, Texas.

To that end, Hauptman pointed to a Dallas-area grocer with “very nice displays” of both grills and indoor cooking utensils and supplies in its stores.

“Because of the economy, consumers today are shifting some of the food dollars away from pricier restaurants and towards preparation in the home. Even in a tight economy, shoppers may invest a little bit in cooking utensils and supplies that they are going to be using more,” Hauptman said.