Kitchen gadgets are merchandised as impulse, convenience items for supermarket shoppers, according to most general merchandise executives. But the category, laden with many stockkeeping units and easily out-of-stock, is not being that closely monitored, chain executives admit, even though there is the capability to track inventory movement and get optimum assortment.
"We use rack jobbers, and they send us sales summaries that tell us how many spatulas we've sold. We don't keep track of it ourselves," said Kim Botkin, nonfood buyer, Gerland's Food Fair, Houston.
Carl Lange, director of merchandise, John C. Groub Co., Seymour, Ind., obtains gadgets through a service merchandiser. "Quite honestly, I don't track the gadgets. I can, but normally, I don't," he said.
Richard Galatian, president, Sak 'N Save, Houston, said that they track gadgets through UPC codes, but that it isn't looked at often. "We don't particularly do anything with the data because we buy the items from a rack jobber," he said, adding that he is very satisfied with this arrangement. Many view kitchen gadgets in their stores as almost a service to customers rather than a competitive merchandise category. "If the customer has made the trip specifically to buy a new serving spoon, I don't think he or she will come to us," said Botkin.
"But if they' re in the store and see a gadget they need, they tend to buy it from us. Gadgets are more of an impulse buy than a planned purchase," he added.
Competing against mass merchants, who control about 38% of the $340.5 million wholesale gadget market, is not an issue with Dick Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser, Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind.
"We try to make a certain markup, but it's more of a service or convenience to customers to have these items available," he commented. "If we get a deal, we'll pass it on to the consumer; if not, we'll mark it up a little," said Danny Langley, nonfood buyer at Byrd Food Stores, Burlington, N.C.
According to Langley, 85% of gadget sales are impulse. Only about 15% of the shopper write it down on their lists, he added. Lange of Groub also believes that gadget purchases are impulse purchases. "I don't think someone would leave us and run across the street to buy a can opener or potato peeler. If it's convenient for them to pick it up at our store, they will," he said. Yet some retailers see the gadget category more competitively than others. Galatian says he competes directly with the mass merchandisers in this category. "We're marking up gadgets only about 20% and that seems to be as cheap or cheaper than Wal-Mart. We're pretty competitive."
Dan Black, general merchandise buyer, Raley's, West Sacramento, Calif., said his stores definitely compete with the mass merchandisers. "We're pretty comparable in most areas," he said. "Maybe not as low priced, but we're usually priced in the middle."