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Stuff it. Cram it. Squeeze it. Jam it. Pack it.Supermarkets are finding ways to capitalize on consumers' need to collect, file, store and preserve their stuff through offering various household storage containers and organizational products."We're getting into it more and more, dedicating sections to clothing and laundry storage with items like baskets and towers," said Thomas Shively, GM merchandiser,

Stuff it. Cram it. Squeeze it. Jam it. Pack it.

Supermarkets are finding ways to capitalize on consumers' need to collect, file, store and preserve their stuff through offering various household storage containers and organizational products.

"We're getting into it more and more, dedicating sections to clothing and laundry storage with items like baskets and towers," said Thomas Shively, GM merchandiser, Supervalu, eastern region, Richmond, Va. "It's a maturing category."

Jean Hoff, category manager, Schnuck Markets, St. Louis, told SN that the retailer plans to expand the everyday home storage section from 8 linear feet to 12 linear feet next spring. "It's a goal I have, because it means one less stop for the consumer and it ties nicely into household cleaning."

There's an obsession with getting organized today, said Barry Izsak, president, National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), Norcross, Ga., an association that includes organizational designers, manufacturers and retailers of storage and organizational products. "People are searching for control in a world where we feel out of control," he said. "We're inundated with messages to buy more stuff, and we have no clue where to put it."

Key drivers in the growing storage and organizational category include families that manage to accumulate an array of kids' things as they grow up, the baby-boomer generation sending their children off to space-challenged college dorms, and the desire to safely store things away to prevent rodent and insect infestation, said Dan Raftery, president, Raftery Resource Network, Antioch, Ill.

"People collect stuff rather than throw it away," he said.

"It's a big trend because people are accumulating more and more stuff," said Jean Rupar, manager of color, trends and licensing for Rubbermaid, Wooster, Ohio. "They have so much stuff and they need some place to put it, and they're looking for a more fashionable way to store their things."

The household/kitchen storage category stashed away $726 million in food, drug and mass sales, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago, during a 52-week period ending June 15, 2003. The supermarket channel stacked up $274 million in sales for household/kitchen storage during the same 52-week time period.

The popularity of the home organization category has expanded in home decor retailers. Some merchants like the The Container Store, Dallas, Texas, completely dedicate their merchandise to the category, said Rupar.

"Grocery stores are now catching on to stores like The Container Store, Crate and Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond, and seeing the popularity and profitability to these categories," she said. "Supermarkets are jumping on the bandwagon because it's a great opportunity for incremental sales."

Penn Traffic, Syracuse, N.Y., offers a range of kitchen and household storage containers, depending on store size, said Joe Ramirez, spokesman. The traditional Penn Traffic supermarkets, which cover the Big Bear, Bi-Lo Foods, P&C Foods and Quality Markets banners, among others, offer conventional kitchen storage items and limited assortment of cardboard containers for storage needs underneath beds.

At Penn Traffic's Big Bear Plus combination food and general merchandise stores, the spectrum of available storage products includes containers for all areas of the house, including the kitchen, garage, home office and basement, Ramirez said. "We have a full line of storage items you would expect to see in a Home Depot," he said, like shelving systems and ready-to-assemble sheds.

Food storage containers are natural tie-ins for supermarkets, and retailers leverage these products through cross-merchandising efforts in the housewares or cookware departments.

"Food storage is a still a big part of the business, and we do a huge job in it," Shively told SN. Supervalu recently expanded its manufacturer reach in the category by purchasing products from an Eastern European company, he said. The retail/wholesale company also began offering private-label food storage options under the HomeBest name. "We started six months ago, and it's doing very well," Shively said. The products are similar to Rubbermaid's popular TakeAlongs food storage containers, he said.

Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash., displays basic sets of food storage containers and a small amount of larger household storage items, said Gordon Thompson, general merchandise buyer for the retailer.

"Because of the pricing at mass, it's hard to be competitive," he said. "Mass prices make it tough to go head-to-head."

Another key factor that hinders the category's growth in supermarkets is the lack of room in the stores, Thompson noted.

Space limitations pose opportunities for creative displays, cross merchandising and strategic planning, Raftery said.

"To get in the business on a regular basis, the key is to figure out what SKUs make sense for the store," he said. Supermarkets could create tie-ins, like placing storage containers near the deli case for sliced meats and cheeses, Raftery said.

Ed Crockett, general merchandise category manager, Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, said the company "takes advantage of timing tied into back-to-school and home organizational themed programs" that bleed into the fall season. These in-and-out programs include items like closet organizers, hangers and sweater boxes.

Aside from its everyday storage selection of trash cans, laundry baskets and buckets, Schnuck Markets sets up promotional storage sections starting at the end of June for back-to-school time, said Hoff. It's a way to present "big and bulky items" like rolling storage carts without losing valuable floor space year-round, she said.

Supermarkets can jump into the niche marketing area, for example, by dedicating special segments to juvenile storage to take advantage of back-to-school, said Rupar. "That's one way they can really capitalize on the trend, if they do more promotional in-and-out programs to capture impulse sales," she said.

Retailers could get involved in NAPO's Get Organized Week during the first week in October, said Izsak, or center storage promotions around the holidays.

Food stores could also develop promotional displays for one specific room of the house, and then move to another room on a rotating basis throughout the year, Raftery said.

"Creativity is the order here," he said. "Some of the storage container manufacturers should be able to work with retailers on new types of display space optimizers."

For instance, Rubbermaid provides quarter-pallet programs or floor displays on a much smaller footprint, said Rupar. "We've gotten away from huge pallet programs and we are doing more streamlined displays and off-shelf vehicles that are smaller, more manageable and take up less space, but still allow a supermarket to participate in programs like that," she said.

The increased functionality and ease-of-use for these items, such as attaching more handles and wheels, are factors that will make the home storage and organizational category grow in the future, said Shively.