The best supermarket general merchandise promotions can go beyond the approach of simply putting it on sale and piling it high in a mass display.
This year's best promotions run by six chains surveyed by SN ranged from targeting a competitive category, such as offering free film with film processing orders, to merchandise tied in with NASCAR racing events featured at Winn-Dixie Stores' Montgomery, Ala., division.
Having the right price and making an in-store statement with the merchandise are undeniably key elements to a good promotion, retailers said.
"We found basic housewares offered at good pricing was a good sales stimulant that brought in business that would otherwise go to other retailers," said Ted Honke, manager of general merchandise at
Family Thrift Center, Rapid City, S.D.
Other criteria that made these promotions strong impulse drivers included:
Offering consumers added value.
Running the promotion at the right time of year.
Choosing products that appeal to store demographics.
Providing good ad support.
"Beyond price, talking up the promotion in ads probably did more to rivet shopper's attention on the product mix and generate unplanned impulse purchases," said Tony Federico, vice president of general merchandise at Ingles Markets, Black Mountain, N.C., explaining why a 90-day Rubbermaid promotion did so well.
John Porter, vice president and general manager at Fairway Foods, a wholesaler that is a subsidiary of Holiday Cos., Minneapolis, explained the success of a stock pot merchandised with free chili ingredients at Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn.
"The promotion worked well because the items were right and represented a good value. Also, the timing in February was right because of the colder weather," he said.
Here's what general merchandise executives had to say about their top general merchandise promotions.
Gus Bergstrom director of marketing
Winn-Dixie Stores Montgomery, Ala., division
We sponsored NASCAR racing driver Mark Martin and developed a line of products merchandised around his name this summer. It was a very strong promotion. We highlighted toy cars, caps and other clothing during his appearance at the Talladega Raceway from May through October.
We featured NASCAR-themed racing apparel, miniature cars and coolers at $3 to $15 price points that provided good margins and raised our general merchandise sales.
Consumers were able to associate with the racing car that we sponsored, and with a driver that has a successful following on the circuit.
Tying in with the driver, who is a strong personality in the racing field, helped focus attention on our apparel mix and collectibles. It also gave increased exposure to the Winn-Dixie name on the racing car.
As the racing circuit came to different areas, we made sure promotion displays at stores were loaded and easily seen.
We're planning to expand themed racing items with a larger product mix next year. We merchandise the products on spinner racks at various end-aisle locations. Coolers with a Mark Martin likeness and his race car on the outside also did relatively good impulse sales.
Based on the success of the program, we'll probably expand the assortment into several different size shirts, and offer customized shirts tied to the major races like Daytona, Charlotte and Talladega.
These are popular items adults collect, as racing apparel in the Southeast is as popular as the NFL apparel.
Manny Shoemaker promotional coordinator, general merchandise, HBC
Homeland Stores Oklahoma City
We started a new free film offer with photo processing orders that has been an especially strong promotion this year.
"Never Buy Film Again" gives customers a free roll of film with every incoming photo processing purchase. It gave our film and photo developing sales a real boost and breathed new excitement into the category.
Since promoting the free film offer chainwide in April, our photo and film sales have done well. A customer processing a roll of film at Homeland gets the finished prints back with a coupon for a free roll of film in the envelope.
This promotion was to improve photo processing and get people to use it. It's very profitable, and has increasing competition from drug chains and mail order services.
We used window banners, signs and full-page ads to alert shoppers to the photo processing promotion and free film offer. Customers using our service get a free roll of 35mm color, 24-exposure, 100-speed film. They can substitute another film speed as long as it is the same retail price, or they can pay the difference if it is at a higher price.
We used in-store point-of-purchase materials that flagged shoppers' attention and reinforced the free film offer.
Tony Federico VP, general merchandise
Ingles Markets Black Mountain, N.C.
Our best general merchandise promotion was a 90-day, 25%-off all Rubbermaid products sale in the first quarter. We tripled sales of these items beyond normal.
It was all off-shelf in shippers of products carried every day. We constantly brought in the best-selling in-line items, and had shippers of our top three selling styles -- Sip-It Savers, salad bowl keepers and 14-ounce and 1.6-quart-capacity food storage containers. These were rotated into stores over the promotion period to maintain shopper interest.
To alert our customers, we used TV commercials, window signs, shelf talkers and overhead danglers. We ran two big print ads that were key to the promotion's success by drawing attention to the category.
We are competitively line-priced with Wal-Mart on Rubbermaid. Our discount made the product assortment that much more of a value.
Beyond price, talking up the promotion in ads probably did more to rivet shopper's attention on the product mix and generate unplanned impulse purchases.
For example, we had it on TV for three weeks, ran roto ads and kept in-store window signs in place for the promotion period.
Because of all this merchandising activity, customers couldn't help notice the promotion or see the big dangling signs and shelf talkers that said 25% off Rubbermaid products.
Ingles trimmed its profit on the overall mix to about 18% from 27%.
John Porter VP, general manager
Fairway Foods Minneapolis
One of our strongest general merchandise promotions that worked this year was a 12-quart stock pot and chili program that went beyond our expectations. Shoppers received three chili food items free with the purchase of the stock pot.
While the 14 stores of Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn., that participated in the two-week promotion gave away the groceries, they made money on the pot and sold about 1,000 Mirro stock pots at an $11.99 retail.
The price of the stock pot included a free 1-pound package of Our Family Saltine crackers, two 16-ounce cans of Bush's chili or kidney beans, and a 1-pound package of ground beef.
The promotion worked well because the items were right and represented a good value. Also, the timing in February was right because of the colder weather.
The promotion also received prominent exposure with full-page ads.
The ads included a chili recipe and three coupons for the free chili ingredients. The grocery products were merchandised around the stock pots on endcaps.
Stores also could tie in some canned tomato products, and fresh produce, including chili peppers and celery.
Ted Honke manager, general merchandise
Family Thrift Center Rapid City, S.D.
Our best promotion this year was a three-week housewares and plasticware truckload sales that we ran as a dollar-day promotion. It increased our housewares volume about 25% to 35% higher than normal in the three-week period. We set out about 100 kitchen gadgets, tools and other kitchenware, including baking implements, stools and food storage products, at specific price points of $1, $2, two for $3 and two for $5.
Customers saved 30% to 35% off regular shelf prices by shopping the assortment during this promotion.
We shaved our profit margins down to around 22% for this promotion. Running this type of housewares promotion seemed better than planning a traditional dollar-day housewares sale. We were able to work unsold stock into the regular in-line sections. A regular dollar-day housewares sale usually involves imported stock that has no place to go, and must be marked down to clear it out.