At Bi-Lo, Greenville, S.C., nonfood seasonal imports will “continue to be a major contributor,” said Brian K. Smith, category manager, seasonal imports and candy. “Value will be more important than ever in 2009. We will offer our customers good products at fair prices, with some fashion and color, [because] everyone is going to have to stretch their dollar further than most of us have seen or done in our lifetime. Customers will not be replacing items if they can get another year out of them.”
Bi-Lo imports on its own, and travels overseas each year with Direct Source International, Cincinnati, an import buying agent. They visit factories they have bought from “for years that supply us with quality products. That will remain a top priority. We also buy products that are manufactured overseas by U.S. marketing companies when cost, lead time or inventory factors warrant,” said Smith.
Interviewed before the winter '09 trip, Smith described part of his mix from Christmas 2008: melamine plates, cups and bowls for children in festive holiday designs; a 2-foot-high lighted tinsel Christmas tree in choice of green, silver or blue; inspirational Christmas cards; and a value-priced assortment of toys in a 2-by-4-foot package. Four different assortments were themed for boys (pirate, zoo) or girls (fairies, princesses) and included 30 to 40 play pieces.
Michael Sleeper, chief executive officer, Imperial Distributors, Auburn, Mass., said his company will “be on the lookout for new items, especially green [environmental] ones, and Christmas items that use less electricity. LED lights could be an opportunity if price points drop significantly to be within the supermarket price-point range.”
William H. Mansfield, Jr., president and CEO, VIP International, Garland, Texas, added, “All retailers are in the same predicament — too much seasonal product for today's spending habits.”
To help convert food shoppers into nonfood import buyers, he suggested a seasonal gift card promotion — the more food dollars spent, the greater the discount on selected seasonal items.