August 17th, 2011

Stores Create More Holidays

The Wall Street Journal

Spring, summer, fall, winter… storage and organization? Most shoppers see the seasons change four times a year. Retailers see anywhere from 13 to 20 and all those seasons are designed to get shoppers into their stores.

“Storage and Organization” comes the first weeks in January at Target Corp. It’s a chance to display products that might appeal to shoppers’ New Year’s resolutions like exercise equipment. Sam’s Club, part of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., celebrates “Fall Gatherings” in October with displays of rakes, sweaters and comfort food. Late fall at Supervalu brings the less-than-celebratory “Cough, Cold and Flu” season, not to be confused with late spring’s “Allergy Season.” In stores now: “Back to School/Back to College.”

A key goal is to get people to buy impulsively, something they do less of these days. The number of impulse purchases fell to 15% of purchases in 2010, from 29% in 2008, according to market-research firm NPD Group.

The average shopper visits a big-box store once every two to three weeks, NPD says. Shoppers go to the grocery store, by contrast, every seven to 10 days. By adding grocery items prominently, stores are trying to get people to make more frequent shopping trips.

Products that may seem neither impulsive nor seasonal are finding ways to be both in order to be part of the prominent displays in stores.

This summer Kleenex introduced boxes that look like ice cream cones. Shoppers could find the ice cream Kleenex in the actual ice cream aisle of Meijer Inc. stores, says a spokesman for Meijer, a Midwestern retail chain selling groceries and other goods.

The Kimberly-Clark Corp. brand was following its cake slice-shaped boxes made for winter holidays and playing off success of triangle-shaped watermelon, lemon and orange Kleenex boxes last year. Those boxes found their way into summer displays and elsewhere beyond the paper products aisle in stores, says Christine Mau, director of design for the company. Kleenex sales typically drop in the summer when people have fewer colds.

The company asked its design team, “what can you do design-wise to get us to the front of the store in the summer?” says Ms. Mau. After researching “what summer means to people,” the company realized watermelon resonated with people who think of summer as picnics, family gatherings, and fruity drinks, Ms. Mau says.

Putting together a seasonal display is a high-stakes effort. If a customer can’t find something, “she is probably going to walk,” says Stacia Andersen, Target senior vice president of merchandising, following the consumer goods industry’s habit of referring to all consumers as ‘she’ because women make the majority of purchases.

And making sure that one big-box store doesn’t look like the next big box is key. Target plans seasonal displays with product manufactures about a year in advance.

A product’s color can make a difference. Target told TTI Floor Care North America, Inc. that if it wanted to get its typically red Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners into the retailer’s prime “Back to College” seasonal displays, it need to make hot pink, teal and black versions. Meanwhile, Jarden Corp., which makes small household appliances among other items, created hot pink and teal Sunbeam irons and toasters for the displays.

Internal research at Target showed that college kids want to personalize their dorm rooms with bright colors. Fitting into the marketing scheme is worth it, says Stephanie Begley, associate marketing manager for Dirt Devil. Target’s college displays “hit our market” of first-time home owners and young adults on their own for the first time, she says.

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