‘Tis the Season for Merchandising

Make your customers at ease by placing those frequently purchased products — tape, gift cards, cards, wrapping paper, flowers and chocolate — front and centre.

There is no better opportunity to maximize your sales than in the holiday season. Typically, grocery retailers see a two-four per cent sales increase during the period with many products see their biggest spike in sales of the year. Consumers are primed to purchase and are actively seeking out new and unique items to enhance the gift giving experience. As an influx of new products enter stores, retailers need to look at techniques that allow products to pop amongst the mass of red and green. This begins by thinking about the needs of your consumer and cultivating an environment that responds to them. “There are numerous holidays during the late fall and winter season, you want to ensure that you are inclusive of all of them,” says Crystal Black Davis, vice-president, marketing, Loacker USA. “The merchandizing strategies used can ensure that no one feels excluded, that they can entertain and enjoy, no matter what culture they are part of.” Ultimately it is about providing your consumers with the optimal shopping experience.

Create a Seamless Shopping Experience 

Carlton Cards notes that consumers are moving towards more personalized cards that are special and meaningful.
Carlton Cards notes that consumers are moving towards more personalized cards that are special and meaningful.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for a shopper to experience is not being able to find what they are looking for. Keeping the store well organized and stocked will help ensure that this disappointment is avoided. For the card area, a critical department during the holiday season, Carlton cards recommends having the store designate a staff member to a daily clean up. “This will help eliminate frustration, as the consumer won’t get frustrated by too many cards out of place or not finding the right envelope in the right pocket,” says Tammy Barrett, director, marketing and trade development, Carlton Cards. The greeting cards industry represents over $700 million in retail with over nine million households that purchase greeting cards.

When it comes to shopping for greeting cards, Barrett states that some customers like to linger, with some customers spending up to an hour to find that perfect card. Adding one greeting card to the average grocery basket can increase the basket dollars by 10 per cent. Barrett recommends that the greeting card department be situated about a third of the way into the shopping experience, away from the freezer section where the consumer may get cold and the doorways with the influx of traffic. Retailers should remember that the intent of every display is to engage the consumer to purchase a product. It is important to provide open space in the key areas, ensuring that consumers feel able to linger and really focus on finding that perfect item.

Front & Centre 

With shopping time limited during the holiday season, make your customers at ease by placing those frequently purchased products — tape, gift cards, cards, wrapping paper, flowers and chocolate — front and centre.

The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to enhance the retail experience through carefully placed merchandizers and displays. These interactive displays should be designed to entice your customers to pick up and purchase new products. “Not only are they appealing to the eye but displayers also present stronger deals to the customer while they are shopping,” says Tree of Life’s Western Canada Key Account Sales Team. “This leads to repeat purchases 365 days.”

Visual impact is a big part of merchandising, shares Seguin. With customers constantly on the look for new and unique products, retailers should look for merchandizers that allow flexibility to move throughout the store such as shipper displays, states Tree of Life’s Western Canada Key Account Sales Team. “It is all about product placement when it comes to bringing the customers attention to your shelves and displays throughout the store. Bring some fun and creativeness to them,” says Tree of Life’s Western Canada Key Account Sales Team. The positioning of holiday merchandising is perhaps as important as the design of the display itself. Displays near the entrance of the store, continue to be a huge driver for sales as this captures the customers’ attention right at the beginning or end of their shop.

Beautiful Meld of Tradition and Innovation 

In this day and age of customization it is essential that retailers offer a selection of items allowing consumers to give that personal touch to their gift giving and entertaining experience. Despite, people opting for convenience, the holiday season remains a time where tradition is valued. There is still a large component of consumers that gravitate towards the nostalgia, seeking out cherished family foods, traditional colours and using giftwrap. “The holiday season is truly a combination of bags and wrapping paper; bags do very well but there is still a big component of people that feel that they need to wrap,” says Barrett. “That excitement for a child of ripping something open far outweighs tearing it out of a bag.”

Some products naturally lend themselves to holiday gift giving; gift cards, chocolates, candy, cards and baked goods are all products that will be actively sought out during this busy season. In fact, when it comes to chocolate, there is no better period to maximize sales. “There is a very distinct chocolate season,” says Black Davis. “Retailers should take advantage of promoting their chocolate items in the fall, winter, and early spring months.”

Consumption of peanut snacks is up, shares Stephanie Grunenfelder, vicepresident, international marketing, American Peanut Council, as consumers continue to seek out healthier snack options and integrate peanut butter in their baking.

These key products are on the top of mind of the consumer and retailers can create an environment that responds to this need by ensuring that they are accessible throughout the store.

Maximize your Product Pairing 

To really move merchandise out of the store, do not limit it to a single area. Retailers need to get into the mindset of the holiday shopper, and ensure that the retail experience is a pleasurable one. “Shoppers looking for holiday fare are usually busy — they want the items and ingredients they are looking for to be easy to find, and they are typically looking for items by type, price and recipient if it is a gift — or some combination of all three,” says Rakesh Raniga, president, Indianlife Foods.

With customers only having a few moments to shop, retailers can maximize sales by creating displays that pair products the consumers may purchase together. Think of natural pairings, crackers and cheese, tape and wrapping paper, and outside of the box combinations that may entice your consumer to try something new. “A lot of times people are buying meats and cheeses to entertain, and if they are going to entertain with those type of items, the likelihood of them adding chocolate is quite high because they pair very well,” says Black Davis.

This intermingling of product not only makes the shopping experience easier for the consumer, it will increase your sales. Now consumers are not only going in to pick up the product that they came for, but are more likely to increase their impulse buys. “Cross-selling with different departments is a great way to bring focus to relevant products that complement one another,” says Tree of Life’s Western Canada Key Account Sales Team. “Not only will this highlight some of your most popular holiday season items but it will encourage add-on sales. For example, if you have holiday tea on display be sure to have tea related items displayed next to it for impulse sales, like chocolate bars.”

“Shoppers looking for holiday fare are usually busy – they want the items and ingredients they are looking for to be easy to find, and they are typically looking for items by type, price and recipient if it is a gift.”

When it comes to merchandising products, Raniga urges retailers to think outside the box when considering “holiday fare”. Today’s consumers are looking to excite their taste buds, as they seek out more ethnic foods and healthier options. “There is a tsunami of people turning to vegetarian and vegan foods,” says Raniga. “We are also seeing a trend towards more multiculturalism in holiday meals. People are including “something for everyone” and might serve our Chutneys alongside a traditional roast turkey, for example, in lieu of cranberry sauce.” In-store demonstrations are one way to encourage consumers to integrate new products into their holiday meals. Raniga suggests creating a meal-focused display or end cap where all the ingredients for a featured recipe or meal are showcased.

These recipe driven displays can also be used with baked goods — providing both the recipes and the core ingredients for consumers who are looking for a homemade holiday treat. “Canadians love baking and entertaining at the holidays, providing recipes in our media research, on social media and in-store can help increase sales,” says Grunenfelder.

The key to displays is having an attractive presentation designed to excite the customer to make that final purchase.

Creating these moments of consumption displays is an ideal way to showcase food products, and one that can be utilized throughout the year. During the holidays, retailers can also maximize their sales by creating displays that are geared towards gift giving. “Retailers can do specific clusters featured around a shopping theme, perhaps last minute gift, stocking stuffers or hostess gift,” says Black Davis. “These are ways that consumers become more aware that this is something that is relevant to me, this is something that I could use or give, and it will enhance my holiday.”

These unique pairing displays whether designed around consumption or gift giving, are effective because they directly respond to the needs of the consumer. However, there are some consumers that will continue to seek out products in their traditional area. Retailers need to ensure that their environment offers their products not only in outposts but also in their normal area. “Typically, we recommend that retailers have their holiday cards in the main card location, because customers are used to looking for cards there,” says Barrett. “However, it also helps to have outposts in strategic places throughout your store. The bakery department is sometimes a great place for an outpost, because if people are coming in to buy a hostess gift or a holiday treat, they may be prompted to pick up a card while they are there.” In order to create this balance, retailers need to take the time to create a merchandizing strategy that will respond to the need of their customer.

Plan Ahead 

Merchandisers alone will not move a product off of the shelf. The displays need to be positioned so consumers will be drawn towards them. Retailers should always be asking the question, do the product displays make sense? The products on the displays should always be easy to access with ample room to move through the aisles. Shelf talkers should be placed at eye level and used to promote key purchase opportunities like “perfect stocking stuffers” or “recommended hostess gift”.

At the same time retailers need to be conscious of not having too much of a good thing. In order to maximize your holiday merchandising, retailers need to plan not only the products they purchase, but also how they will merchandize it. “Timing is everything, if you want to be able to execute the most effective holiday promotions,” says Black Davis. “Make sure that you allocate enough time to plan merchandising. Give yourself the opportunity to execute them and not feel rushed.”

Retailers should always be anticipating the next sales opportunity; the holiday season is the one period that the grocery stores want to ensure that they are maximizing. “It is important to let the customer know the store has an early holiday selection so they can be top of mind when shopping. Who knows, you might even get them purchasing when they find holiday items on display right after Halloween,” says Tree of Life’s Western Canada Key Account Sales Team. This anticipation for upcoming festivities can be created with engaging displays or simply through the integration of holiday packaging. “It is important to let the customer know the store has an early holiday selection that can be top of mind when shopping.”

Promote through Packaging 

Loacker Foods is finding innovative ways of packaging their products for the holiday season.
Loacker Foods is finding innovative ways of packaging their products for the holiday season.

Sometimes it’s the package itself that encourages that holiday feeling. Retailers can have products move off the shelf by simply integrating packages with a festive appeal. “We are seeing a throwback to traditional, red on green, red on white, white on white, those are still very popular tones and colours for the season but with a bit more of a contemporary spin,” says Barrett. With women as their main consumer, Carlton Cards is continually looking at ways to update both the product itself and its content to the way that women communicate today.

Loacker Food has also looked an innovative ways of packaging their products for the holiday season including using a removable festive wrap. “It allows for a lot of flexibility,” says Black Davis. “Once the holidays are over with and the sleeves are no longer relevant, the retailer can pull that sleeve off.” The advantage of this type of product package is that it removes the pressure of having to move it during the holiday season.

There is a new wave of consumers that are seeking products that are customized. These products may be inexpensive but will allow them to give that personal touch for a hostess gift, a small token of appreciation, or a stocking stuffer. “Coca Cola has done an incredible job with this,” says Black Davis. “Having the customized bottles with either names or titles that connect people and make the recipient feel that the gift was something special and significant is really taking off.” Black Davis forecasts that this shift to customization will only increase, with more manufacturers looking at adding personal touches to their packages whether it’s a person’s name or a holiday greeting.

Carlton Cards has also noticed this want for personalization in the card industry with consumers moving away from the more generic boxed cards towards cards that are geared towards a specific relationship. “People are looking for something that will be a little more meaningful, that will come off as a little more authentic, so that when that recipient gets that card, they know that you’ve selected it specifically for them,” says Barrett.

To be able to communicate their marketing message clearly retailers need to look at balancing different things to amplify what they are doing. This can be as static as a shelf talker to as an active as an in-store demonstration, says Black Davis; the key is to move product and make both the consumers and retailers happy.

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