15728 Mon, 12/08/2008 - 2:02pm
By Barbara Thau
Forget the must-have kitchen appliance or dishes with the hot design motif. Saving shoppers money is the big merchandising trend in home products this season.
Up and down the retail food chain, merchants are wrapping their gift-giving assortments around promotional themes in a bid to be the destination for value-oriented home fare in a weak economy and what promises to be one of the toughest holiday seasons at retail.
They are also pushing products designed to save shoppers money, such as energy-saving home goods, buyers said.
Down economic times are often The Container Store’s time to shine, Mona Williams, vice president of buying, told HFN.
“We offer choices so that if you’re looking for better prices, they’re there … [that’s] one of our strengths,” she said.
“One of our big campaigns is about stocking stuffers, which is perfectly positioned during this kind of environment. We have delightful product at generally low retail prices.”
These include money-saving stocking stuffer items that include the lotion saver bottle coupler, which is designed to save that last bit of lotion. The coupler fits most bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. The Squeezit tube squeezer, which attaches to toothpaste tubes to get out the very last bit, is also on tap.
The Container Store’s “Oprah’s Clean Up Your Messy House Tour” promotion on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” proved to be a holiday windfall for the retailer.
As part of the show, The Container Store offered Oprah viewers 20 percent-off everything it its stores and online.
On the show, interior designer Candace Olson teamed with de-clutter expert Peter Walsh to ambush New York City apartment dwellers. They helped them get their homes in order with products from The Container Store.
As a result, what’s been called, “the Oprah effect” has touched The Container Store.
“We have seen millions of dollars in incremental sales [from the promotion],” Williams said. “Our average ticket on those transactions are double.”
The promotion helped counter a November sales slump at the chain and draw shoppers who have never been in a Container Store before, she said.
J.C. Penney is working its “red box” gift hook this shopping season—a collection of what it considers 60 of the best, brightest and affordable gifts to give and get this Christmas, Jeffrey Allison, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of home and custom decorating, told HFN.
The key home items this year include a photo collage jewelry box; a Pandigital touch-screen digital frame; a Sharper Image fog-free shower mirror and radio; and a circus cart popcorn maker.
Additionally, “our Linden Street brand continues to be a top seller,” Allison said.
The private brand has a casual modern look reminiscent of what would be found at a specialty retailer like Pottery Barn.
Products that save shoppers energy is integral to the retailer’s home holiday mix this season, Allison said.
J.C. Penney’s “energy solutions” assortment includes thermal draperies, flannel sheets, down blankets and electric mattress pads, Allison said.
The retailer is also delivering its bargain message with a bigger bullhorn than usual.
“Our Christmas marketing campaign will be very aggressive in its promotional messaging,” Allison said.
The idea is to drive home the notion that J.C. Penney can help shoppers purchase “an affordable, memorable gift they can feel proud to give, even during these challenging economic times.”
The retailer is communicating that message via direct mail, national television advertisements, radio, online and e-mail advertising, as well as non-traditional media elements, such as in-cinema spots and mobile phone marketing.
Like J.C. Penney, walmart.com is also promoting energy-saving home goods.
“One of our more popular home-decor items this holiday are the blackout curtains, which are not only luxurious but also help save on energy costs,” said Amy Colella, a spokeswoman for walmart.com.
“The blackout liner adds an extra layer of insulation that keeps the heat in and the cold air out, and lowers heating bills.”
Other walmart.com home items this season include the Sunbeam warming throw, cuddle throw and mirco-plush warming blanket.
The Museum of Modern Art Design Store is leveraging its arty take on value this holiday season.
“I kind of think of us as the supermarket of design,” said Bonnie Mackay, director of merchandising, creative and marketing for The Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store.
And for the holiday, “We have tons of stuff under $50. We’re not a retailer that is going to break anybody’s budget,” she said. “We’re about innovative designs at all different types of price points.”
MoMA’s mix includes plenty of products that reflect the museum store’s wink-wink approach to home goods.
These include a cupcake-shaped canister; a condiment serving set that looks like a painter’s palette; and spoons that have a Salvador Dali-esque feel that are bent to hang on cups and dishes.
Bloomingdale’s is telling its home holiday story around entertaining goods, as shoppers are expected to stay home more this season, Joe Laneve, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of home, told HFN.
To that end, the chain has placed a heightened focus on food preparation products like coffeemakers such as Delonghi’s Lattissima, as well as barware, such as wine chillers from Cuisinart.
“We’re positioning ourselves as the authority in home entertaining,” Laneve said.
Items that set an ambience are also a push. Bloomingdale’s is expanding its mix of high-end votive candles and diffusers, what Laneve called an “up and coming” business for the tony chain.
But even this high-end retailer is amplifying its value message.
“We’re making sure we’ve called it [value] out more,” he said.