By Andrea Lillo
Though not normally found on grocery shopping lists next to milk and tomato sauce, housewares products are nonetheless becoming a presence at the grocery channel. The cross-merchandising opportunities are almost endless. The convenience of picking up a spatula or a mixing bowl along with the ingredients for pancakes, for example, is unbeatable.
And, unlike with other retail channels, consumers typically visit the grocery store several times a week.
The length of time housewares manufacturers have been at this channel varies. Pyrex has been there for more than 40 years, while Chantal’s penetration is just beginning. But all realize the potential of this channel.
“Everyone has to buy food,” said Jim Wells, executive vice president, national sales manager, Lifetime Brands. “This creates a diverse and captured, to a certain extent, customer base with many different income levels.” And the frequency of store visits doesn’t hurt. “They may visit their supermarket more times in one week then they will visit a department store all year,” he said. “When you combine these two things, it creates substantial opportunity for the food retailer.”
“When people are shopping in a grocery store, their minds are focused on food and meal preparation so it makes sense that they would be more likely to impulsively buy a cooking related item ... this is the principle of one-stop-shopping,” said Henry Nading, sales and marketing coordinator, Chantal. “So we have discovered that the primary contributors to gourmet product sales in supermarkets are basic necessity, convenience, and impulse buying.”
He added that higher priced items do not work at supermarkets. “People may be willing to spend a few extra dollars on a pan they need or a unique gift they see but they are not willing to break the bank,” he said.
Grocery consumers are looking for value, agreed Manny Gaunaurd, president, Imusa, which started in bodegas/Hispanic grocery stores about 25 years ago. “This is not a long-term purchase; they are not looking to have this cookware last two to three years, but for four to five months.”
As a result, price points for this channel are typically lower, said Joseph Hodorowicz, vice president of sales, Trudeau, and generally run $5 to $25 in the housewares category.
“There is also no doubt that there is strength in key price points under $19.99, and even stronger results at $9.99 and under,” said Kerry Cooper, vice president of sales and marketing, Polder. “We find everyday-use products with a compelling impulse-drive feature do well, especially seasonally.”
However, Lynn Leyman, World Kitchen senior brand manager, Pyrex, said, “Grocery shoppers tend to be less price sensitive and more brand loyal. The purchase of Pyrex items in grocery is typically based on need—a shopper needs a square dish for the new peach cobbler recipe she plans to make, for example—so price is less of a factor for the consumer,” she said. “She will buy what she needs to complete her recipe.”
Pyrex products at this channel cover the gamut—from glass baking dishes to measuring cups and mixing bowls to glass storage dishes—and the retails range from $3.99 to $11.99.
Trudeau has been at supermarkets for 15 years said Hodorowicz. Its Home Presence brand targets the grocery channel.
“Consumers are using supermarkets to answer both their home cooking and home entertaining needs,” Hodorowicz said. “Consumers are now focused on favoring healthy foods and kitchen tools that are practical, affordable and functional, such as our Home Presence brand.” In addition, Trudeau’s Fuel collection of on-the-go food storage and accessories “is a great example of a successful line that’s sold mostly in grocery stores.”
The grocery channel is also very flexible with its merchandise. “They’re used to in-and-out promotions,” Gaunaurd said. While other channels have to stick with modular plans or planagrams, supermarkets can change items day to day, bringing in new items, testing them and then taking them out when they don’t work or expanding them if they do.
And along with the national supermarket chains, there are also a lot of regional ones, which may have three to 30 stores, Gaunaurd said. “There’s no central distribution,” he said, it’s all direct-to-store delivery.
The food sold by the supermarket will also reflect the area, Gaunaurd added. Some California supermarkets may have 100 varieties of chiles, for example. “You get the flair of the local market, which tends to have unique items.” For Imusa, whose target audience is the Hispanic market, such items as calderos, lemon/lime squeezers and tamale steamers will be strong sellers in certain areas of the country. A supermarket may bring in a 20-, 30-, or 50-quart pot from Imusa “because a specific market may ask for it,” he said.
“An important part of success [at supermarkets] is packaging goods for easy set up and quick exit,” Cooper said. “The more you can tailor your display of goods to the specific retailer’s environment and display practices, the more you can stand out and make the buyer’s decision easier.”
Though the supermarket channel is still a fairly small one at about six percent of Polder’s overall business, it’s a growing one, Cooper said. The company is producing more products that fit into the supermarket environment, he said, and “it has also grown as a focus for us as other specialty retailers leave the marketplace.”
Having been at this channel for more than 20 years, the supermarket channel has been one of Lifetime’s fastest growing channels of distribution, Wells said. “Food retailers learned that in certain categories they have an opportunity to expand the depth of offerings on an everyday basis,” he said, so instead of just carrying a “good” can opener, these retailers have found success with a “good,” “better,” and “best” assortment. “The combination of the obvious relationship to food, strong growth and margin for the retailer, and consistent performance have resulted in significant growth in our food prep categories in this channel.”
Polder offers this channel displays that offer an “essentials” assortment, Cooper said. “This gives the retailer a good breadth of product, optimizing the potential consumer purchasers.” Other displays relate directly to the food it is next to, such as Polder’s Safe-Serve thermometers. “These are based on food safety in cooking more than the desire to cook to taste,” he said. “Placed next to the meat section, they are compelling to consumers who are concerned about food-borne illness from the under cooking of foods.”
And overall, catering to the specific demographic of the supermarket is important, Hodorowicz said. “At the end of the day it’s all about delivering the right product first and at a competitive price point.”