Thinking Outside the Box

In 2010, retailers are getting creative to reach customers with the general merchandise category. As with other categories, expect customers to be focused on finding more value for their dollar.

7-Eleven Inc. sees quirky, fun products attracting customer attention at its chain in 2010. The Dallas-based chain ended the fourth quarter of 2009 with an unconventional offering—debuting boxes of the popular Snuggies blanket in its stores. In 2010 it is adding a new line of eight to 12 “As Seen On TV” products, and will keep rotating in items to keep the offering trendy.

Another ongoing consumer trend sees more shoppers opting to stay in and enjoy home entertainment in an effort to save money. Responding to that trend, 7-Eleven is focusing on adding more home entertainment in its general merchandise category. This month it is debuting an ongoing assortment of new and previously-viewed movies, games and music.

In the general merchandise category, motor oil sales were up 7%, lighters were down 0.8%, antifreeze was down 10% and automotive treatments were down 1%, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, 2009.

Novelty non-chocolate candy brought in dollar sales of $163.89 million across the industry, down 1.4%. Novelty chocolate candy sales surged 14.3% to 1.79 million, IRI reported. Frozen novelties also increased, up 2.2% to $595.87 million. Seasonal novelty sales are affected by the date of the holiday, the economy, the strength and visibility of the merchandise and consumer confidence, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), which projects a 0.4% increase in total seasonal sales in 2010.

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