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Retailers decorate shelves with cheaper holiday goods

BY Barbara White-Sax

No one expects a fantastic holiday season, but drug store retailers could generate steady sales from gifts priced under $20.

Tom Bunge, president of the Food Drug Mass Marketing Co., a national retail marketing consulting firm, expected gift giving to be flat to slightly up this year. “I think we’ll see smaller gifts being given, and the mass market should benefit from that,” he said. Consumers, he said, will be looking for “affordable luxuries,” and the mass and drug channel will offer them a range of options at value prices.

CVS, for example, featured a microfiber robe from Aquis for $39.99 on its Web site, along with a number of gift sets from Aromafloria/California Fragrance Co. and Spa Necessities retailing for under $20. That $20 price point seems to be the magic number for drug chains.

“Mass retailers should do well this holiday season in this economy, but they need to offer affordably priced items priced at $19.99 and below,” said Chris Barnes, president of Candle Warmers Etc. Retailers, he said, are particular about how much product they are bringing into stores. “They want four to six pieces in the store instead of 10 to 12 pieces,” he said.

Barnes said the company’s Aurora Candle Warmer Lamp and Contempo Candle Warmer Lamps, priced at around $30, have done well at retail, but he expected even more movement from the company’s new Illuminations Fragrance Warmer, priced at $12.99. Kinney Drug will feature the company’s Hurricane, Aurora and Illuminations products on an endcap in the fourth quarter. CVS will carry several products on its Web site, and likely will carry some models in-store.

Hanna’s Candle Co. is featuring a new wooden wick natural candle, Timberwick, for the holiday. “The Timberwick is very giftable and will retail for $12.99 to $15.99, so it’s a unique gift at a nice price point,” said director of marketing Annett Davidson.

Diffusers, Davidson said, especially in ceramic versions with such add-ins as acrylic beads, are still popular. “Diffusers are a growing home fragrance area,” she said. Hanna’s also will be offering licensed Cinnabon, Hershey’s and Cold Stone Creamery candles for the holiday.

Gibson Overseas is focusing on Peanuts licenses for its holiday season gifts. “We’re a value-oriented supplier, so we tend to do better than most during down economies,” said Roy Chung, director of marketing and communications. “Our drug store business is up 23% year-to-date, with chains looking more and more to their general merchandise to boost traffic and profits.”

This season, CVS will carry Gibson’s Peanuts Happy Holidays three-piece Melacore kids’ set and Peanuts Holiday Joy mugs, which will retail for $9.99 and $4.99, respectively. The products have a Christmas theme.

Toy suppliers also are looking to the $20 range for the most movement this season. Barry Lederman, VP sales and marketing for Peek A Boo, said he expected promotionally priced plush to perform well this holiday season. “Big and cheap will sell,” he said. He expected the company’s line of 10-in. and 12-in. plush Gum Drop Kids and Snowbunnies to be top sellers this season.

“Toys are recession-proof; they are a perpetually strong category for the holiday season,” said Richard Freeman, VP domestic sales at Fascinations Toys & Gifts. While Freeman doesn’t expect sales to be as robust as in past years, he thought the season will be stronger than anticipated, and expected toys priced under $20 to have the most sell-through. “People are going to be picky shoppers,” he said. “Toys that are offered at $20 or under will be huge successes. Innovative new products and retro toys will provide excellent shelf appeal.”

The company has introduced new technology products and inexpensive novelty toys with a learning angle, such as the First Time Clock, a build-your-own clock for kids.

Manufacturers are concentrating on the classics when it comes to licensed holiday products. American Greetings’ ornament lineup will focus on SpongeBob SquarePants, Rudolph and Transformers. The ornaments will retail for $7.99. American Greetings also will run an exclusive plush promotion that offers a Jingle Bell Puppy for $5.99 with the purchase of three AG cards when consumers use their CVS ExtraCare cards.

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Bartell forges ahead with another store opening

BY Alaric DeArment

SEATTLE Before the linoleum in its two newest stores even has a chance to get dirty, Bartell Drugs will open another store.

The Seattle-based regional chain announced the Friday opening of its 57th store, in Overlake Center at 5700 East Lake Sammamish Parkway SE in Issaquah, Wash. A ribbon-cutting event will take place at 10 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday.

The 16,395 sq.-ft. store is the third Bartell’s to open in 2009, following the openings of stores in Lynnwood, Wash., and Mill Creek, Wash., in July and August, respectively.

“We have been working towards opening a location in Issaquah for a number of years,” chairman and CEO George Bartell said in a statement. “We’re very excited about this new location and look forward to serving the needs of the community.”

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CVS/pharmacy marks a milestone with 7,000th store

BY DSN STAFF

LITTLE CANADA, Minn.

The sun was shining bright and spirits were high as CVS Caremark executives and city and state officials gathered here on Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of the pharmacy retailer’s 7,000th store.

“I am certainly delighted to see such a terrific turnout, and just when we were getting ready to start you can see the sun came out, and we think that is a very good sign as we open our 7,000th store,” Larry Merlo, president of CVS/pharmacy, told attendees of the milestone event.

The new store marks the company’s 41st location in the state and the 7,000th store since the retailer first opened its doors in Massachusetts in 1963 initially under the “Consumer Value Stores” banner. The company entered the state of Minnesota five years ago and today employs more than 1,000 people in the state.

In talking with Drug Store News, Merlo said the company has a healthy pipeline of stores and is looking to open between 275 and 300 stores a year nationwide — which, not including acquisitions, is pretty consistent with its number of openings in the last three to four years.

“We still have lots of opportunity for growth,” Merlo said.

Nested along busy Rice Street, at 2650 Rice St. to be specific, the new 13,000-sq.-ft. store is the retailer’s current prototype with a full-service pharmacy and double-lane drive-thru; digital photo cafe that provides customers with a relaxing atmosphere while they customize and print their own pictures; and a complete line of health and beauty products, general merchandise and convenience food items.

While this newest location does not feature a MinuteClinic, there is a MinuteClinic location at a nearby CVS store and, in fact, about two dozen of the CVS stores in the state have a MinuteClinic.

To celebrate the opening, local residents filled the parking lot to enjoy hot dogs and refreshments as the local Johnson Senior High School marching band kicked off the festivities in style.

CVS executives, including Merlo and SVP Hanley Wheeler, addressed the crowd, as did several officials, including Little Canada Mayor Bill Blesener and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Dan McElroy.

“To have 7,000 stores is quite an accomplishment, and we feel quite honored to have store No. 7,000 here in our city,” Blesener said.

The opening of the CVS store is among the latest positive development in Little Canada. Two months ago, the city had another reason to celebrate; a St. Jude medical facility of 190,000 sq. ft opened its doors, which is expected to bring in 650 new jobs to the city.

“With 7,000 locations, we are the largest retail pharmacy in America. As part of CVS Caremark, we are the No. 1 provider of prescriptions in pharmacy-related health services in the country,” Merlo said. “CVS Caremark is the only fully integrated pharmacy healthcare company in the United States, and our pharmacy care services actually allow us to provide a greater a convenience and choice for patients to improve patient outcomes and lower overall healthcare costs.”

During the event, Merlo announced that Minnesota is participating in the company’s free seasonal flu shot program. CVS is partnering with the Department of Employment and Economic Development to provide more than 2,500 vouchers for a free flu shot to the unemployed in Minnesota. The 2,500 vouchers, a $75,000 value, will be distributed through 11 WorkForce Centers in the Twin Cities area.

Nationwide, the retailer is holding more than 9,000 scheduled flu clinics in CVS stores and, as part of the campaign, is providing more than $3 million worth of free seasonal flu shots to unemployed Americans through vouchers good for a free flu shot in any MinuteClinic or any of the scheduled CVS/pharmacy flu clinics.

CVS also handed out flu prevention kits containing CVS brand products like hand sanitizers to the first 100 shoppers at the store.

To further mark the occasion, CVS presented a $7,000 donation to the Courage Center, a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. The donation is in keeping with CVS’ philanthropic program All Kids Can, a five-year, $25 million initiative to help children with disabilities. Accepting the donation on behalf of the Courage Center was Jan Malcolm, CEO of Courage Center.

With the sun in full force, an official ribbon cutting and round of applause wrapped up the presentation as a voice from the crowd shouted, “Let’s go shopping!”

Click here to view photos of the grand opening of the 7,000th CVS store.

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