Holiday rush

Retailers are hoping for some holiday cheer in the nonfoods Aisles as suppliers roll out seasonal items for entertaining, decorating and gifting.

By Carol Radice

Aside from inspiring good will and cheer, the holiday season inspires a lot of people to shop. Industry observers say that as holiday revelers stock up on food and beverages for entertaining, they may be tempted to pick up a gift or two or an item to spruce up their homes. That is if the nonfoods section is properly stocked and merchandised.

While some products such as spa and personal care items are among the more obvious choices for gifting, observers also point out that pet, home entertainment, candles and cooking accessories will be on many gift lists this holiday season. Fueled by the continuing trend toward home entertaining, experts anticipate home décor and housewares items will also be hot in the fourth quarter.

Officials at Wahl Clipper Corp. see several nonfood categories poised to finish out the year strong. Steven Yde, director of marketing for the Sterling, Ill.-based company, anticipates areas such as life improvement, realized savings and consumer electronics will drive the bulk of interest this winter. For instance, Yde says hair clippers will continue to show value to consumers, noting that the category has grown more in the past two years than it did in the preceding five.

Likewise, he says sales of male grooming products will continue to experience solid growth. Yde says based on the success of its Lithium Ion Trimmer, Wahl has launched a complete set of Lithium Ion Grooming Tools, including the Triple Play Shaver. Company officials describe it as the first lithium ion complete grooming kit, with a rotary shaver, full size detachable trimmer with a complete set of guide combs, a hair clipper with complete set of guide combs and a precision ear/nose detailer. The kit also includes the Lithium Ion Hair Clipper, which that has all the benefits of lithium ion technology—longer run time, faster charging, long storage life, and Wahl’s blade technology; and the Lithium Detailer—in a compact detail trimmer that is ideal for cleaning up eyebrows, and trimming up ears, nose and neckline hair.

Wahl officials also say that massagers will be hot gift items this year. While they say many retailers have lost faith in the category because of a lack of leadership, Wahl is helping to refocus the category. “Massagers have suffered over the past several years, but look for a comeback on a per store basis as the refocus on pain therapy brings new life to a declining category,” says Yde. With that in mind, Wahl is introducing a complete line of pain therapy massagers, ranging at retail from $9.99 to $59.99.

Consumers’ love for their four-legged family members is also expected to boost pet sales up this holiday season, according Yde. “[The pet category] will have a nice bump in the fourth quarter as well because despite the economy, the dog is the last ‘family member’ to suffer at Christmas.”

Get bold with candles

The economy may not be impacting personal grooming sales, but officials at Candle-lite say the continued conservatism from retailers means that orders for the fall harvest/Christmas period are down slightly this year. As such, Mark Cunningham, vice president of sales and marketing for the Cincinnati-based company, foresees retailers placing their focus on price-points to boost year-end sales. “For the candle category, retailers will return to aggressive pricing with not as broad or deep of an assortment for this time period as they have in years past,” says Cunningham.

If anything, the sales spike that occurs just before Thanksgiving and continues through the end of the year gives grocers added opportunities to capture consumer interest, says Cunningham. With this in mind, retailers, he adds, would be best served offering hard-hitting promotions to stimulate interest in the category. “They need to reach beyond aisle promotions and take advantage of floor displays and other impulse vehicles to convey the message that they are in the seasonal business and offer a tremendous value,” he says, noting that end caps are also an effective way to boost awareness in the candle category during the holidays.

Panning out

While spending is projected to be up minimally this holiday season in some nonfood categories, Manny Gaunaurd, president of IMUSA USA, a housewares products company, says IMUSA USA is continuing to benefit from a consistent home entertaining trend. The Doral, Fla.-based company offers a wide range of housewares items including large cooking vessels that are often used to prepare seasonal and traditional holiday favorites.

As such, Gaunaurd says IMUSA has created a series of programs for grocers. “Our sales have been up because we’re extremely focused on supporting retailers’ need for function and value, to which we add trendy style and color,” says Gaunaurd. “For instance, our tamale steamers feature glass lids and come in a series of colors to add the stove-to-table trend. Calderos, pressure cookers, coffee makers, and even colorful gadgets are all great gift items that are affordable, functional and do well for our retailers and us during the holiday season.”

According to Gaunaurd, the interest in brewing restaurant-quality coffee at home is expected to continue and says as a result IMUSA’s espresso coffeemakers, both in electric and new colorful stovetop models, are experiencing growth.

Music to your ears

There’s no doubt that retailers will have to be creative to get their share of consumers’ purses during the fourth quarter, notes Sam Mizrahi, executive vice president of Mizco International, based in Avenel, N.J. Mizrahi points out that the upside for consumer electronics is that regardless of the economy these products are traditionally on the top of consumers’ wish lists. “Given that many of today’s consumer electronics are personal devices, accessories have become a big business,” says Mizrahi. “That said, there is an opportunity for grocers to capitalize on this market by offering affordable products and accessories that don’t break the bank.”

According to Mizrahi, the popular fourth-quarter items will be the new iPhone 5 and all of the new Android phones. He also anticipates iPads and tablets will be big sellers, not to mention e-readers. “Retailers should be preparing for the launch of the new iPhone 5 and taking advantage of accessory buying opportunities for new tech products. Studies show that consumers most often purchase their accessories separately from the device, but that window closes about six to eight months after the device purchase,” he says.

Holidays typically are a heavy travel time and something retailers should leverage to build sales in the category. This year, Mizco introduced a line of travel accessories under one of the most recognized travel brands—Travelocity. “One of the places a consumer visits just before leaving on a trip is a store for last-minute purchases, like toiletries and drugs,” says Mizrahi.

Likewise, officials at Maxell Corp. of America predict consumer spending on consumer electronics and accessories will be steady this holiday season. In particular, Cheryl Severini senior marketing manager for the Woodland Park, N.J.-based company, says tablets, iPads and smartphones will continue to be hot this holiday season, as will add-ons and accessories for these products. “Headphones are a category that grocers can capitalize on, both year-round and during the holidays,” says Severini. “The category is growing and average retail prices have been steadily increasing.”

In particular, she says earbuds with MIC and remote capabilities for the iPhone are contributing to the overall double-digit growth of the headphone category. Maxell offers a variety of earbuds with in-line MIC and remote, including the new MIC-B flatwire earbud, which features a unique, no-tangle flatwire cord with aluminum earbud and includes the Apple controller for iPhone with an MSRP of $29.99.

Covering the bases

Holiday designs are always strong sellers in the fourth quarter, something that especially holds true for accent rugs. “Food and the kitchen are focal points during the holidays and holiday-themed home decor is always popular,” says Renee Ringstad, vice president for Atlanta-based Home Comfort. She points out that washable Jellybean accent rugs in holiday designs are an easy, colorful way to decorate a kitchen during the holidays.

“In times of economic difficulties, consumers are more careful with the money they spend and home decor gives them a practical investment, coupled with the emotional ‘feel good’ of bringing the holidays home,” Ringstad says. Each year, Jellybean introduces new holiday-themed designs that create sales for retailers. In 2011, Jellybean added holiday-themed pillows and the larger 23” x 44” Bigbean size to the product mix, all of which are expected to be hot sellers this holiday season.

Holiday traffic

During the holidays, nothing gets the consumer’s attention more than off-shelf displays placed in high-traffic areas. To build massager sales, Wahl officials say grocers with a pharmacy can benefit greatly by building a pain relief section that includes heating pads, topical analgesics, hot/cold packs and electric massagers.

For the candle category, Candle-lite’s Cunningham says candles with price-points under $10 sell best in grocery, noting that during fourth quarter, traditional styles, colors and fragrances are always hot items. “We see a lot of interest in red candles with cinnamon or spice notes; ivory candles with a vanilla or similar type of sweet baked note; green candles with a pine related fragrance as well as white candles with a clean, winter-like fragrance,” he says.

Candle purchases this time of year are often a combination of those that are sought after to enhance holiday décor as well as gifting. “During the holidays we tend to see a sales spike in three to six inch pillar candles which are attractive additions to mantles or table settings,” says Cunningham. “Votive and tea lights, which are often purchased either alone or with decorative holders, also sell well this time of year. From a gift perspective, glass jar candles are always a popular choice in the $5 to $10 range.”

With housewares, giving customers what Gaunaurd calls the “what-to-get solution” is the key to growing sales during the holidays. More specifically, he advises retailers to think for your customers so they don’t have to. “Grocers need to offer all-inclusive, quick solutions for customers who want to buy without thinking too much about it,” he says.

Ringstad says grocers can make an impact and increase sales by creating themed areas within the store in high-traffic areas and highlighting holiday home décor, cookware, baking items and holiday treats.

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