No longer “just seen on TV”

As Seen on TV merchandise makes a move from the airwaves to supermarket store shelves.

When it comes to bolstering general merchandise assortments, supermarket officials know that price-sensitive items that provides a solution tend to be the best sellers. With an eye on fast turns and creating a stronger non-foods category that can produce higher margins, grocers are slowly embracing the As Seen on TV category.

“The category holds a lot of promise for the grocery industry,” explains Sean Cohen, vice president of sales for Harvest Direct, based in Norwell, Mass. “As Seen on TV companies spend millions of dollars on broadcast advertising to create branding and excitement around products, so all grocers have to do is display it where consumers see it when they walk into a store.”

Andy Khubani, president of Wayne, N.J.-based IdeaVillage, says that retailers need to understand the strong profit margins associated with the category. “This is simply a great opportunity for them to make more money from a category that is all about incremental sales,” he says. “Plus, consumers already know the products because they see them on television.”

While the concept sounds easy enough—especially in an economic landscape where grocers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and boost revenue—many merchants have been slow to adopt this growing category at store-level. In-store real estate remains at a premium, making it difficult to prominently display merchandise. Supermarket retailers also tend to shy away from the category due to its fast-pace and an unfamiliarity of how much of their budget to devote to the trendy merchandise.

Standing out
Of course, many suppliers in this segment say that they can help retailers not only fit As Seen on TV products into their mix, but also make them stand out to the point that consumers would be hard pressed to not see them.

“If retailers can work out these details, As Seen on TV holds strong potential for the grocery industry,” says A.J. Khubani, CEO and founder of Fairfield, N.J.-based TeleBrands. “ As they learn more about the business and how to capitalize on it, the category can become destination. Not only will it help grocers stand out in the marketplace, but it will also help them compete against retailers in other segments, such as drugstores, mass merchandisers and specialty chains, that already capitalize on this merchandise.”

Ron Boger, executive vice president and COO at IdeaVillage, says that retailers and suppliers seem to be working better together on getting product to the shelves on time. “Supermarkets have historically not been very good at launching the hot products on time,” he notes. “That has hurt sales. Now, the As Seen on TV companies are working to make sure that the lead time is shortened and the retailers are working to make sure they leave space for these hot items.”

While consumers often view the category as an impulse purchase, there are steps retailers can take to boost excitement. First, retailers should focus on a price point between $9.99 and $19.99. “These items fit into the consumer’s grocery budget,” says Cohen. “Anything higher and interest drops off tremendously. Shoppers have budgets. The minute shoppers have to dip into their shopping budget for the next week, they will abandon the purchase.”
According to industry observers, the category can help grocers double their general merchandise sales, but it requires commitment.

Since the category remains an impulse purchase for many consumers, positioning the merchandise in front of the store in pallet displays, on end caps at high-traffic aisles and by the point-of-sale are sure to draw shopper attention.

Retailers can create additional excitement by integrating the merchandise in other store departments. “The biggest mistake retailers make is positioning all As Seen on TV merchandise together in one location of the store. Unless shoppers are looking for something specific, they may pass right by the section,” says Aundrea Rosdal, president, founder and CEO of Denver-based Hood Inc. “By inserting merchandise with similar product sets, retailers can build greater consumer awareness and drive sales.”

How does the future look? “It’s quite good, I think,” says Boger. “We are one of the few categories that pound the market with tremendous advertising. The result is that our products outperform in the As Seen on TV segment and in their respective in-line categories.”

Following are some recent introductions within the category that could add more flavor to grocers’ assortments:

•IdeaVillage: The company offers a wide range of products across many categories. Some of its most popular items include the Micro Touch and Finishing Touch, two of the top-selling items in the shaving category, HD aviators, Smooth Away and Stompeez Slippers, which feature animated ears and mouth flaps. The company is also offering Bright Light Pillows and Glitter Stencils, which feature 10 stencils for $10.

•TeleBrands: The 30-year-old company’s merchandise historically has appealed to grocery consumers due to its mantra of “solving a problem for the shopper,” says A.J. Khubani. “That’s why our products belong in supermarkets.”

For example, the company’s Orgreenic non-stick pan gives shoppers a cooking alternative that is environmentally friendly, ergonomically designed and created to help consumers create healthier meals. Made with a “green” durable all-natural ceramic non-stick coating, Orgreenic is designed to sear in the juices and flavor of food without releasing toxic gases.
The non-stick coating also eliminates the need to add high calorie oils and butter. The pan sells for $19.99, “and its innovative design makes it an affordable useful product that solves consumers’ overall cooking issues,” Khubani says.

•Harvest Direct: With a focus on merchandise across a number of categories, including hardware, housewares, fitness, entertainment, health and beauty, home and garden, toys, crafts and pet products, Direct Harvest’s merchandise has found a comfortable home across supermarket chains, including Fred Meyer, Kroger and Meijer. The 12-year-old company’s Grout Bully household cleaner and One Touch Can Opener have already gained consumer attention at store-level, and now Harvest Direct expects the same reaction to its new product, Mr. Lid. Targeted at shoppers frustrated by missing or wrong sized lids, the reusable container with an attached patented lid, is non-toxic and airtight, and promises to keep food fresh.

•Cava TV Products: The 15-year-old company uses industry insights to deliver relevant products to consumers. “This is an important category for grocers, especially as competitors like Walmart, Target and CVS embrace the category,” says Charles Grillo, president of the Ormond Beach, Fla.-based company.

One product that Grillo says is a natural fit for grocers is the Perfect Tortilla Pan Set, which helps consumers create baked tortilla bowls in five minutes. The four-pan kit is $10.99.

The company’s Mighty Light is also brightening up retailers’ store shelves. The hands-free LED light is motion-activated, weatherproof, giving shoppers new lighting options for all rooms household-wide. A built-in timer allows shoppers to save money on light bulb purchases and electricity bills.

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