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How to Scoop Up Seasonal Merchandise Sales 


NATIONAL REPORT — To everything, there is a season; and lately, seasonal items are turn, turn, turning in convenience stores. 

“Seasons are the emotional topspin on the everyday basics. This is truer than ever given all of the events that have taken place over the last few months,” said Spencer Baird, executive in residence at Inmar Intelligence, which is dedicated to helping companies and emerging brands stay relevant and propel growth. “Every season brings back memories and connections with points of warmth. Retailers help bring out the richness of those emotional connections [through seasonal merchandise].”

Seasonal merchandise is a year-round impulse opportunity for convenience stores thanks to holidays and weather-related traditions. The strongest seasonal opportunities for impulse purchases are those that have mass appeal and are celebrated by the general population, according to Mark Mechelse, vice president of insights and communications for retail industry trade association Global Market Development Center (GMDC) and its Retail Tomorrow initiative, which seeks to connect a community of innovators to retailers, suppliers, service companies and thought leaders in order to foster uncommon partnerships focused on improving the shopper experience. 

Such mass-appeal seasons include Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Graduation, and Wedding/Anniversary.

“Each holds their own unique ‘flavor’ in a store; however, all should be front and center in aisles or at the front end to remind consumers of the new styles and traditions they are seeking to make an occasion special,” Mechelse told Convenience Store News.

The larger the season, the more prominent the display and variety of products should be.

“For convenience retailers, these items are low volume, but offer high profit margins to build basket profitability and incremental revenue above core purchasing,” Mechelse added.

Bob DiNunzio, director of category solutions at Daymon, pointed out that with shutdowns, social distancing and remote working creating an environment where most people are staying at home more often these days, “all aspects of life [are] centered around this idea of home as the hub.” As a result, the pandemic has driven renewed interest in seasonal merchandise.

“Seasonal products that enhance the day to day and mitigate the monotony of home living are increasingly being sought after by shoppers,” DiNunzio observed.

The coronavirus is not only having an impact on the functional needs of U.S. households, but it is also having an emotional impact, Inmar Intelligence’s Baird echoed.

“Functionally, people [are having] more in-home occasions whether that’s meals, snacking or cleaning,” he said. And as far as seasonal items go, “the distancing has driven emotional voids that lead to different consumption trends.”

GMDC research has shown that localizing a seasonal general merchandise assortment is a successful strategy, whether the convenience store is a rural general store with a broad general merchandise assortment, or an urban c-store focused on immediate consumer needs and featuring select general merchandise items. A less effective strategy is making general merchandise decisions as a single chainwide approach.

Additionally, retailers that utilize digital offers are four times more likely to enjoy sales growth in seasonal general merchandise, according to GMDC research.

Other must-dos for convenience retailers seeking to capitalize on the seasonal sales potential, particularly in these COVID times, are:

  • Focus on nostalgic seasonal items that connect with consumers’ emotions and memories, which are running high right now.
  • Keep seasonal items top-of-mind for customers by providing the element of surprise and focusing on innovation.
  • Remember to take regional seasonal variations into account.
  • Realize that the prioritization of consumer values will shift to safety, accessibility, reliability and transparency, in that order. Apply these priorities to seasonal items just as much as other in-store categories.
  • Stock masks and hand sanitizer with a seasonal slant — they are obvious profit magnets in these current times.
  • Look beyond the pandemic; begin approaching your seasonal planning with an eye toward the future.
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