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Do customers care if you have signs promoting the latest beverage offering? Does it really matter if c-stores set packs of gum on the counter in plain cardboard boxes or in branded, injection-molded plastic holders? Will c-stores sell more lottery tickets from a brightly colored slip holder? In a word, yes.

"Point-of-purchase is a critical advertising medium in c-stores, because the consumer spends such a short time in the store and because you don't have the personnel to sell the consumer that you would have in a traditional retailer," said Steve Mann, director of marketing for Henschel-Steinau Inc. "It's at the top of the critical list of advertising methodology to get your product sold." Mann would know — Henschel-Steinau is the Englewood, N.J.-based designer and producer of P-O-P merchandising displays that took top honors in the Convenience Store Retailer category in the 2004 Outstanding Merchandising Achievement Awards, sponsored by Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI).

For years, the difficulty in P-O-P merchandising was that while retailers and suppliers knew instinctively that P-O-P increases sales, there was no way to quantify it. That changed when POPAI looked at c-stores as part of its effort to make in-store advertising a measured medium. POPAI found that the average P-O-P placement in a c-store increases sales 9.2 percent above everyday sales, with lifts ranging from a low of 2.6 percent for CSDs to a high of 45.5 percent for juice.

That's a good justification for why to invest in P-O-P, but the POPAI study went further to reveal the how. Among other findings, the study reveals the optimal locations for P-O-P advertising for particular products: products for immedi-

ate consumption do best when advertised in the gas area, CSDs and gum/mints in the checkout area, beverages and snacks on endcaps, take-home beverage displays outside the store, smaller brands on cooler door signs and snacks in the foodservice area.

The Littlest Displays

The challenge of creating P-O-P advertising for c-stores as opposed to other retail channels is working within the limited space. "Typically, convenience stores don't have much room," said Greg Campbell, vice president and secretary/treasurer of Detroit-based Westcott Displays Inc. "So you've got to do smaller items. What we'll do is send out a kit with a bunch of smaller items in it and let the stores pick and choose what they want to put up." A popular form of advertising that he's seen in c-stores is static-cling items, which will stick to a refrigerator or a window and can make a big difference when every inch counts.

Mann's solution to limited space is flexibility. "One of the trends that we've seen in c-store displays is what we call modularity, which means you can take the components of a display and arrange them in a multitude of configurations," Mann explained. "For instance, if someone's got a large, wide counter, you could have the display extend from left to right. If they've got minimal counter space, you can take the same display, lock the units into each other, and stack it vertically. We did a c-store unit for Wrigley that had six or seven ways you could configure the same trays for a variety of counter space allowances. The same unit could also be hung on pegboard or a flat wall. The key is multiple placement opportunities."
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