Putting New Products to the Test

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Putting New Products to the Test

By Michael Hahn , Diversified Marketing - 11/09/2009
This is the first in a series of columns designed to give retailers an unbiased, fact-based evaluation of new products that could add significant gross dollars to their bottom lines.

My reasons in writing this column exclusively for Convenience Store News are:

-- To create competitive parity between c-stores and help them compete better in the overall retail market;
-- To inform c-stores, especially smaller chains and individual stores, of new products and services available in a timely manner;
-- To present solid data for retailers and distributors to make sound buying decisions regarding movement, retail and wholesale;
-- To allow smaller manufacturers to enter the c-store market by presenting their product to the c-store industry;
-- To help vendors overcome some of the obstacles generated by our industry; and,
-- To help change public perception of c-store pricing strategy and enhance the overall image of the industry.

This month we report on the tests of two products, "Heavenly Magnets" from Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Angel Star, and Turin Chocolates, based in Plano, Texas.

As always, we test the products in c-store locations typical for the industry. We don't choose the best-performing locations or the worst sites, so the results can be a reference for retailers and distributors to make sound buying decisions for their business. Testing results are reported weekly to ensure proper reporting and all tests, unless specified differently, are based on a 28-day trial period.

With all test stores, whose identities are kept anonymous, associates are encouraged to make customers aware of the new items. Obviously, this helps increase sales, but we feel this is a tactic that should be a standard operating procedure for all new products. Even though the test stores for our products were not the best stores in the country, they were excellent at making customers aware of new items.

The accompanying charts provide a detailed analysis of our tests of these two products. Each product was tested in three different locations. The charts provide information on sales per week, gross margins and the circumstances of each test.

Here are my comments and thoughts regarding the test products:

Angel Star
These Magnetic Angels, (total of 24 in 12 different styles displayed on a vertical magnetic board) should sell well when put near or at major sales counters or other high traffic areas such as a coffee counter, fountain area, lottery machine, fast food counter or case. One unique quality of this product is the angels are internally magnetized -- no visible magnets on the back. If there is an immediate or nearly complete sell through (say, within two weeks) I would reorder. If not, I would suggest ordering Item No. 8705 (Angel Worry Stones), 8809 (Travel Angels), or for higher-traffic stores, truck stops and travel centers, Item No. 2500 (Mountain of Angels). As a distributor, I would not keep more than one in stock at any given time, and rotate on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

Angel Star Heavenly Magnets, Morgan Hill, Calif.
(800) 264-3577; www.AngelStar.com

Turin Chocolates
These premium chocolate, liquor-flavored and liquor-extract filled candies should sell throughout the year outside of warm weather interference. When tested, five flavors were presented at once. For continued high sales, I would suggest always carrying the Jack Daniels flavor, while rotating one other on a regular schedule. Female customers especially liked the Kahlua and Baileys. Placement should be considered at or near the sales counter, coffee bar, wine section or deli (if available). Please note there are two types -- one with actual liquor and the other liquor extract without alcohol. It is the retailer's responsibility to verify sales according to state law. Our test was conducted in alcohol-approved states. For larger, higher-volume stores, especially travel centers, truck stops and resort stores, I would suggest carrying gift bags (six or 12 pieces), but do not pursue until single product has been introduced into the store. In two cases, at two locations, customers bought entire boxes. Turin will be glad to provide a Web site listing state laws, but again, retailers should always verify with local officials in the event of changes. Even though these products are not always age sensitive, our test stores limited the product to sale to customers age 21 or older, more out of respect for the community than necessity.

Turin Chocolates, Plano, Texas
(469) 241-1149; www.turin.com.mx

Michael Hahn is founder of Diversified Marketing, a convenience store consultant specializing in product testing, evaluation and placement. Hahn worked in the c-store industry for nearly 30 years, including owing several stores, working for a 1,500-store chain, and being a category manager, direct-store-distributor and a broker. For more information, contact [email protected]. If you are a manufacturer and would like your product tested by Diversified Marketing and reported on in Convenience Store News, contact Don Longo, [email protected].