Turning Up the Heat With Hot Spots

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Turning Up the Heat With Hot Spots

By Angela Hanson, Convenience Store News - 09/02/2014

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. -- Which product categories belong at the front end of a convenience store? Which merchandising elements are most effective? What are the locations of "hot spots" inside a c-store? These are just a few of the questions answered in the Mars Chocolate/Wrigley C-Store Front End Best Practices Study, the results of which were shared with Convenience Store News.  

"We learned that in c-stores, only one in three shoppers buy items at the front end, and most of them purchase tobacco and lottery tickets," Larry Lupo, vice president of sales for the convenience and drug channels, Mars Chocolate North America, told CSNews. "We wanted to determine which categories — in addition to these destination categories — would be the 'power categories' to generate the most sales and profitability."

The study showed power categories in the convenience channel include candy, meat snacks, sweet snacks, energy shots, fresh fruit and bakery. The research also found that most consumers' "gaze time" occurs between the register and the card swipe.

Hot spots are high-priority locations inside a store where it's possible to use high-visibility secondary displays to interrupt routine shopping behavior and significantly increase basket penetration to grow category and brand sales.

"The biggest purchase barrier is that shoppers simply aren’t thinking about confections, and they don’t see it in the store," Lupo explained. More than 70 percent of consumers don't walk down the candy aisle, and more than three-quarters of consumer buying decisions are made at the point-of-purchase.

While customers may not go out of their way to buy candy, research shows that confectionery is extremely responsive to quality merchandising efforts, likely because 83 percent of candy category purchases are impulse purchases. Chocolate, in particular, generates high lift in response to secondary merchandising.

"That’s why secondary displays are so important," Lupo said. "When consumers see confections, they’re more likely to buy them."

The front end is a major hot spot being that it is exposed to 100 percent of shoppers and offers items that reflect the desire for more immediate consumption, reward or indulgence. It also has a low decision time and is the last chance to make an impulse purchase.

To drive candy sales at the front end, Mars Chocolate suggests a three-step process for c-stores:

1. Build a portfolio of everyday displays, especially for popular brands and items that are on sale year-round.

2. Use displays to support promotional moments that leverage media with consumers. This can involve tie-ins to major events such as the Super Bowl or promotions that aren't connected to a single date.

3. Make a point of setting up displays for new items. Strong introductions to shoppers drive trial and awareness, increasing the chances that an unfamiliar product will become a regular purchase in the future.

Larger sharing-size or king-size candy is popular, especially with shoppers looking to get the most value for their dollar. However, many consumers only want their candy in standard size, so ideally the front end should offer both.

Other hot spots in a c-store include the lobby area and along the store's perimeter.

For more findings from the Mars Chocolate/Wrigley C-Store Front End Best Practices Study, look in the September issue of Convenience Store News