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Niche cards chart 
differentiation in aisles

BY Barbara White-Sax


The supplier in the greeting card aisle may not be enough to capture consumer interest. While smaller, niche players make up less than 5% of category sales, according to one manufacturer, those companies can offer a point of differentiation to retailers that larger manufacturers can’t provide.


Marc Trobman, VP new business development for Avanti Press, compared adding niche publishers to the card aisle with augmenting beers from the two big brewers with craft beers — a strategy most retailers have taken. “People love the beers, but they’re hard to find. When you find them, it raises the credibility of the whole department,” he said. Trobman said his company has had strong success with programs in Meijer, Wegmans and Sprouts Farmers Market.


Trobman also added that smaller, more nimble companies are able to quickly respond to the needs of their customers. Avanti, for example, heavily focuses on humor, the fastest-growing segment of the market. Other key trends in the category are eco-friendly materials, inspirational cards, pets and animal prints.


Cards that answer those needs move quickly. “Retailers say our turns are higher and we produce more revenue per pocket per day, so that’s where we shine with our accounts,” said Bob Gall, president of Blue Mountain Arts, a brand with limited SKUs that require only 8 ft. of shelf space. 


Value pricing is another niche that smaller companies are filling — which is particularly important since greeting card prices have continued to climb. The average card price is between $2 and $4, according to the Greeting Card Manufacturers 
Association.


Retailers can discount Gallant Greetings’ line up to 50% off, and Designs for Better Giving, a multicultural card and gift manufacturer, keeps price points down by staying away from expensive embellishments. “We’ve kept our price point solidly in the $2 to $2.50 range, but we still do everything a large company does,” said Richard Todd, president of Designs for Better Giving. “We even have in-house fulfillment people.”


Designs for Better Giving, which offers a full line of multicultural products — from cards targeted to African-Americans to ones written in Russian and Japanese — offers a range from 48- to 102-pocket programs, as well as a 12-pocket counter display.

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Stepping up retail gadgetry

BY Antoinette Alexander

TEANECK, N.J. — Aetrex Worldwide is bringing shoppers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience featuring the most advanced technology in the footwear industry with the opening of its first retail concept in Englewood, N.J. An invite-only grand opening celebration will be held June 2.


While Aetrex is clearly focused on selling shoes, the new store opens a window onto how retailers across various channels can use technology to “step up” customer experience. The 2,400-sq.-ft. store features iStep Wave, a digital foot-scanning technology that measures foot size and determines arch type and pressure points in less than 30 seconds. The Wave can be operated with handheld wireless devices with foot scans instantly displayed on a monitor or sent virally via MMS or email to customers. Customers also can interact with one of two “Magic Tables,” which are powered by Microsoft Surface technology. The touchscreen technology enables customers to learn about Aetrex products by placing the shoe on the graphical interface. There’s also mobile point-of-sale technology by Apple that streamlines the entire purchase process with a bar code scan. The handheld mobile device checks for inventory and allows customers to pay with a credit card swipe, while an e-receipt is sent via email.

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Former A&P executive joins Rite Aid

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid has appointed David Kelly as group VP construction, the retail pharmacy chain said Monday.

Kelly, who has worked in real estate and development for more than 25 years, will start work May 31 and will have overall responsibility for all store planning and construction services, in addition to having a role in various segmentation initiatives, including Wellness, value and co-branded Save-A-Lot/Rite Aid stores. He will report directly to SVP, CFO and chief administrative officer Frank Vitrano.

“David brings [more than] 25 years of vast development and real estate expertise to Rite Aid,” Vitrano stated. “His proven ability and experience with a diverse portfolio of retail projects will be a valuable asset at the company, especially as we continue to implement and grow our segmentation strategies.”

Most recently, Kelly was SVP real estate and development for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. supermarket chain, also known as A&P. He began his retail career in 1987 as a construction project manager for Pathmark Stores, a supermarket chain operating in the Northeast.

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