REX Awards: General merchandise

BY Carol Radice


Continuing to recognize standouts in their field, this month, Drug Store News is focusing on general merchandise manufacturers. While such products as batteries, greeting cards, laundry cleaners, tech accessories and eyewear may not be why shoppers initially come to your store on a given trip, these must-have products often make their way into their carts nonetheless.

The impulse appeal of general merchandise has long been known, and today’s benchmark retailers are capitalizing on this interest by highlighting products with eye-catching displays, placing these products in high-traffic locations and working closely with supplier partners to leverage this high-margin opportunity.

It is no small feat to be called out as an innovator within general merchandise. Standing out from competitors requires companies to dig down and identify opportunities others don’t see. Innovators accomplish this by taking the time to truly understand consumer needs, and then introduce products that excite interest.

This month, DSN recognizes the risk-takers who are disrupting the GM world.

American Greetings
American Greetings cardsAmerican Greetings consistently earns high marks from its retail partners for its product quality, relevant and comprehensive breadth of offerings and unmatched store-level service, but the most significant differentiator is the level of partnership they bring to every retail relationship.

“Our relentless focus on the consumer is essential to our industry leadership,” Steve Laserson, senior vice president of North American sales at the Cleveland-based company, said. “We simply love this business and have an insatiable appetite for understanding consumer needs and anticipating where they are going. As a result, we’ve built a brand portfolio that cannot be replicated or rivaled.”

Officials at American Greetings don’t refer to themselves simply as “a greeting card company,” they consider themselves to be experts in meaningful connections and the thought leaders in the social expressions category. With a purpose of making the world a more thoughtful and caring place, it’s important to the company to show that difference to its retail partners and consumers.

One of the many ways the company achieves this is through its internationally awarded and engaging marketing. From unexpected and acclaimed advertising campaigns to inspirational content that helps consumers connect with the people they care about, the company’s marketing efforts drive category relevance to benefit both its retail partners and the industry overall.

Innovation takes many different forms at American Greetings and something Laserson calls “a natural extension of our obsession with understanding consumers and helping them connect with the people in their lives.” In fact, the company’s innovation agenda encompasses everything they do from design styles and language trends to application of new technologies, and how to meet the needs of the evolving omnichannel marketplace.

While everyone knows American Greetings as a highly creative company, it is equally obsessed with analytics. It’s how the company ensures it is deploying its products and portfolio with strategies that drive superior retail productivity.

Navajo incNavajo
Denver-based Navajo is best known for offering eyewear products under its Piranha brand, mobile accessories through the Hottips! Brand, and trial and travel items under its Handy Solution brand.

President Mark Deuschle defines Navajo as a 40-year-old start-up. Believing the successful legacy of his company is something to be proud of and to build on, Deuschle and his team strive to operate each day from the position of needing to exceed the expectations of their retail partners and their shoppers.

“We never want to get too comfortable with our success, our offering or our strategy,” he said. “Staying humble and hungry, with a relentless focus on quality, are the key points of success and differentiation for our company.”

Navajo achieves this, he said, by cultivating a culture of customer and shopper focus, making quality, performance, consistency and value daily goals. To meet the needs of their retail partners, Navajo adapts to the variety of visions and plans rather than forcing compromises of conformity.

To remain a leader for this long requires making the inspiration to innovate and create a core part of its company culture. The company works by a rule that 50% of what they offer today must be changed, upgraded or expanded each year — which officials said has made the company able to thrive in a competitive market.

“Eyewear is a fashion-driven business, and we must constantly monitor what is happening relative to style, color, materials, etc.,” Deuschle said. “With mobile accessories, we are deeply engaged in the industry so that we are not just instep with the changes, but anticipating needs and solutions.”

Designer Greetings
Designer Greetings is best known for its expansive offering of greeting cards and related products, including gift bags, gift wrap, roll wrap, ribbons, bows, stickers and more, all at a value price.

Operating in such an intensely competitive market, officials at the Edison, N.J.-based company fully understand the qualities needed to stand apart. For instance, knowing that personalization is a key sales driver today, the company has created an entire line of customizable cards. Its Locally Yours cards can include the name of your state, hometown, school, university, camp, landmark and more.

Dawn Garvey, chief financial officer, also pointed out that the company strives to make sure their cards have a trendy look and feel by including such things as fancy embellishments, tip-ons and spot treatments, among other elements. “While our products stay current, our pricing structure is appealing to discerning cost-conscience customers,” Garvey said.

Designer Greetings’ talented staff of in-house artists and graphic designers consistently build on their talents by keeping pace with design through such innovations as the company’s new 3-D line of cards. As Garvey described, these cards use 3-D imaging that is both innovative and eye-catching. This line of interactive imagery uses a flat card to portray movement that would otherwise be achieved through the use of technology. “This technique is a perfect way to attract consumers of any age,” she said.

Fritz Henkel could never have guessed that the small laundry detergent business he founded in 1876 would grow into a global leader, with more than 53,000 employees in 120 locations around the world. Laundry products remain a specialty at Henkel, and along the way, the company expanded into beauty products and became the world leader in adhesives.


Officials said that the company’s diverse products share one common ingredient — innovation.

“Our founder, Fritz Henkel, proved to be an early innovator,” said Joe Pastorkovich, vice president of customer development laundry/home care at the Rocky Hill, Conn.-based company. “He was the first to sell laundry detergent in handy packets rather than loose. And his introduction of Persil in 1907 as the first ‘self-acting’ laundry detergent revolutionized a cumbersome chore.”

In the 1920s, Henkel laid the foundations for modern brand management with its imaginative Persil ad campaigns. Persil remains a household name today, along with such beloved Henkel brands as Schwarzkopf and Loctite.

Then and now, the customer drives daily activities at Henkel.

As a global leader in the beauty, laundry and adhesives categories, Henkel conducts extensive research to gain new insight into ever-changing consumer needs. The company then develops science-based solutions to meet those needs — from the breakthrough hair-identical Keratin in Gliss products to the universally reliable Henkel adhesives and sealants that allow the Mars Rover to explore an uncharted world.

Building upon the time-tested cleaning power of Persil, Henkel has grown its line of laundry products to meet a wide range of shopper needs, preferences and price points. From Sun to Snuggle and Purex to Persil, Henkel manufactures customer favorites that have made the company a major force in the laundry market.

The company also works with retailers to tailor strategies based on the needs and makeup of a partner’s consumer base.

“The needs of our retail partners — and their shoppers — are unique, so we never take a cookie-cutter approach to customer partnerships,” Pastorkovich said. “Henkel goes to great lengths to understand our retailer’s demographics and gain insights into needs, likes and preferences. We then tailor our product mix and promotional plans to appeal to those needs. This may mean developing a package size, fragrance or promotional offer unique to that retailer.”

On a larger scale, Henkel team members work with industry groups and regulators to shape the future of the industry and, ultimately, better serve the consumer.

As Pastorkovich said, “No matter how large we grow, we strive to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit of Fritz Henkel, who aspired simply to create products that make people’s lives easier.”

Select-A-Vision, aka SAV Eyewear, is well-known for selling reading glasses that make the wearer look and feel good. Its program consists of an assortment of distinct collections that create an exciting in-store shopping experience.

Steve Liebers, president of the Collegeville, Pa.-based company, who started SAV out of the trunk of his car 32 years ago, said that to stand apart from others in his field requires having products that feature a distinct point of difference, something he said gives retailers a competitive advantage. One way the company achieves this is through its displays, which contain a built-in “MagniFinder” to help consumers determine the correct magnification.

Looking to create a unique shopping experience for its customers, SAV has introduced what officials called a lifestyle approach. “We treat ready-to-wear reading glasses like clothing,” Liebers said. “It’s more of a work, play or everyday strategy broken down into more than eight different clearly identified sub-brands.” This marketing approach, combined with the company’s superior quality, has enabled it to excel when others have struggled.

Liebers and his team have a strong passion to create excitement, and are fully committed to raise the bar for this category. For SAV, it’s all about the customer and improving the shopping experience. The company places a lot of energy into sourcing the latest optical materials in the right colors that can produce exceptional eyewear for every one of its collections. From there, it provides a well-organized modular display that invites experiential shopping. Even the packaging has been designed to create excitement and help consumers easily differentiate these collections and features. “Once people start wearing our better-quality, comfortable glasses, they quickly become loyal customers,” Liebers said.

The company’s humble beginnings set the stage for big growth. Liebers initially targeted independent pharmacies until he was able to scale up and court regional drug store chain Happy Harry’s. Now, the company’s products are sold in multiple regional, national and even international chain stores as far as China. “We still treat every customer like our only customer, and that will never change,” he said.

Calico Brands
calico brands ez-squeeze lighterCalico Brands is best known for its wide range of lighter products for indoor and outdoor use that come in a variety of colors, styles and price points. The company’s Scripto brand includes innovative multipurpose lighters with features that include a squeeze grip ignition, adjustable flame, wind-resistant torch flame, flexible nozzle and a refillable, folding mechanism. The Ontario, Calif.-based company also offers a large assortment of sparkwheel and electronic disposable pocket lighters.

According to marketing department officials, among the many qualities needed to stand out from competitors is being a reputable supplier that produces quality products, as well as abiding by industry standards, regulations and social compliance. Officials also emphasized how product innovation grows the category, as well as reliability, accountability and a focus on value, which all set Calico Brands apart.

As one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of disposable lighters in the world, Calico Brands operates a full-service U.S.-based testing, packaging and warehouse facility, and has an in-house packaging design department and state-of-the-art packaging machines to en-
sure immediate turnaround and a strong corporate office support system.

Bringing innovation and new products to market is what Calico Brands is all about, said a marketing department official. “Innovation allows us to stay ahead of the competition and differentiate ourselves from competitors, while also showing adaptability to keep up with current trends,” the official said. “Offering the best lighter products in the industry is our inspiration to continue paving the way for new product innovation in the utility lighter and pocket lighter category.”

Product innovation and technological advancements can be seen in the company’s new Scripto EZ-Squeeze multipurpose lighter, featuring a revolutionary squeeze grip ignition and a refillable tank. Scripto’s new Ultima pocket lighter line offers a new design, look and feel to the pocket lighter category, offering a lighter for every style, more lights, popular colors and unique wrap.

Bradshaw Home
Bradshaw home go bottleBradshaw Home is a supplier of housewares, marketing and/or manufacturing kitchen tools and gadgets, bakeware, cookware, barware, hydration, coffee products, food storage and cleaning supplies under a number of such household brands as Goodcook and T-fal. Bradshaw Home maintains No.1 market share for kitchenware in grocery stores, currently distributing in more than 35,000 retail store outlets in North America, New Zealand and Australia.

Global resources and state-of-the-art operations have allowed Bradshaw Home to produce inventive products that always reward consumers with multiple features and benefits, contemporary design and timely market need. According to company officials, Bradshaw Home has been able to lead the industry in many categories by meeting its customers’ changing needs quickly and by being flexible.

“Our ‘customer first’ philosophy is what has allowed us to grow as much as we have,” said Tom Barber, senior vice president of product development at the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based company. It all starts with Bradshaw’s design teams. There designers research the markets thoroughly and constantly search for new ways to improve on what is already out there.

“Being able to build products from the ground up stimulates the creative process, and we can follow the best practices in quality control,” Barber said.


Leave a Reply

No comments found



What area is your company focused most on in 2019?
  • Add your answer