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American Greetings stresses innovation in merchandising.

CLEVELAND - American Greetings Corp. is trying to convince chain drug stores that they don't have to be "big box retailers" to profit from selling social expressions products at secondary locations.

"Usually when you think of drug stores, you don't think of a big enough box to outpost in," says vice president of trade relations Bill Parsons. "Outposting is not something that's really been pushed by our industry, but we think the customer who walks into the drug store will buy more products if they're presented in more places than just the greeting cards area."

American Greetings is providing small outpost displays designed for seasonal placement in such areas as checkout stands, the pharmacy counter, and the cosmetics and toy departments.

"We're looking at any place we can make a statement and offer products to the consumer that she may not buy unless she goes into the greeting cards department," Parsons explains. "A gift wrapping outpost in the toy department makes sense if you think about it. If someone's buying a toy as a gift, why not have paper available for her so she can wrap it?"

Displays include an overhead helium balloon corral, an eight-pocket card merchandiser for checkout counters, a spinner rack for the pharmacy department, and store decor and an island display for seasonal aisles.

New card lines from American Greetings for 1996 include Elegant Treasured Antiques by Laura Seddon and An Angel's Touch. The former consists of Victorian designs from the late 1800s reprinted on rich ivory stock and enhanced by messages on complementing colored paper inserts. They feature die-cut borders, lacelike blind embossing, and gold foil and crystalline glitter accents.

Angel's Touch offers different interpretations of the currently popular angel theme, ranging from the conventional biblical-looking Gabriel to trendy winged cherubs. "For the last couple years angels have been a very hot product," Parsons says. "Our research has confirmed that. The line did extremely well in test marketing."

New contemporary card programs from the company are Coffeehouse and Freestyle, both of which reflect the latest trends in verse, conversational messages or appreciation in a hand-lettered look. Research into sales of the company's established contemporary card lines, Just My Style and 78th Street, identified a demand for a less humorous approach to alternative cards, which the new lines take. But Coffeehouse and Freestyle continue to reflect the philosophy of American Greetings founder Irving Stone that "art attracts, verse sells."

"The reason a consumer picks up a greeting card is the art," notes Parsons. "So it's very important to have the right display of quality products. The art attracts, the verse sells; we've been following that precept for 90 years. We know what makes greeting cards consumers buy our products."

The company is also touting three new seasonal decor programs developed by its retail creative services unit for Halloween and Christmas 1996, and Valentine's Day 1997. A spokeswoman says industry research has shown that over 70% of all seasonal purchase decisions are made in the store.

To help retailers maximize seasonal sales the new decor programs are designed to set the mood for the entire store. For example, the 12-foot-tall "Frightmore Towers" will draw shoppers to the Halloween aisle with spooky sounds, motion and other special effects. The display, which takes up only a 4-foot by 4-foot space, also serves as a product merchandising bin.

The Christmas candy cane cottage uses height to draw crowds from the ends of the store and has a small footprint. With holiday music in the background, Santa and his elves greet shoppers from the windows and chimney of the gingerbread cottage.

For Valentine's Day, a teddy bear and hearts theme decorates overhead panels to frame seasonal departments.

Parsons says American Greetings' CreataCard kiosks are doing well in locations with sufficient traffic, but the company is removing about 3,000 units in less busy retail outlets.

"We'll have about 7,000 of them left when we're through," he notes. "We're looking for extremely high-traffic areas. Several drug chains are doing very well with the machines. However, it's not something that will fit into every drug store. Maybe 20% are right for this program."

Parsons is also touting the research council that the company and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores formed last year. "It's the first time a greeting cards supplier and probably the first time any general merchandise supplier - has put together a council of chain drug executives to study the general problems facing front-end merchandising in the trade class," he says.

Charter members of the council are senior executives from May's Drug Stores, K&B Services Inc., CVS, Lewis Drugs, Harco Drug, Medic Discount Drug, Hi-School Pharmacy, Snyder Drug Stores and Longs Drug Stores. Membership will rotate from year to year.

The council is in the process of selecting its first area of study. It will present the results of that research at next year's NACDS Marketplace Conference.

"What we're doing is providing a forum where retail executives can get together and discuss what they need to do to improve their business," explains Parsons.

The study will focus on one area of business, such as batteries or photofinishing or sales promotions, but not, Parsons says, greeting cards. "It's not a self-serving thing for us," he adds. "It's something we probably will continue to do year after year, as we've done with a similar council cosponsored by the Food Marketing Institute."
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Title Annotation:Marketplace '96; American Greetings Corp.
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Jun 17, 1996
Words:900
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