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Ceiling fans fly; stores say promos, ads paying off.

NEW YORK--The ceiling fan season has kicked into high gear, and fans are blowing out of stores across the country, retailers report.

"My ceiling fan business is screaming," reported Jeff Lee, lighting buyer for Home Base, an Irvine, Cal.-based home improvement chain.

"Memorial Day was a very big weekend, but last weekend was a big weekend; the weekend before that was big My biggest problem, is I can't unload the containers fast enough," Lee said.

Builders Square decorative electrical buyer Lou Payeur said, "We're having the best year in a long time. So far, we're up 35 percent from

last year. Sales are better than '94, which was a very good year for us.

While weather is a major factor in ceiling fan sales, spring was late this year and rain has been heavy in many regions of the country. Buyers said excellent sales were a result of fresh merchandise, new merchandising strategies and aggressive promotions.

As far as advertising and promotion go, print ads from Lowe's Cos., Pergament Home Centers, Hechinger, Home Depot, Home Base and Builders Square, among other home improvement retailers,have made major ceiling fan statements.

Home Depot has been aggressively promoting its private label Hampton Bays ceiling fans through print and television commercials in major markets.

Stores were not plagued with as much leftover inventory as they have had in prior years, thanks to effective inventory clearance sales at the end of last season.

Payeur attributed Builders Square's sales surge to several factors, from the overhaul Of the planogram and fan display, to an enhanced selection and targeted marketing and promotion.

"I attribute it to several things. First, we're resetting all the stores with new planograms and displays. We've got a great selection--especially our exclusive Showcase Collection from Hunter Fan--and the promotions and marketing are all pulling for us," Payeur said.

All 170 Builders Square locations will be fitted with the new planogram by the end Of June, Payeur said. The new displays, he said, are designed so consumers can see the merchandise better. A new "easy-find" system was developed to make it easier to quickly locate stock on the floor.

Payeur said the retailer's new assortment, which includes fashion merchandise from Encon Industries, Fan, Lasko Metal Products and Hunter, plus lower-end models from SMC, has been a combination that make this a "super year."

For the most part, retailers report average price points haven't risen since last year.

"The core business that's selling is between $49 and $99, maybe $109," Builders Square's Payeur related. "Our price points haven't escalated too much. Thankfully, the promotional $29 fans are falling by the wayside. Contractors still like them, but the consumer is realizing the value in the better-quality, slightly higher-priced goods that are also more fashionable."

The ceiling fan business increasingly has become a fashion business. While consumers are familiar with the traditional polished brass, they've responded well to fashion finishes such as verdigris green and rust, buyers report.

"A ceiling fan is now more of a decor piece," Payeur offered. "Customers are walking into stores looking for something that's pretty, not just something to move air. That's why we see verde and rust finishes picking up." This year, some of the hottest colors, buyers report, are the whites and white washes.

Jim Perella, vice president of sales and marketing for Lasko Metal Products, reported an increase in retail requests for the white models in Lasko's line, especially in its Architectural Collection.

"We're seeing a tremendous increase in sales of white finishes in both large and small markets, as varied as Chicago, Detroit, Denver," Payeur said.
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Author:Meyer, Nancy
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jun 3, 1996
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