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In winter it's different.


NEW YORK -- The arrival of colder weather in the fall is an important trigger for apparel sales, but it creates sales opportunities in seasonal general merchandise, as well. Mass retailers have done a good job of adding higher-ticket merchandise to their seasonal departments in recent years, according to a recently updated report by the Global Market Development Group (GMDC), which cited such examples as air conditioners priced at $199 that spark impulse sales during the heat of the summer and pricy Christmas trees that sell for $99 to $399 during the height of the winter holiday season.

Winter brings more prosaic concerns as well, allowing retailers in many parts of the country to cater to consumers who simply need to clear their driveways or keep their hands warm.

When it comes to ice-melting products, in fact, consumers have a number of choices. Morton Salt ice melt brand manager A.J. Miller notes that products can be ranked as good, better and best when it comes to their melting power. For example, the "good" product, which occupies the opening price point, is traditional salt. Known by the chemical name sodium chloride, such salt is effective at melting ice down to the temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The top-of-the-line ice melter, the "best" option, is made with calcium chloride. This product, which comes in the form of tiny pellets, is effective down to a temperature of minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the middle--the "better" options--are products that blend calcium chloride with sodium chloride.

But consumers also have another factor to consider when it comes to melting ice, Miller points out.

"There are also green or environmentally friendly ice melters," Miller notes. "These are products that are safe for grass, trees, pets and surfaces when used as directed."

Consumers who want an environmentally friendly ice melter have had to trade off efficacy to get it, however, since most contain either potassium or urea, which only melt ice at 25 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

That will change with the introduction of Morton Safe-T-Plus ice melt blend, which is due to hit store shelves in November and December of 2008.

The product has a patent-pending eco-safe formula, Miller says, which is safe for plants, children, pets and surfaces when used as directed. It also will melt ice at temperatures as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Also set to debut next winter is Morton Safe-T-Power ice melter, a calcium chloride product that works at temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees.

Both products will be sold in 25-pound bags as well as in smaller plastic jugs that are more convenient to handle and store.

For this season the company has introduced Morton Action Melt, a blend of sodium chloride and calcium chloride that melts ice at temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees. That joins Morton Safe-T-Salt, a sodium chloride product that the company has sold since the 1960s.

Product efficacy is also important in the warmer business, notes Grabber Performance Group general manager Gary Gerds, whose company makes warmers for hands, feet, bodies and--most recently--toes.

"Performance is critical," Gerds says. "If someone buys a warmer and it doesn't work, especially if it's their first time, they may be turned off by that and dismiss the whole category as a result."

For that reason Grabbers' 25-year history (which includes recognition for its products from such magazines as Field & Stream and Good Housekeeping) means a lot, Gerds states.

Innovation is also key, and this year the company is rolling out its products in big packs with higher quantities of its warmers. "We've discovered that if someone has one warmer they won't use it if they are just sort of cold--they'll save it until they really need it. But by encouraging pantry loading, we can get consumers to use them more," Gerds notes. "That approach has resonated with retailers and the buying public."

Heat Factory Inc. also makes warmers, and one of its stand-outs is a heated utility work glove with special pockets for warmers on the front and the back.
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Title Annotation:SPOTLIGHT
Author:Meyer, Scot
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Nov 26, 2007
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