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MAKING COOKWARE POP AT POINT OF SALE; MERCHANDISING COMPETITION HEATS UP.

NEW YORK-Look no further than merchandising trends in the cookware category to observe the intensifying competition between mass merchants and department and specialty stores.

"There is a blurring of the lines between department stores and mass retailers' packaging, especially with Target on the scene. [Upscale manufacturers are differentiating] with bold graphics and big headline brand names on the box," said Stuart Burge, vice president of sales and marketing for Chantal. "People are concerned, and they are looking at new ways to attract the customer. Kmart and Target flyers look like department store flyers today."

"At mass, it's not just your off-white gondola pegboard anymore," said Doug Richardson, vice president of marketing for Le Creuset. "Mass merchants have worked on the aesthetics of their shelving."

Likewise, a number of major cookware players -- such as Meyer, Corning and T-Fal -- are revamping and re-evaluating their merchandising to boost sales for these upscale-thinking merchants. "Everyone is fighting for shelf space and for productivity," said Patti Odinak, business development manager for Corningware.

Michael Graves' sparse, stylish kitchenware packaging for Target has influenced a trend toward cleaner, more focused box designs, suggested Odinak. "I noticed it on Farberware cookware sets. The picture of the product was huge."

"The more sophisticated you can make it, the better the department stores like it," said Ruth Tulino, packaging designer and president of Canoga Park, Cal.-based Tulino Design Inc. Tulino's extensive client list includes Corning and Chantal. "I think simplicity is the most important aspect of packaging today," she continued. "Some of the best design is all but invisible."

As mass retailers have embraced four-color packaging, upscale cookware manufacturers are differentiating their look with more conceptual, subtle images. "[There is] a move away from props like peppers and onions [on a box]," said Richardson.

Good merchandising means tailoring the presentation on the sales floor to meet retailers' distinct objectives, whether it be to boost sales per inch, draw a broader consumer base or boost self purchases, sources said.

Corning, which is developing a more sophisticated packaging and fixturing program, has achieved self-purchase sales gains from merchandising its Pop-Ins and French White cookware out of the box so consumers can touch the product.

Regal Ware's market research revealed that consumers are hungry for explicit information on product usage, materials and features. "They want to know, `What food can you cook in this pot?' " said Jim Myre, director of retail cookware for Regal Ware. "Department stores have beautiful ads but not a lot of information. I've yet to see a department store ad explain what anodized cookware means."

T-Fal is developing an upscale fixturing program in blond wood with a European flair for select, upscale retailers.

"Fixturing is definitely an area we're moving on now," said Jean Paul Ciquier, T-Fal's vice president of marketing.

Meyer recently unveiled what it calls a "revolutionary" new vertical merchandising program designed to make the most of every retail square foot. New shelving includes a hanging itemizer shelf that accentuates promotional items. "The itemizer is valuable because often, single items get lost in a whole sea of fixtures," said Norm Schoenfeld, executive vice president of Meyer Corp.

For department stores, merchandising cookware calls for creating a palpable culinary experience on the retail floor and using educated sales associates.

"We have culinary experts on every floor and hold cooking demos as much as possible," said Jim Peikon, divisional merchandise manager of housewares for Bloomingdale's. To promote cross merchandising, "specialists will take the consumer to vendor X in cookware and vendor Y in cutlery," said Peikon.
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Comment:MAKING COOKWARE POP AT POINT OF SALE; MERCHANDISING COMPETITION HEATS UP.
Author:Thau, Barbara
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 28, 1999
Words:588
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