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Safeway fine tunes its non-foods mix.

Five years ago, non-foods was running almost rampant in its first superstore.

Bill Burdette, the variety (non-foods) merchandising manager for Safeway's Washington D.C.-Baltimore division based in Landover, Md., recalls that superstore. "We had more floor space than we could deal with through our warehouse," he says. "We relied heavily on outside suppliers, many of whom knew little about supermarkets." That was a common picture in those days as supermarketers struggled to find the right formula for expanded non-foods.

Non-foods plays a big role in superstores today and is much more controlled and directed. And the difference between five years ago and today is basically the non-foods story in the 18 superstore food and drug outlets now operated by Safeway's Landover, Md., division. Today, record albums, long expanses of hardware and the 36 feet of appliances have disappeared as have canvas shoes, yarn (except for a few stores), the 58 feet of bath needs and the spacious photo and gift shops. "We've done a lot of pruning since that first burst of excitement," says Burdette, "and we've become much more sophisticated in sales and profit analysis." He credits the availability of scanning information and his larger, more experienced buying and merchandising staff.

That staffing now includes non-foods clerks; a field merchandiser, Monty Bennett; and the headquarters "variety" staff of Burdette, direct delivery section manager Colleen Vemillion, Scott McPherson, the coordinator of advertising and promotion, HBA Buyer Rick Clarke, and GM buyers Joe Bernard and Gloria Christian. Another field merchandiser is being added.

Like the non-foods mix, the nature of the division's superstores has changed somewhat. While the division has two stores in the 60,000-foot class, most of the superstore outlets being built today are 40,000 to 45,000 square feet. The word "superstore," once emblazoned on the exterior, has been replaced by the words "foods" and "drugs" spelled out in dimensional letters. Within the next two years another 15 to 18 new or remodeled foods and drugs outlets will be added to the division's superstore ranks, officials say.

The stores' interiors are attractively decorated with perishables located around the perimeter and frozen foods in the center, dividing the gondola grid in half. Edibles are on one side and non-foods is placed on the other along with paper, soap, household supplies and other grocery non-edibles. The Battle for Space

A major factor in applying the brakes on non-foods has been the floor space squeeze caused by new goods and services. Bulk and natural foods sections, service delis and bakeries, salad bars and banking services--to name of few--have taken substantial chunks of space at Safeway superstores. Twelve division stores have videocassette rental and three stores have leased dry cleaning shops.

Yet, non-foods remains a powerful factor. It is given 600 to 800 linear floor feet of display space and accounts for 10% to 15% of sales in the division's superstores. These big stores represent 12% of the division's total 150 outlets. The division has 16 other non-pharmacy stores of 33,000 square feet or more.

Non-foods power is felt in ads also. Ad coordinator McPherson says non-foods, once lucky to get a few features in the grocery ad, now receives a full page in the division's weekly six page color insert.

Non-foods advertising, McPherson adds, has been strengthened somewhat by the trimming of product lines. No longer is there as much of a problem with advertising items found only in superstores.

Burdette says the ads have demonstrated how the rise of non-foods in superstores has helped the department throughout the division, even in conventional stores. "With a broader variety in the superstores we have found items that will sell in the conventionals," he says, "so we're always up on what's new and exciting."

Communications have also been improved. At the division's semi-annual seasonal merchandise shows, the headquarters staff runs a four-hour seminar for district and store managers and non-foods clerks.

Display contests, held about five times a year, stimulate excitement. Many of the awards are for the overall store, which is particularly useful in conventional stores where special displays for non-foods are hard to get. Weekly bulletins and printed sales plans complete the communications picture, along with visits by Merchandiser bennett and the headquarters staff. The non-foods warehouse contains some 4,500 items. Under the direction of George Hafferman, the warehouse manager, the "variety" area is being expanded with a mezzanine and new flow racks. When completed next month, it will expand non-foods' capacity by about 20%.

Looking ahead, Burdette sees further growth in the division's superstores. "Customers like them so we're definitely committed to them," he says.

As for non-foods' role, he says, "We're still writing the book." Non-foods "is just part of the store. Whether we'll expand some or even contract depends on what new developments take place.

"If, for example, bulk foods declines in customer interest we may pick up space. But who can foresee the future? Who would have thought five years ago that salad bars and banking services would become so popular?"

Like every other department, he says, non-foods must adjust to changing situations.

"I do know for certain that non-foods fits in beautifully with one-stop shopping. We've become very professional in dealing with expanded departments and suppliers. We're ready for anything." A Look at Superstores' Product Categories

Not all the new sections and services entering the division's superstores have had an unfavorable impact on non-foods. In-store pharmacies, the superstore hallmark for the Safeway Landover division, have spurred the growth of health and beauty aids, greeting cards and magazines and books.

"We feel the pharmacy sets the tone for non-foods," says William Burdette, the variety merchandising manager. "That's why we've beefed up HBA, cards and publications." In effect, he says, "We're creating a drugstore atmosphere within the food store."

Health and beauty aids, which is adjacent to the pharmacy counter, is arranged in low 5-foot-high gondolas to "open up" the counter area. HBA footage in stores with prescription sections is at least 225 linear feet and has about 5,700 items, some of which are ordered through a drug wholesaler or service merchandisers.

In a fairly typical setup in a remodeled and expanded 43,000-square-foot outlet in Alexandria, Va., HBA is displayed in 249 linear floor feet. The section includes a set of six freestanding 12-foot gondolas, two sections along a perimeter wall, two sections on the front and side of the pharmacy counter and one side of a facing gondola for cosmetics and feminine hygiene.

HBA Buyer rick Clarke says the pharmacy departments, headed by Murhl Flowers, provide a lot of input on what items are handled, especially in the remedies section.

Over 100 of the division's stores now have scanners, so Clarke, along with other buyers, can call for scanning reports to monitor item and category movement.

While HBA is always adjacent to the prescription counter, its configuration varies from store to store. Burdette says that while there is a basic plan, it has to be flexible in layout because many superstores (six out of 18) are remodels, which are notoriously difficult to merchandise. Even new stores, he points out, vary in size, shape and products and services handled and the installation of a new product line or service--such as a videocassette rental center--can cause layout or space allocation changes. "We're no different than any other department," says Burdette. "We have to be flexible, adaptable to change."

Burdette says HBA is number one in non-foods priority. "It's by far the most heavily advertised non-foods category and is attractive to all customers regardless of demographics. It attains a 'professional' drugstore status in superstores with its prescription counter relationship and its broad variety." And, he says, "It's very profitable and productive in return on investment."

He says the division's goal for HBA in superstores is 8% to 10% of sales not including pharmacy volume. "We have some stores up to 8% now," Burdette says, "so the high superstore average is not unrealistic."

One of the HBA product categories being emphasized is cosmetics. "We haven't gone overboard," says Burdette, noting that the sections, housed in black and silver fixtures, extend an average of 20 feet to 28 feet in most superstores and 36 feet in newer installations. "We're looking for profit and ROII productivity as well as toward building up a growing category with a lot of potential," he says.

A typical brand selection includes Cover Girl, Maybelline, Natural Wonder, Max Factor, HAzel Bishop, Cutex, L'erin. Quencher and Sally Hansen. Zuri, an ethnic line, is found in some stores. Other brands, such as Aziza, get space in larger, 60,000-square-foot superstores where cosmetics departments are as big as 50 feet.

Vitamins and supplements, another growing category, typically receives 20 to 24 feet in shelving fronting the pharmacy counter. This setup usually includes 4 feet for diet aids. Explaining vitamins' excellent position in layout and its space allocation, Burdette says the category is particularly profitable and benefits from tis proximity to the pharmacy counter "where the pharmacist can answer questions."

Foot care, which had only a row of pegged items a few years ago, has bloosomed into a 4-foot section of its own. Similarly sized family planning sections, including male contraceptives, will be appearing in most superstores, according to Burdette. Most superstore first-aid sections include 4 feet of elastic bandages. Eye care, following the boom in contact lens solutions, usually has a 4-foot section of its own and displays about 90 items.

To give HBA added promotional support, the variety department has two new fixtures, suitable for conventional stores as well as superstores: a round barrel-like fixture and a rectangular 4-fot by 5-foot display table with three shelves on a blue plastic molded base.

Greeting cards and magazines and books are the heavy hitters in the Safeway division's superstores. Cards in up-front boutiques are given as much as 2,000 square feet (240 linear feet) in the very largest units. Smaller up-front shops predominate, however, along with in-line sections averaging around 52 feet.

Magazine and book sections also vary substantially in size. In Safeway's largest store, in Greenbelt, Md., there is a 1,350-square-foot bookstore, complete with a large offering of discounted hardcover best sellers. There are 14 bookstores in total, although some are set in-line rather than in a boutique arrangement.

Colleen Vermillion, who oversees direct delivery, says she's working with the publications suppliers to add "creativity" to the book area. "Magazines can move along pretty well on their own steam," she says, "but with books you need more creativity in signing, promotion and display." One project will be suggesting books as presents for Mother's and Father's Day and Christmas.

At any rate, she says, customers have responded very well to expanded cards and books sections, and these high margin sections, which receive outside service, are particularly profitable.

While hardware has been cut back sharply, housewares continues to maintain a strong presence in the superstores. Including the big placement given plastics, housewares extends up to 72 linear floor feet in larger stores.

Toys consist of peg-type items, children's books and crayons and related items. Packaged products such as games have been virtually eliminated in favor of the faster turning items, which average 12 to 16 feet of display. In many stores baby needs have been increased in space. Disposable diapers are part of non-foods in this division.

School supplies average 18 to 28 feet and include a selection of office supplies provided by an outside vendor. Automotive runs 15 to 24 feet. Wearing apparel has been restricted to mostly pantyhose and socks as men's and boys' underwear is being discontinued. Light bulbs, pet supplies and batteries (the latter being expanded to 8 feet) are also well represented.

Among all general merchandise categories, photo finishing has shown the biggest sales gains. One-day service, double prints, Kodak paper, choice of glossy or silk finish and a promotional strip in every non-foods ad have done the trick, says Burdette. Self-service pickup of finished film has also helped, he says, by removing the wait to pick up finished photos at the service counter.
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Title Annotation:supermarkets
Author:Snyder, Glenn
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Aug 1, 1984
Previous Article:"A better way to do business." (uniform communications standards and grocery trade)
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