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Storage soaring, back-to-school business brisk.

NEW YORK - Most retailers say the storage category is making a healthy recovery from a sluggish spring with robust sales in the back-to-school season.

Retailers who gear their back-to-school selection mainly to college students say business has been brisk.

Tags Hardware, located in the Boston area - a city with a large college population - thrives during the back-to-school season, said Simon Shapiro, president. "It's our Christmas," particularly because all leases in Boston begin on Sept. 1.

Sales at The Container Store are greater than last year's at this time, said buyer Mona Williams. "Our major focus is the older student moving from home. We show them how to organize and maximize the limited space they have in dorm rooms."

Still some retailers noted that the unusually hot weather in late July and early August has delayed the typical seasonal sales spurt. "Early in the game, sales are relatively flat," said a buyer from a major specialty chain.

Promotional products and low-ticket items are showing strength despite the steamy weather, he said.

But the rest of the $1.4 billion wholesale home organization category will riot be heating up until consumers cool down - probably in the last two weeks of August and the beginning of September, the buyer remarked. "Consumers still think it's summer." Sales, albeit delayed, should meet expectations, he commented.

Most retailers are spotlighting storage during this critical season by beefing up advertising for the category, doing more in-store sales, endcapping promotional items and in some cases moving key products to a higher traffic location.

Wal-Mart has shifted some Of its popular storage goods to its "Back-To-School" section, which includes everything from notebooks and thermal lunch bags to Rubbermaid Rough Totes.

Tags Hardware is reaping the benefits of moving its home organization department this year to its main floor, with a sales increase in the category of 139 percent to date, according to Shapiro. The prime location should help during storage's busiest season, he added.

Retailers say back-to-school means back to the basics, with shoe, sweater and under-bed boxes, crates, hangers and stackable containers selling briskly during this period.

"Crates continue to be a performer for back-to-school," noted Ken Nyberg, buyer at Prange Way, a De Pere, Wis.-based discount chain.

Consumers at Bob's Ace Hardware in Rockford, Ill. are responding well to $1 and $2 plastic shoe boxes featured on an endcap, said Janice Westlund, advertising director and storage buyer.

"We'll go through close to 80,000 hangers for the season 10 for $1," Tags' Shapiro said of tubular hanger sales.

In laundry care, the basics rule as well with plastic hampers, ironing boards, drying racks and sorters on sale at most major retailers.

Bigger continues to be better with consumers, said Nyberg of Prange Way, pointing to the well-performing large totes.

Larger totes and lockers with more than 20-gallon capacity have received strong promotional play from many retailers, including mass merchants Kmart, Caldor, Bradlees, Ames and McCrory; home center Rickel; and specialty chain Totally Organized. Plastic drawer systems and clear storage boxes are also strong this time of year, according to retailers.

In the closet category, several vendors are focusing attention on wire over-door shoe racks, wardrobes and wire storage drawer systems.

Elfa's portable dresser and Artwire's Mega Cap organizers have proven winners because they cater well to the needs of students, said Brad Boderman of the Minneapolis-based specialty chain Totally Organized.

Mass retailers, stressing value, are focusing on "your choice" multi-packs for corrugated and vinyl products with popular price points of under $10.
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Title Annotation:storage products category
Author:Hill, Dawn
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Aug 21, 1995
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