General Merchandise/HBC

Exclusive: Catching a Trend, the Key to GM

Mapco snags general-merchandise customers with good timing

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -- Capturing the general-merchandise category means capturing trends at the right time. It’s a skill Mapco Mart has honed over the years and is using to full advantage today.

Mapco Mart convenience store

“You need to be an early adopter in general merchandise,” Ana de la Torre, category manager for tobacco and general merchandise for the 470-unit Mapco Mart, Brentwood, Tenn., told CSP Daily News. “Add products to your current assortment in order to ride the ‘trend wave,’ such as ‘Duck Dynasty’ products and camouflage items.”

However, if you don’t catch the wave in time, you’ll be stuck with inventory. “If you feel it may be too late, it’s better not to get in on an item,” de la Torre said.

The retail arm of Delek Holdings Inc., Mapco allows 10% of inline space for general merchandise (GM), with added floor racks for some programs.

How does de la Torre discover customer trends? “I go to a lot of shows, but mostly I visit other retailers--not competitors, necessarily,” she said. “If I don’t see ‘the latest item’ in Walmart, dollar stores, Big Lots or Target, I don’t carry it.”

Because the drawing power of a GM item can be tricky, she said, retailers should have an exit strategy planned going in. Some manufacturers, for example, offer product guarantees for the return of items unsold. But, she said, this can be an operational burden.

For St. Patrick’s Day items, de la Torre marks down any related items by 50% on March 18. The week after, prices drop by 75%; the week after that, leftovers are written off. “That’s the way I build my sales model going in on something like this,” she said.

Seasonal products define in/out in the GM category. Mapco had great success, de la Torre said, during the 2013 winter holiday season with products such as firewood, seasonal gear and a toy program. But as the season or holiday ends, the theme for retailers has to be “move ’em out.”

Mapco also has had success with NFL and collegiate T-shirts and hats during sports seasons. These trendy items, de la Torre said, are displayed on racks around the store in season and moved to secondary positions in off-season, where there is still some demand.

Some items are constant rather than trendy. Those constants, such as USB products, inhabit a permanent place in the store, either inline or on a spinner in high-traffic areas or aisles near related products.

For more examples of capitalizing on general merchandise, watch for the May issue of CSP magazine.

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