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When Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ Supermarkets decided to overhaul its front end sections, the Southwestern grocer embarked on the project only after a great deal of preparation.
“Three years ago, as we set out to remerchandise the front end, we surveyed all retailers in our market to see what new items/categories they had included in their front ends, and they all were merchandised with the current gum, candy, magazines, general merchandise, HBC and refrigerated beverages,” notes Bashas’ Category Manager Dave Vehon. “The front end purchases are, for the most part, impulse sales of items in a specific price range. Since convenience stores base their merchandising on impulse, we studied items that they had and we did not. Items like small-bag salty snacks, peg-bag candy, breakfast bars, sandwich crackers, bag crackers, bag snack mixes, sunflower seeds and meat snacks were a void at our front ends. We also noticed that retailers like Target and Walmart devoted shelf space at the entrance to the checkstands to merchandise that would change every two weeks or monthly, [and] that would vary from seasonal candy and snack items to beverages and general merchandise.”
After making these observations, “Bashas’ reduced the space devoted to magazines, sales of which have been declining, and replaced [them] with consumables currently not merchandised,” says Vehon. “These items included peg bags of Chips Ahoy, Cheez-Its, Chex Mix, fruit snacks, nuts, sunflower seeds, meat snacks and cracker items, to name a few. We created shelves at the entrance of each checkstand adjacent to the beverage coolers for promotional merchandise.”
Along with new products, the section got a new look. “We lowered the height of the front end checkstand, allowing our customers better visibility across the front end so they could see what checkstands were in operation,” adds Vehon. “This had a side benefit of helping cashiers see where lines were forming so they could quickly respond and call for additional cashier help.”
Further, the grocer “designed a simple unit for the self-checkout lanes that provided chilled beverages and a limited assortment of snacks and confection,” he recounts.
That level of attention to the front end is necessary, Vehon believes. “Retailers need to constantly monitor the sales of SKUs on the front end to identify the decliners and test more trending items such as better-for-you and healthier options,” he advises. “This not only includes snack items, but also beverages. With the demand growing for nutritional bars and juices on the front end, declining gum, mints, magazines and carbonated soft drinks will go away.”
The reason for this is to engage shoppers, thereby sparking section sales growth. “Space at the front end is premium, and every retailer must maximize the space with items that customers are responding favorably to, based on sales,” he observes. “The only drawback could be potential lost sales as you try to find the right items that will replace the decliners.”
When asked how the new front end has been received by shoppers, Vehon replies: “We believe the change has been favorable for both our customers and store team members. By lowering the height of our checkstands, store members have a better view of customers and their checkout needs. [For shoppers, we] added nonfood, HBC and consumables that did not exist before in this area of the store. Customers have reacted favorably by purchasing more of the new items we’ve introduced in the checkstand area. Since the front end revision, we have realized incremental sales and profits, not to mention monies gained through space placement. A win for customers, suppliers and for our company!”
Going forward, Vehon expects further innovations at checkout, even as some things remain the same. “Not only will the front end still have impulse items such as snacks and beverages, but there may also be interactive devices that help with decision-making, such as ordering dinner while in line,” he predicts. “The front end queue may also be configured differently, making for more impulsive offers prior to checkout.”