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By Tammy Mastroberte
Getting customers into the store and increasing total rings once they are there remains a struggle in the current economy, and soaring gas prices are not helping. It's no secret consumers are consolidating trips to the store, and some convenience stores are capitalizing on this trend by providing products usually bought at a grocery store for those customers filling up their tank.
In late August, Tom Gerrity, director of processed foods in 7-Eleven's Washington region, told The Washington Post the company was experiencing more customers "buying products that would typically be purchased at a supermarket or club store."
7-Eleven frozen food sales grew 7 percent, and ready-to-eat meals increased by 9 percent in the Washington D.C. area, Gerrity said. Opportunity lies in stocking the top brands for categories such as health and beauty care (HBC), cleaning products, frozen foods and pet products, to make the most of the space allotted for these segments in the store.
But relying on wholesalers or distributors can limit retailers to only the products those wholesalers offer -- which might not be the overall top sellers, just the top sellers out of the brands they carry.
Convenience Store News gathered data on the top-selling products in these categories -- as well as the top selling brands in each product category -- in grocery, drug and mass merchandising stores, excluding Wal-Mart, allowing convenience stores to see what customers are buying most.
Sorting through data provided by Information Resources Inc. (IRI) for the last 52 weeks ending July 13, 2008, CSNews pulled the top selling categories in terms of dollar sales for HBC, cleaning products, pet products and frozen foods, and looked at the top brands for each product within the category.
Health & Beauty Care
The No. 1 category in HBC at drug, grocery and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) is cold and allergy sinus tablets, with private label topping the brand list -- showing consumers are not as brand loyal in this category as others. In fact, private label dollar sales totaled $550,112,100, while the No. 2 brand, Claritin, brought in $150,145,300, followed by Mucinex, Claritin D and Zyrtec, all of which must be kept behind the counter and require an ID and signature to sell.
Soap is the No. 2 top-selling category in terms of dollar sales for the HBC segment, which is broken down into various sub-segments -- deodorant bar soap, hand sanitizers, heavy-duty cleaner, liquid body wash, liquid hand soap and non-deodorant bar soap. The only segment showing non-brand loyalty among these is hand sanitizers, with private label topping the list. Irish Spring is the most preferred deodorant bar soap, Lava heavy-duty hand cleaner, Dove Liquid body wash and Dove non-deodorant bar soap top the other segments.
Taking third, fourth and fifth place as top-selling HBC categories are gastrointestinal tablets, toothpaste and sanitary napkins/tampons, respectively. In the toothpaste category, Crest Whitestrips is the top seller for bleaching and whitening, and the Crest brand also takes the top two spots for toothpaste with Crest Whitening Plus Scope and Crest Original.
While Always and Kotex are the top brands in sales for sanitary napkins/liners, Tampax Pearl and Tampax Original are the top-selling tampon brands, followed by Playtex, Kotex and private label.
From laundry detergent to cleaning cloths, this section is a profitable one for drug, grocery and mass merchandisers, and by stocking the top products, c-stores can cash in on it as well.
When washing clothes, consumers' first choice for a liquid or powder laundry detergent is Tide, the top-selling brand in both sub-categories, while Purex and All are the second and third brand for liquid, and Gain and Arm & Hammer are second and third for powder. Dryel is No. 1 for packet/bar laundry detergent, followed by Dry Cleaner's Secret and Zote.
Pine Sol All Purpose cleaner leads the pack for best-selling all purpose cleaners, followed by Lysol, Clorox Clean Up, Mr. Clean and Fabuloso, respectively, and the non-abrasive tub/tile cleaner with the most in dollar sales is Scubbing Bubbles. Tilex, Lysol, Comet and another Tilex brand round out the list of the top five brands in the segment.
The third largest category in cleaning supplies is household cleaner cloths, while furniture polish and floor cleaners/wax removers follow in fourth and fifth place. Clorox, Lysol and private label cleaning cloths are the top-selling brands in the cloth category, and Pledge, Old English and Endust top the furniture polish brand list. Floor cleaners/wax removers show Swiffer Wet Jet, Orange Glo and Mop & Glo as top sellers in terms of dollar sales.
In the four categories tracked by IRI in terms of pet products, dog food is No. 1, followed by cat food, pet supplies and cat/dog litter -- and private label plays a big role in the top five brands in most of these categories.
For the dog biscuits/treats subcategory, the Milkbone brand placed No. 1 and No. 5 on the list, and private label ranks second. While Iams leads as the preferred brand for dry dog food, private label is also the No. 2 brand in this segment, followed by Purina at the third and fourth spot and Pedigree at No. 5. And for semi-moist dog food, Purina Moist & Meaty is the top brand, followed by private label. Pedigree takes the first, second and fifth spots for wet dog food.
The pet supplies category is broken down into dog/cat needs, non-dog/cat pet food and rawhide dog chews. Topping the list for all three categories is private label, showing these categories do not have strong brand loyalty. For dog/cat needs, Van Ness is the No. 2 selling brand, and for non-dog/cat Kaytee takes the second spot. Hartz ranks No. 2 for rawhide dog chews.
Private label is once again at the top of the list for cat/dog litter, followed by Fresh Step, which also takes the fifth spot. But when it comes to cat food, private label is nowhere to be found. Whiskas Temptations cat snacks, Friskies cat snacks, Purina Whisker Lickens Crunchy Lovers, Pounce and Goodlife Recipe round out the top five, respectively, in this segment.
Dinner entrees and pizza lead the way as the most popular items in the frozen foods freezer case for drug store, grocers and mass merchandisers in terms of dollar sales -- and handheld is the biggest seller, followed single-serve entrees and multi-serve.
Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets hold the No. 1 and No. 2 positions with the most dollar sales in handheld entrees, and in the multi-serve category, Stouffers is the preferred favorite, and Bertolli and private label brands come in second and third. Stouffers also leads the single-serve section, followed by Weight Watchers Smart Ones, Banquet, Stouffers Lean Cuisine and Marie Callenders, respectively.
Next in terms of dollar sales for the frozen food categories is pizza, which includes pizza and pizza crusts/dough. Di Giorno is the top item with $493,402,000 in sales, and its nearest competitor in terms of dollar sales is Red Baron with $297,535,300 in sales. Tombstone takes third place, and private label ranks No. 4. The fifth spot goes to Freschetta. Looking at pizza dough, a much smaller subcategory, Joseph is the top item.
The third largest category in frozen foods is plain vegetables, and breakfast food and appetizers/snack rolls rank fourth and fifth. The majority of sub-segments within plain vegetables show private label as the top brand, followed by Birds Eye as the second brand of choice -- frozen carrots are the only segment where Green Giant ranks second rather than Birds Eye. Additionally, the largest seller in this category is mixed vegetables, followed by beans, corn, broccoli, peas and carrots, respectively.
In the frozen breakfast segment, entrees, handheld foods and waffles rake in the most sales, and for frozen appetizers and snack rolls, Totinos Pizza rolls, TGI Friday's frozen appetizers and Bagel Bites top the list of favorites.
Frozen pretzels and frozen breaded vegetables are also popular. Super Pretzel is the brand of choice, falling in three spots, and private label as well Kim and Scotts brands make the top five.
Green Giant Giant Bites are No. 1 for frozen breaded vegetables, which is the third most popular category under frozen appetizers. Pictsweet and Veggie Patch also make the cut, along with private label and Stilwell brands.