How general merchandise completes the P&C package

Cementing convenience stores as a one-stop-shop wouldn’t be capable without the availability of the general merchandise category.

From sunglasses to toys, to smoking and auto accessories, making shoppers aware of the products available is paramount.

As consumers drifted away from heavily populated areas such as supermarkets and shopping centres during the pandemic, they came to the less crowded P&C channel to purchase their everyday items, and in turn witnessed the wide variety of general merchandise available.

Ben Coleman, General Manager of Commercial and E-Commerce at Pacific Optics, said this is a huge opportunity to service customers that have migrated to the channel over the past 12 months, from grocery in particular.

“The challenge with this is making sure they get repetitively led to the channel through above the line marketing, the challenge is in making sure what they see in advertising comes to life in-store.”

Yaniv Peleg, Director of Peleguy Distribution, has also recognised that consumers are visiting smaller, local stores more often instead of big supermarkets and shopping centres.

“We’ve noticed that buyers are exposed to a much wider range of products at P&C stores these days. There’s also a trend of customers spending money happily on things they would not normally get from a convenience store or a petrol station, such as phone chargers with wireless charging technology, bluetooth earphones and gifts, which are usually more expensive than your everyday range.”

Over the summer, Coleman has noticed an uptick of eight per cent in the sale of sunglasses, most likely off the back of marketing investment and better weather as opposed to previous years.

“During summer, sunglasses and headwear are the best performing products given the season and the sunshine we have had this year. The colourful ‘dopamine inducing’ shades have been really well received, particularly by party and festival goers.”

Also noticing a change in consumer preferences over the summer months is Tal Avrahami, Managing Director at Smooth Wholesales, who said they’ve also seen an unprecedented demand for sunglasses.

“We have been inundated with orders, which I guess comes down to quality and price. The last time I checked, our sunglasses were probably one of the best priced in the market without compromising on quality. So, it’s no surprise they’re popular.

“Other products like USB-powered fans, drink bottles, sunscreen, and beach toys are also proving to be incredibly popular with our customers. The busy bees in the office are already putting together some great deals for when the weather gets colder in the coming months, so I’d keep an eye out for that.”

Avrahami believes that as a wholesaler in the P&C channel it is Smooth Wholesales’ job to understand the trends that shape the industry, while also trying to be trend-setters.

“Consumers aren’t as close-minded to new products as some may believe, with a number of non-traditional categories performing well over the last 12 months such as toys and novelty giftware. The demand for Select Footy Cards is also showing that these timeless collectables are more popular than ever.”

Changing landscape

As the cost of living continues to increase, consumers are looking to tighten their purse strings and while this has no doubt led to changes in purchasing habits, it’s the job of wholesalers and suppliers to attempt to offer value where they can and maintain interest in their products.

“With the cost of living going up and up, consumers are becoming more price conscious with their shopping. This aligns to our core mission at Smooth Wholesales, to help our P&C customers meet the demands of their customers. We go above and beyond to find the best deals, from the best manufacturers to bring the best value to the Smooth Wholesales network,” explains Avrahami.

While offering value is critical, it is also important to understand the consumer and Avrahami says that insights are what help drive their business decisions and by sharing them with the customer they can help them make better choices.

“We base all our recommendations on observed results, like an approximate increase of 145 per cent of disposable vapes suggesting that P&C consumers are shifting away from traditional tobacco products to newer options.

“Additionally, we’ve also seen an increase of over 40 per cent in the sales of toys and games around seasonal buying periods, which presents as a great opportunity for stores to be convenient locations for consumers to now buy gifts for friends and family.”

Having effective communication with retailers is important to Peleg, and they spend time educating store managers about which products sell the fastest and advise them to carry back-up stock.

“Some clients are running out of things only a week or two after receiving them, which is rather impressive. We are aware because when clients run out, they call to let us know and then purchase more.”

A trend that Coleman and Pacific Optics have noticed is the introduction of non-MFi (Made for iPhone) products and cheaper technology products into the market, which may be limited in the amount of scrutiny it receives before making its way to a shop shelf.

“We hope this doesn’t devalue the category as a whole for our trade partners or harm the reputation for quality that consumers have learnt is available in the channel. We are also seeing increased demand and acceptance of fast charge and magnetic charging technology as the newer phone models become more common.”

A convenient offer

For Avrahami, P&C is in his blood. His family have been in the industry since the 70s, so it is something he has grown up with his entire life.

“As a company, we pride ourselves on the fact that we’ve been in the same position that a lot of our customers are experiencing, and we understand the difficulties and pain points with running these businesses. It’s the reason we started Smooth Wholesales, because we understand that independent operators and even larger organisations are conscious of the bottom line – that amount that keeps their business going.

“The mission we have here, at Smooth Wholesales, is to help store operators and small business owners in P&C by supplying affordable, high-quality stock and sharing our vast experience and knowledge to maximise their earning potential.”

Avrahami’s father’s words of wisdom “You don’t know, what you don’t know” is what he would say when he was trialling products at his Liberty sites, and this phrase still rings true for Avrahami.

“He believed that if you bring the right products, at the right prices, then you’ll always find a customer for them. That is something we see time and time again within our network of customers who are willing to take calculated risks on products they’ve never tried and seeing remarkable outcomes. P&C customers don’t want to see boring stores with the same old stock, they want to see exciting products at reasonable prices and that’s why our customers trust us to help them boost store sales.”

At Peleguy Distribution, the P&C channel is extremely important to them, as it is the largest sector of their business.

“This industry is where we excel and we aim to help our customers make thousands of dollars in revenue every month. We achieve this by having regular store visits and supplying a large range of products that are in high demand,” says Peleg.

Offering advice to retailers in positioning and selling Peleguy products in-store, Peleg said that retailers must make the shelves attractive and eye-catching, while keeping the products neat and visible.

“Make sure you have reasonable prices to be able to become that regular local store that the customers are happy to come back to. Shelves must be full, always stock up on the more popular products to avoid the shelves looking empty. Don’t be afraid to over-stock on fast moving items, you don’t want to be left without stock and having customers asking for sold out items.”

Avrahami believes that the P&C industry is witnessing a dynamic shift in the design and layout of stores.

“I have seen it at a few of Jasbe Petroleum’s new sites in Victoria, which have successfully merged functionality with aesthetics. This raises the question of how to effectively display and sell products. I believe that a key strategy to boost sales is positioning products in prominent spaces and utilising captivating signage to draw customers’ attention. Additionally, making sure prices are clearly visible will inform customers of potential bargains which, in turn, will keep them coming back to your store.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine.

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