Category Advisor: Front End General Merchandise: Pfizer

Historically, the front end -- a valuable parcel of real estate to any retailer -- has been left up to magazine, food, beverage and candy/gum/mint manufacturers, with limited focus on the more fragmented general merchandise categories such as lip care, hand sanitizers and other everyday products. In addition, managing front end general merchandise has proved to be a challenge due to the lack of data and lack of unique UPC codes in many cases.

Over the last year, Pfizer Consumer Health, maker of leading brands Chapstick, Centrum, Advil and Robitussin, in partnership with Edgewood Consulting Group, committed to, and invested in, developing a cohesive leadership strategy for front end general merchandise.

The first step was to understand the importance of general merchandise on the front end. Although food and beverage are still the volume leaders, from a shopper perspective, the team learned that GM has an 86 percent shopper penetration rate on the front end, just below the 90 percent for front end food items. Lack of a GM strategy was resulting in lower conversion and lost sales.

The second step was to understand the different purchase drivers of the front end through proprietary shopper research identifying those GM products that are truly impulse versus the many expected and normally purchased items.

The final step was to evaluate best practice merchandising dynamics per class of trade and then customize these for retailers, identify the right brands that belong, and recommend the right items to merchandise.

In addition to bringing new thinking to the front end category, Pfizer sponsored a cutting-edge shopper research study geared to understanding front end shoppers’ general attitudes in combination with actual GM front end shopping experiences.

The company’s recommendations are currently being tested or are rolling out at multiple retailers across the country.

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