Cross-Examining Cross-Promotions

Published in CSP Daily News

HBC opportunities for convenience store retailers

By  Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

CHICAGO -- Tums or Zantac paired with ginger ale. Maybe Advil Congestion Relief or Alka-Seltzer Plus with orange juice--placed on sleek merchandisers affixed to the cold-vault handle or window. While cross-category promotions are not beyond the realm of possibility, it hasn’t been a technique c-store retailers have regularly implemented to increase sales of over-the-counter products.

Susan Viamari, editor of Times and Trends for Chicago-based IRI, believes cross promotions involving HBC could be a viable opportunity in c-stores--particularly considering other unlikely cross-promotions that have seen the light of day.

Viamari and her team recently completed a comprehensive report on the c-store channel titled “Keep the Core, Appeal to More.” The group did not directly address HBC, but Viamari shed some light in an interview with CSP Daily News.

“In my experience, I have never seen HBC cross-merchandised in c-stores. They need to throw some products up there and say, ‘We carry shampoos and lotions.’ Maybe put shampoo or conditioner in with another non-HBC category, or place antacid tablets near the gum or mints, and offer a discount,” said Viamari. “I have never seen a whole lot of marketing muscle behind HBC, but I think they need to elevate it, and they can start by promoting it.”

Viamari said access to scan data and other analytics can be the gateway to unlocking some potential campaigns and then executing them. “C-stores have to look more closely at the shopper market basket to determine that this consumer buys a carbonated soda and mints together 50% of the time they are in the store,” she said. “This granular knowledge means they can think about expanding a department here, even contracting it with another HBC product.”

Lisa Dell’Alba, president of retailer Square One Markets Inc., Bethlehem, Pa., said HBC is not a segment that’s easily promotable. “If I don’t have a headache, I’m probably not going to buy it in the c-store,” she told CSP Daily News. “If there was such a thing as a ‘planned emergency’ purchase, you might have some wiggle room for these types of opportunities.”

Seasonal marketing is gold to retailers, and one type of product under the HBC umbrella that has a definitive seasonal cycle is allergies. Dell’Alba said this lends itself to creating if not a cross promotion, at least a marketing campaign around allergy season. “Put a small display of your branded allergy meds at your valuable counter space. I have not seen anyone actually yet try or succeed with this type of promotion,” she said.