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With baby category sales trending downward across traditional grocery for a number of years, it's no surprise that many grocery retailers have relegated their assortment to fill-in only—or worse, given up on Baby entirely to make room for more profitable categories.
It's an obvious reaction to a category slump, but in this case, one that could cost you sales not just in the baby category, but in the store overall, maintains Kimberly-Clark’s Vice President of Customer Development Brian Giroux. "We know when you see category growth in baby, you're also going to see overall store growth," Giroux says. "Not only is there potential for the basket to double in price when you're dealing with baby category purchases, but when you support parents in the right way, you have the potential for a lifelong customer."
According to Giroux, that support all comes down to making new parents feel more confident about the choices they make for their babies—something that becomes even more important as Millennials have babies, which is happening later in life. Those Millennials are shopping for their kids the way they’ve been shopping for themselves—learning all they can about the products available and investing in healthier, more natural, and more sustainable options.
In fact, Giroux says that “58 percent of adults say the most important thing to them is being a good parent, so they will splurge here because they feel it’s the right thing.”
IGA retailers can leverage that information and speak directly to their parent shoppers by upgrading their baby aisle for today’s parents. In the recent webinar, Driving Sales in the Baby Category, Giroux and IGA CEO John Ross discussed how retailers can better connect with the shopper and drive sales in Baby.
The first step to successfully appealing to your parent shoppers is to ensure you have the right assortment, which starts with knowing your store’s demographic. “If you’ve got a lower income neighborhood,” Giroux explains, “then obviously building your portfolio around some of the lower tier diapers makes sense. In our case, Snug & Dry is a great example of a Tier 4 diaper, which is a great performing diaper but it’s not intended to have all of those higher, elevated, premium attributes but it has a very competitive price point for those consumers.”
That said, Giroux stresses the importance of catering to parents' changing values (like those new Millennial parents), which means including a mix of high-performance diapers and premium, free-of diapers. Offering a higher quality selection goes a long way toward instilling confidence in their choices. Products like Huggies® Little Snugglers and Little Movers provide both budget-friendly and premium options, which is a good mix for an average neighborhood.
Finally, he also recommends expanding your offerings from small bag packs to larger, corrugated boxes. By offering the larger packs, shoppers no longer think of your store as a fill-in trip for a quick pack of diapers, but as a fill-up trip where they can get a couple weeks’ or even a month's worth of diapers.
From budget-friendly to premium products, help the shopper decide which product is the best fit for them and their baby. For example, Giroux says that Millennial parents are potty training their kids earlier than previous generations. With that information, IGA retailers can stock their shelves with both diapers and training pants—and reap the rewards of what Giroux says is a double purchase of the two products during the potty training phase.
Another opportunity is with overnight diapers. As any parent knows, even fully potty-trained kids have the occasional accident at night, which makes overnight training pants an important basket-add. While this add-on isn't a focal product in the aisle, by keeping it stocked, retailers retain that shopper’s business by preventing them from going elsewhere for that particular product, and therefore increases the likelihood that they will make other baby aisle purchases at the store.
Kimberly-Clark® has provided a diagram of their recommended diaper shelving principles, which you can implement at your store. Blocking the shelves vertically by brand and sub-brand and leading the ends with the highest premium products, then flowing towards value in the center is an effective shelving strategy.
IGA retailers have a great opportunity to reach new parents in a creative way through in-store merchandising and ads. Giroux says that there is significant pressure on parents as they want to do everything right. “Finding a partner who can help them answer different questions, help them work through challenges, is very meaningful but also builds that long-term relationship with this shopper,” he says.
According to Ross, building that relationship means finding ways to communicate solutions to common parenting concerns through digital content—like social media and the IGA website—as well as in store.
"IGA's National Digital Ad has enabled companies like Kimberly-Clark to help our retailers compete with big chains by offering great promotions to our shoppers," says Ross. "But we win these shoppers for life when help them be more confident about their decisions overall. That means getting to know them, understanding both their concerns and their values, and then becoming their trusted source for information on these products."
For example, with organic sales up double-digits across IGA stores according to Ross, it’s clear that shoppers are investing in better-for-you and better-for-the-planet products. Highlighting the plant-based diaper assortment through social media posts and in-store displays would attract a lot of eyes to your baby aisle. Even more? Ross suggests an in-store demonstration of the recently-launched Huggies® Special Delivery diapers, allowing parents to feel just how soft plant-based diapers can be.
While much of the baby aisle focuses on diapers, there’s a tremendous opportunity to drive sales in baby wipes. According to Giroux, in this $1.7 billion category, 70 percent of wipes sold are for non-diaper use, but we’re not giving them enough merchandising opportunities. Here are a few quick merchandising options:
Remember, parents aren't the only shoppers purchasing wipes. Many non-diapering parents and adults expect to find wipes in other high-traffic areas, like those mentioned above, as they use wipes for various occasions.
What are IGA’s next steps to driving sales in the baby category?
As is the case with each of IGA category redos, we’re going to choose a store to partner with Kimberly-Clark® to serve as a merchandising prototype. Interested? Email Heidi Huff to submit your store for consideration.
From there, IGA will create a strategy brief on how IGA will win in the baby category, build new visual merchandising around information for shoppers, create a content library for social media and print ads, and do a baby category redo in the selected store—then share the results along with a step-by-step process for increasing sales in the category.