It should be no surprise that the term “general merchandise” can be used to describe a large variety of products and categories. Equally large, however, is the opportunity general merchandise can provide a store if properly stocked, maintained and marketed.
Like all retail, the first factor in determining the success of a product is ensuring there’s a demand. One of the best, and safest, ways to do that is to focus on trending products. Data is your friend – when it shows there’s an opportunity, there’s an opportunity.
We’ve been keeping an eye on three specific areas of general merchandise that show significant promise to retailers: mobile accessories, Internet-themed toys and marijuana accessories. Here’s why.
Mobile accessories are a no brainer. According to the CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2017, over 80 per cent of Canadians have a mobile phone – many of whom have experienced that feeling of low-battery-panic and can attest to the motivation to purchase the first charger you see.
But over the past year or so, we’ve noticed a micro-trend within the category. Consumers are increasingly looking at bin products as lower quality – and unfit for their stylish and expensive mobile device. Instead, consumers have developed the belief that carded stock is a better choice and are willing to pay more for the perceived benefit.
The type of connection is as important as its packaging. While Apple’s Lightning cable represented 69 per cent of overall unit volume over the last 12 months ending May’18, USB C unit sales grew 264 per cent and now make up 10 per cent of the overall market. The Micro USB format is showing decline, down 14 per cent over the same period, but micro USB still represents 15 per cent of unit sales in the category. (Source: NPD Group Retail Tracking Service).
Identifying and acting on trends like this can perfectly position your store to take advantage of the market.
There’s more to it than just cables and chargers, of course. Wireless charging is up-and-coming, and consumers are going to expect to find affordable options just about everywhere they look. It’s not just wireless charging, either – wireless headphones have become a very big deal. In fact, Bluetooth headphones outsold wired headphones in the first quarter of 2018 (Source: NPD Group Retail Tracking Service). While consumers don’t want to be attached to their headphones, they are increasingly wanting to attach their phone to their car. Vehicle mounts and phone holders are on the rise with consumers and showing promise for retailers.
While most of us may still prefer coming home and turning on the television, children have completely different viewing habits: they’re increasingly watching YouTube. This form of entertainment is influencing consumer habits, with new toys based on YouTube content being released at an increasingly fast pace. This trend is only going to grow and represents an opportunity to appeal to younger customers and families in a unique way.
Kids aren’t the only ones pleased by the right piece of general merchandise. As our society becomes increasingly busy, adults are looking for ways to help find balance and release. One product that’s growing in popularity is the relaxation ball, which is becoming a desktop staple. Manufacturers are producing them in a variety of different looks and feels to help ensure there’s an option for everyone.
The latest upcoming trend is a big one: marijuana accessories. With the official legalization date of October 17th recently announced, retailers should start preparing for a whole new, untapped opportunity with products ranging from ashtrays and rolling papers to stash tins and grinders. The opportunity, however, does come with a challenge: the perception of your store. As marijuana becomes more and more de-stigmatized it may not matter, but at least at the outset it’s worth working to understand your customers and how they feel about the change in law and availability. Some retailers have chosen to position these products behind the desk, while others have them at the cash desk or on the floor.
Finding the right trends, and then stocking your store with the products is only half the battle. Things move fast now – faster than ever. What’s working today, might not work tomorrow. That’s why it’s integral that you rotate your inventory, and ensure you have the newest, best products. That’s what your customers want, after all.
If you take one thing away from this article, it’s this: when it comes to general merchandise, a general approach won’t work. You need to be plugged in and aware of the data. You need to know the trends and act fast. You need to be nimble and decisive. General merchandise offers a clear opportunity, and with a focused and strategic approach, you can make the most of it.