It's a fact of retailing life that some products have to be kept safely behind-the-till or on the counter nearby - high-value items need to be out of reach of shoplifters and age-restricted goods such as tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter medicines and the lottery need to be watched over closely. But retailers still need to ensure these products aren't missed off a shopper's radar.
This till area has become even more important of late since more shoppers now head straight to it
to top up their mobile phones or to pay their bills. One of the key challenges for retailers is to tempt shoppers to buy extra items on impulse.
Retailers Ramesh and Nim Shingadia, who own a Londis store in Southwater, West Sussex, use their till area to maximum effect. The store has been developed using the symbol group's Genesis format, which clearly highlights different sections of the store, and the till area is no exception. It is clearly split into three key areas - alcohol, tobacco and sundries.
Ramesh points out that behind-the-till purchases lead to increased sales in his store, but for this to happen the area has to be easy to navigate. "You need to be very aware of the space you have," he says. "There's space available on the counter and on the wall behind the till, but it's very important the area doesn't look messy.
"The till is a prime area of the store and where things are going to be noticed, so we often place impulse items such as chocolate bars on the counter. It's also a good place to put seasonal lines. We've currently got a range of Halloween-themed children's torches which parents often buy on impulse."
The store's clear layout means shoppers are quick to notice that items such as over-the-counter medicines are kept behind the till, says Ramesh. "Generally, most of our customers know exactly where we keep OTC medicines and I don't think we miss out on any sales. Keeping the medicines in the sundries section also means we can practise responsible selling. We also use blank space on the walls behind the till to put up posters to highlight promotions throughout the store."
Londis retail sales manager Trevor Hicks adds: "The main thing we try to get retailers to do is de-clutter their till areas. One of the main challenges is to get the increasing number of customers who are coming in to pay bills and to top up mobile phones, to pick up a few other items at the same time."
Electronic payment company
E-Pay offers retailers a payment terminal which can top up all UK mobile phone networks. The company provides retailers with a standalone terminal that replaces the need for the old-style scratchcards. E-Pay commercial director Andrew Dellow explains: "Our terminals offer a number of products, but at the same time have a very small footprint so they are ideal for retailers with limited space. And unlike traditional scratchcard top-ups, retailers never run out of stock. There are no set-up costs involved; retailers simply take a percentage of the transaction."
Another group of customers that head straight for the till are the smokers. As well as selling cigarettes, c-stores handle close to 55% of the UK's rolling paper sales, and rolling papers and accessories such as filter tips and rolling machines offer strong margins of more than 50% in many cases. Because of this, avoiding out-of-stocks is vital.
Trade communications manager at Imperial Tobacco, Iain Watkins, says: "Retailers who do not make the best-selling brands and products fully available at all times need to understand what they will lose, both in terms of the tobacco sale itself and the impulse purchases from other categories commonly made by smokers."
However, there's one category that some groups are urging retailers to bring out from behind the till - alcohol. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors recommends retailers stock their spirits close to but not behind the till. Diageo senior category development manager Belinda Hughes adds: "Visibility is one of the main barriers to purchase within the
c-store channel and our research has indicated that up to 25% of the spirits fixture is not visible to shoppers."
She recommends stocking a core range of best-selling brands in key categories, which will help consumers understand the range and drive basket spend.
Keeping high-value items, such as razor blades, behind the till makes sense for a lot of security-conscious retailers. Costcutter rates razor blades as the most sought-after product by shoplifters. But visibility is important so that genuine shoppers don't miss them entirely.
Gillette recently launched its Fusion Power razor, for which four blades retail at £9.99. The company recommends a few key guidelines in order to maximise sales. It advises blocking by brand, placing premium ranges above standard products, displaying shave preparation products close to premium system blades, ensuring full availability and creating a separate section for female blades.
The till area is a good place to stock seasonal goods and at this time of year, with the onset of the darker evenings, torch sales are a good bet for an impulse sale. Sarah Richardson, marketing manager at Energizer, says: "The torch category is significantly seasonal and autumn is a key selling period. Sales are stimulated by the clocks going back and the nights getting darker, as well as occasions such as Bonfire Night." Energizer offers the Impact torch with a rrp of £6.99 and the Hi-Tech LED key ring torch, rrp £5.99.
Small toys also work well as impulse products around the till area, such as Best Years' range of soft toys based on the West End show, Wicked. Once again, though, the key is to avoid clutter.
With Christmas approaching, now is the time to check that your till area is much more than a place for shoppers to queue.
? Place the dispenser in a prime location as most products are bought on impulse
? Keep your dispenser clean and fully stocked
? Always have one of the £100,000 or £250,000 base games available
? Make sure new games receiving television support are displayed
? Tell customers about new games, but also remind them to play the existing ones
? Remember that scratchcard sales will increase with rollovers and superdraws.
Sales tips for condoms
? Double-face on best-sellers. Durex Extra Safe and Fetherlite 3s are the top two products in
? 78% of shoppers name Durex as their first-choice brand.
? Durex recommends stocking a selection from its three categories - extra reassurance, extra feeling and extra pleasure.
? Always make it easier for customers by ensuring high visibility.
? Always replenish in the mornings and before weekends. The most popular times for Durex purchases are at weekends at 2pm.
Source: SSL International