While toys and gifts may not make up a huge percentage of a c-store's regular sales, these impulse purchases can often add valuable pounds to a shopper's basket and as such can become great little earners that can't be ignored.
Pocket money-priced children's toys sell well all year round, and particularly well at special times of the year such as Halloween and the summer holidays.
Many suppliers work on a sale or return basis, reducing the risk for retailers. B&J Toys is one such supplier. It provides products with display stands to about 10,000 retailers throughout the UK. Director Bill Lynch explains: "We offer retailers a large range of pocket-money toys and deliver across the UK from 28 depots. There's no need for retailers to order the products themselves as the promotional stands are restocked and updated by our reps, who make monthly store visits.
"The average space set aside is usually about a metre and carousel stands are available as we understand space is often limited."
The sale or return nature of the business means it is ideal for convenience retailers, according to Lynch: "Because the products are all sale or return there is no risk involved and retailers can typically make 36% profit on return."
He adds: "There are particular times of the year such as Halloween when we sell a lot of products like costumes, but our general year-round range and other special displays including Christmas and Easter mean retailers can always make a good return.
"We can also change the stock to suit location and sales. For example, retailers in popular holiday destinations often choose more outdoor toys."
For retailer Dennis Williams of Broadway Convenience in Edinburgh, children's toys are winners. He believes that by stocking a basic range that is updated throughout the year his store becomes not only popular with parents and children but his sales also benefit. "B&J Toys supplies us with products all year round," he says. "We have special stands for Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's and Father's Day, Halloween and Christmas, as well as a general year-round stand. It all sells well and I'd recommend all retailers consider stocking at least a small range. Most products are priced between 99p and £4.99, so it's very affordable."
Outdoor summer toys provide Dennis with a good return as do Halloween goods. He adds: "The summer items sell well and in the 23 years we've been here, Halloween has grown a lot. The toys and costumes might not make a huge section but we've got nothing to lose by stocking them on sale or return. It's important to make the most out of every different occasion throughout the year."
Another supplier offering a full sale or return service is the AVS Group. The group provides items such as pens, fashion accessories, travel mugs and flasks as well as a range of children's lines. Sales director Paul Bentley says: "We offer a fully managed service and conduct a full merchandising service for each new promotion. We provide eye-catching counter-top display units as well as in-store promotional bays. Retailers are guaranteed maximum return for minimal shop space and we ensure multiple promotional opportunities to cater for seasonal requirements."
Home entertainment such as DVDs, CDs, games and books can also lift sales at certain times of the year. ChoicesUK sales director Rob Standen explains: "Home entertainment products can really boost sales during key promotional periods such as Christmas and Valentine's Day. Non-food gifting is very important for the convenience sector as it provides incremental revenue, increases transactions and basket spend during key seasons and helps retailers compete with the multiples who deliver a one-stop shop solution."
ChoicesUK currently runs promotions on budget DVDs, CDs and books and aims to add PS2, XBox and PC games to its portfolio and develop its books offer further. Standen adds: "Our standard book promotion is a 'two for £5' offer with strong titles and authors, and offers retailers a profit margin of up to 44%. We've recently added a children's book promotion, which is guaranteed to be hugely popular. The activity books have a rrp of £1 and a 30% profit margin for retailers."
Standen says it's vital that any gift promotion is properly merchandised, however much space can be spared. He says: "We offer eye-catching free-standing display units for floor space or shelf trays for promotional gondola ends, plus counter-top stands for additional impact. The location within the store is also important and we would always suggest that retailers place their gift products near the counter in a highly visible area."
Standen points out that it's also important to maintain a gift offering during non-seasonal times "as consumers are always buying gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or to say thank-you".
Unilever gifting business team leader Adam Briggs agrees: "Opportunities outside Christmas, like summer and travel, birthdays and thank-yous, are areas showing huge growth potential."
As such, Unilever recently introduced a range of gift packs across its Lynx, Dove, Impulse and Sure brands. Briggs adds: "Our gift packs tap into this opportunity by offering various flexible gifts that can be used for various occasions throughout the year."
Briggs believes the gift packs represent a real opportunity for retailers and adds: "Retailers can highlight them at particular calendar occasions such as Mother's Day, Fathers Day or back to college, but have no worries of residuals. The range should perform particularly well in the summer as many packs are designed to target trips away. We also expect to see consumers buying the packs as gifts for themselves or as simply functional purchases."
The evidence is that by paying some attention to the non-food gifting category, convenience retailers can take a slice of a market that would otherwise be spent elsewhere.