REX Awards 2019: General Merchandise

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REX Awards 2019: General Merchandise

Figuring out the ideal assortment for any category is part science and part intuition, with a healthy dose of flexibility thrown in. As a result, products and categories that once were overlooked within some retail formats now are being considered as vehicles to drive growth.

When it comes to general merchandise, some would have retailers believe such complex tools as sophisticated algorithms are the single best way to determine your customer-driven strategy. Others said the best assortments come when retailers know that consumers want products to make their lives and daily tasks easier and more enjoyable — as well as a little more efficient.

This month, DSN recognizes the general merchandise companies that have taken consumers’ needs to heart. In addition to launching on-trend products, these companies are among those that understand how to best work with their retail partners to differentiate themselves from other merchants.

Here are DSN’s Retail Excellence Awards - General Merchandise winners:

American Greetings
Becoming one of the top greeting card companies requires an industry-leading portfolio, with a blend of deep consumer insights, diverse cultural messaging and an understanding of cross-generational sending — something American Greetings knows well.

Officials at American Greetings consider themselves experts in meaningful connections. By differentiating their products from the competition, they said, the company continues to earn high marks for its quality, comprehensive offering and top-level retail partnerships. “By applying our consumer insights into our brand portfolio, we’ve continued to unlock the preferences of each generation and serve the increasingly complex needs of today’s diverse and modern consumer base,” Steve Laserson, senior vice president of North American sales at the Cleveland-based company, said.

A number of ways that American Greetings is winning at retail starts with attracting shoppers to the greeting card aisle. The company’s research showed that 77% of impulse purchases are triggered by seeing the card department. To address this, American Greetings continues to create distinctive products, as well as help retailers develop well-positioned, prominent departments and easy-to-find cards, all of which is resulting in more consumers shopping the card aisle.

“Those same consumers are looking for the opportunity to acknowledge diversity and individuality to empower the card recipient, so we’re responding with fun yet innovative cards that celebrate what makes each of us unique, Laserson said.

This spring, American Greetings released Music + Motion + More!, a card line that pairs bold audio with the latest motion technology for a new card experience that captures the element of surprise. “In an effort to provide new-to-the-world innovation to cards, American Greetings continues to develop fun and exciting products that deliver on engagement while generating productivity,” Laserson said.

Calico Brands
Ontario, Calif.-based Calico Brands is best known for its array of lighter products offered in a range of designs, colors and styles. The company’s Scripto brand includes innovative multipurpose lighters with a variety of features, including squeeze grip ignition, adjustable flame, wind-resistant torch flame, flexible nozzle, and a refillable, folding mechanism. Calico Brands also has a wide variety of sparkwheel and electronic disposable pocket lighters.

The company’s product innovation and technological advancements can be seen in its new Scripto Ultima pocket lighter. Offered in a number of colors and wrap designs, Ultima has up to 3,000 lights on full-size lighters, greater fuel capacity compared with the leading brand, a premium sparkwheel design that allows for comfortable ignition, visible fuel supply, adjustable flame, and is made with polycarbonate material able to withstand impact and high heat, company officials said.

The company also has launched its Scripto EZ-Squeeze multipurpose lighter line, the first squeeze grip ignition lighter that features new adult friendly squeeze technology and a refillable tank. In addition to these features, its torch flame model stays lit in windy conditions.

Chase Products
Founded in 1927, Chase Products produces a variety of products, ranging from household to personal care, but it is perhaps most known for its full range of private label and branded cleaning products. Armed with more than 90 years of experience and knowledge, the company’s products were created to meet retailers’ and consumers’ ever-changing needs.

The privately held company focuses on sustainability and constantly refines its formulas, propellants, packaging and procedures with this in mind. It also is vertically integrated, which officials said allows it to handle every aspect of manufacturing to insure its mission of producing cost-effective, quality-driven products always is met.

Among the products the Broadview, Ill.-based company offers are a line of green cleaners sold under its Champion Sprayon Green World N label. The line includes a glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, stainless steel cleaner and polish, bathroom and tile cleaner, furniture cleaner and polish, as well as a dust and mop treatment. All meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements for Safer Choice labeling, are made from biodegradable ingredients, were not tested on animals, and are in recyclable containers. They are free of harsh chemicals and leave no residue or fumes.

“Champion Sprayon Green World N products are the first full line of Safer Choice-labeled green cleaners and polishes with a continuous spray system. These green products use natural nitrogen propellant, and the Safer Choice label means that every ingredient in the product has been reviewed by EPA scientists,” Anthony Albazi, corporate sales director, said.

Designer Greetings
Designer Greetings, a family-owned and -operated company founded in 1982, produces one of the most extensive greeting card lines in the industry. The Edison, N.J.-based company’s card lines include more than 22,000 designs in a range of styles from traditional and humorous to sympathy.

Designer Greetings’ new line, called “A Little Salty,” is designed to meet a perennially high demand for humorous cards with edgy, topical, political and trendy humor. Each card comes with a matching signature envelope that adds a playful finishing touch, company officials said.

Designer Greetings also offers a gift wrap line, Glitterwrap, which includes gift bags, roll wrap, flat wrap, bows, ribbon and stickers. The company also produces packaged invitations and thank you notes, as well as boxed notes.

Later this year, the company will be releasing a new line of stationery products, including journals and datebooks inspired by Designer Greetings’ 2018 acquisition of Madison Park Greetings.

“Data has shown that these tactile products are a favorite among the millennial group of purchasers, which is contrary to their thirst for technology,” CFO Dawn Garvey said. In addition to Madison Park Greetings, Designer Greetings has made other strategic business acquisitions with well-known international brands Palm Press and Northern Exposure. Both of these are leaders in the photographic line of greeting cards.

Having your finger on the pulse of what consumers want is one of many reasons Hallmark continues to thrive in an ever-shifting market. Consistently, the company has achieved high scores from U.S. consumers for its on-trend and cutting-edge products.

Its portfolio is one of the largest of any card manufacturer. Each year, Hallmark puts out nearly 10,000 new and redesigned greeting cards. Hallmark cards are sold in more than 40,000 retail outlets nationwide, including food, drug, mass, discount and grocery stores. Globally, its cards are available in more than 30 languages and more