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Article 8By paying attention to what consumers are actually buying in their stores, many big box retailers that previously sought to stock a focused product assortment are shifting their inventories to feature more seemingly mismatched items. Shoppers at Home Depot wanted charcoal to go along with the new grills they had just bought, and laundry detergent to use with their new washer/dryer combo, so the home improvement store has expanded its offerings of such consumer goods.

Other examples may seem even less convergent though. Staples now stocks coffee pods, because office employees and home-based workers rely on their single-serving machines for a caffeine boost. But it also provides personal deodorant and shaving cream. By stocking such items, Staples hopes that people popping in for toner will also appreciate the convenience of purchasing some basic necessities in the same store, rather than visiting another retailer to gather such items.

Another driver of an expanded product assortment is the potential these assortments offer for increasing repeat visits. For example, Best Buy pushes personal soda machines such as Soda Stream, because a customer who buys the machine from this retailer is likely to return to the same store to refill the CO2 cartridges that the machines require. Such return visits further encourage more impromptu purchases of the latest DVD or a new set of headphones.

Finally, for retailers that sell products that are easy to purchase online, expanded assortments increase the chances that shoppers still will visit their storefronts. Most electronics and office supplies are dominated by online sales, yet shoppers still tend to buy cleaning supplies in person. Thus, as U.S. consumers reduce their number of shopping trips by an average of 3.8 percent, retailers increasingly promote themselves as viable options for shoppers to cover all their needs in a single trip. When you need a sufficient supply of toilet paper, it just might be worthwhile to make the trek out to Home Depot.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are stores like Home Depot and Staples changing their merchandise strategy?
  2. Do you believe this is a good idea?


Source: Shelly Banjo and Serena Ng, The Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2014