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Wal-Mart stores changing, but what about packaging?

Retailers' new in-store strategies will impact packaging
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Wal-Mart is one retailer that's recapturing its own stores by being creative inside the box, says Patrick Sbarra, president of New Creature (www.new-creature.com), an in-store marketing design company. Sbarra told an audience at the HBA Global Expo earlier this month in New York City that the nearly $400 billion retailing giant has begun a gradual program to clean up its main aisles and improve sight lines, and brand marketers should be prepared to adjust.

Sbarra is close to the action at Wal-Mart. His company works closely with suppliers to the nation's leading retailer. Sbarra noted several developments that could have significant implications for packaging:

Wal-Mart is clearing central aisles as it begins to retrofit its 3,700 stores. Personal care aisles are moving closer to grocery aisles—and next to the pharmacy. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for time-crunched consumers to shop quickly. That is a notable shift from traditional retail thinking, which holds the belief that staple household products merchandised in the back of the store force shoppers to walk through or past other departments, where they often make additional purchases.

Cleared sight-lines will make it easier to view end-aisle displays. Sbarra recommends designing packaging to be viewed from a distance at all angles on these displays.

Wal-Mart is beginning to opt away from using some brand owner graphics on pallet and corner displays and instead requesting brand owners and designers to create visuals that reflect the retailer's stores as a brand. Other retailers will follow Wal-Mart's lead, Sbarra says. In general, he urges brand owners to collaborate with both competitors and noncompetitors to create new concepts that "maverick" stores in a retailer's chain will embrace. Ask yourself this question: What can we do together to drive our category?

It's also more critical than ever, Sbarra says, to pay attention to the store environment in which your packaging resides.

"Visit the place. Whatever store your customer shops in, the retailers all have their own moments of truth," Sbarra says in explaining retailers' current strategic thinking.

"See the light behind you. Smell the store. See it at different times of the day. The thing you design looks great on the conference room table, but what does it look like in the store?"

This article was from the Sept. 25th edition of ShelfImpact!

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