Many consumers do their dietary research online before even stepping foot in a vitamin retailer. However, some still want to couple what they’ve learned at home with the insight and knowledge of in-store associates.
Such is the case at North Bergen, N.J.-based Vitamin Shoppe.
“People come to us with specific questions and we have to be ready with accurate, credible and relevant answers,” Scott Steever, the chain’s director of application development, said at the 12th annual Kiosk.Com Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in April.
To meet this need, Vitamin Shoppe has stand-alone kiosks positioned near the cashwrap. Each unit offers a hearty helping of information on vitamins, nutritional and alternative health supplements and minerals. Both associates and shoppers can search and browse product information, read up on physical conditions and potential prescription-drug interactions, diets and recipes, and even search its online site.
Vitamin Shoppe delivers this information on the in-store units as well as on its Web site through the help of wellness-information provider Aisle7 (formerly Healthnotes Inc.), Portland, Ore.
Some features remain static on the kiosk, such as information regarding weekly newsletters (which provide tips and advice from professionals), a store locator, a body-mass-index counter and an ideal-weight application. Then there are other features that are updated regularly. For example, content is updated monthly; advertisement changes every two weeks, and the homepage’s GUI (graphical user interface) changes on a seasonal basis.
One constant on the unit is its search-and-browse engine. The feature allows users to pull up information that describes entered key words or conditions. For example, if a user inputs “diabetes,” the kiosk’s interface serves up a page that features complementary supplements and detailed descriptions.
“Once they find their desired information, we link their original request to other related merchandise to increase cross-sell opportunities,” Steever said.
Since Vitamin Shoppe boasts more than 22,000 products, the search and browse component is critical for weeding through the mix and delivering the most relevant merchandise to shoppers, he added.
The kiosk also tends to be the fastest way to deliver information to consumers. “If an article comes out that says a certain vitamin might not be very good for you, we might add an icon that connects them to 10 studies revealing that it is in fact beneficial, for example,” Steever said.
Vitamin Shoppe’s kiosks also augment brand advertising. “Rather than deliver ‘noise’ such as ‘Buy One, Get One Free,’ or ‘99? Deals of the Day,’ the units are really about brand advertisements,” Steever said. “We use the units to draw attention to our loyalty program or other areas of interest.”
With so much content available, Vitamin Shoppe regularly monitors kiosk traffic to stay abreast of what pages consumers are looking at.
“By looking at this data on a monthly basis, we can better market to our customers,” Steever said. “As we watch the traffic explode, it also proves to our CFO that doing this effort has paid off in terms of increasing customer interaction.”
As a result, Vitamin Shoppe is looking to add even more features. It is currently developing a site for its Healthy Awards program members, a group that is comprised of approximately 85% of Vitamin Shoppe’s consumer base. The chain hopes to create a page that will allow members to oversee their latest purchases, accumulated points and rewards.
Vitamin Shoppe is also piloting a touchscreen unit at its new prototype stores. This move away from its current keyboard-and-mouse-based kiosk concept gives consumers a more seamless experience.
The company is looking to add ratings and reviews on VitaminShoppe.com in the future, Steever said.
Michaels comps down for the quarter
IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.
Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”
For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.
Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%
JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.
The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.
Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.