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Study reveals three unexpected categories driving growth for physical retailers

Brick-and-mortar retailers should look to impulse purchases as a focal area for growth.

According to a new report from general merchandise and health-beauty-and-wellness trade association GMDC, books, trial and travel, and grilling are continually beating total store growth within physical retailers — and each of these categories represents products commonly considered impulse purchases. The growth in sales among these three product categories reinforces the impulse purchase as a focal area for growth among brick-and-mortar retailers, GMDC advised.

“Online retailers typically underperform with impulse categories, as most shoppers plan their online purchases,” said Mark Mechelse, VP insights & communications with GMDC. “Most, if not all, online shopping is highly focused on price and value, and cannot deliver the immersive experience as that of a store and its associates. This is key for brick-and-mortar retailers to understand, as impulse purchases generally hold higher profit margins among all store merchandise.”

Here are some highlights from the GMDC research:

• The growth in the trial and travel product category fits many other growing shopper trends. The rise in popularity of hospitality rentals, such as Airbnb, has contributed to the sales growth for this category with hosts purchasing trial-size products for guests. Other contributing factors include the opportunity to test out brands prior to committing to a larger purchase and professionals combining exercise with their workdays.

• Between 65% to 85% of general merchandisers’ book sales are considered impulse driven. The surge toward e-books has declined, with stores reporting an increase in sales of physical books. Eighty-five percent of book sales are print, and print book units are up 14% since 2012. Millennials comprise the largest book buying demographic, making 37% of all print purchases. Data indicates that increased book sales reflect a wave of nostalgia toward traditional and tangible products.

• Grilling has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, and is on the rise year-round, with 63% of grillers reporting activity throughout the year in 2015. (Off-season growth accounted for 97% of total category sales growth.) Also, grill-related products are not considered conducive to online shopping due to shipping logistics and cost of bulky items for delivery.

To download the full report, visit
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