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Q&A: Ted Williams, Vice President of Seasonal, Garden and General Merchandise

10-Ted-WilliamsThe seasonal business is a tremendous opportunity for Rite Aid to engage customers and keep them coming back to see what’s new and exciting. @Rite Aid recently caught up with Ted Williams, Vice President of Seasonal, Garden and General Merchandise, to discuss the seasonal category and what has him so excited about the upcoming holiday selling season.

How has your team succeeded in generating excitement in the seasonal department over the past year?

We’ve focused on building categories that customers don’t typically associate with drugstores. A good example is our electronics program, which we’ve expanded over the past year. So our customers have seen items like 32-inch televisions being offered in our back-to-school set, during the holiday season and around the Super Bowl. This has been a successful move for us.

We’ve also improved our garden program. It’s now much more robust. We’ve found that customers remain highly enthusiastic about these items. We first set them in January, and even if the weather isn’t particularly favorable, some of the products are great indoors as well as outdoors.

The holidays are right around the corner. What aspects of Rite Aid’s holiday merchandise program are you most excited about?

We’re going to continue pushing forward in the electronics category. Some of our key items have been enhanced. Our tablets and netbooks now operate with Android 4.0, which provides faster response times for the user. Our TVs are now LED rather than LCD.

With décor, we’re really excited about the hero items we’ve chosen. For example, new to our selection this year is a 46-inch Santa and Snowman for indoor use. And, as you know, the consumer continues to look for value, so we’re continuing to focus on value offerings. This year, we have a great offering of value toys and we’ve also enhanced the package designs on our Rite Aid HOME seasonal items, which we try to do every season.

New and exciting is one thing, but I imagine that it’s important not to lose sight of the perennial holiday favorites that customers find at Rite Aid.

There’s no doubt. But we’ve also had success with putting new twists on categories that customers expect to find at Rite Aid. In our décor section, we’ve added a seven-foot tall, pre-lit Christmas tree that is perfect for shoppers who want a high-quality, full-sized tree that’s convenient to set up in their home. Also, instead of offering heaters that simply function as a utility, this year we’re offering a decorative heater that is modeled after a stove. We’ve had success in the past with similar items.

How have our supplier partners played a role in the evolution of our seasonal offerings?

A big key has been keeping the conversation going around innovation by constantly asking each other “What are your ideas?” “How can we partner on this?” “How do we win together?” Our supplier partners have embraced this and I feel a lot of momentum building in all of these areas. Seasonal has been a solid contributor to our front-end sales momentum, and we still have many opportunities to improve. I thank all of our supplier partners for their continued support and look forward to continuing to make innovative changes that are mutually beneficial.