Smoothie sailing: Drinks helping to boost growth

Filed under: Retail |

When looking for a nice cold drink for the summer, smoothies appear to be consumer’s drink of choice. And they’re not only found at specialty stores, they’re being sold everywhere.

According to an industry study by FRANdata, the growth of companies that sell smoothies has been impressive.

While there are at least 70 different franchise brands that have smoothies on their menu, only about 30 of them consider smoothies as their primary product. These 30 brands account for about 3,000 stores.

While Smoothie King and Jamba Juice are the biggest players, there are many other brands that own a growing size of the market. Fifteen of the brands are still very new to the game, having been franchising for less than five years.

The number of franchised units for these brands has nearly doubled during the past five years — a 95 percent growth rate from 2002 to 2006. While not every system has seen positive growth, on average the brands have grown between 15 percent and 20 percent annually.

Independence Day celebrations

Despite high gas prices, consumers are making plans for Independence Day celebrations.

“While gas prices do play an important role in where and when consumers shop, shoppers will not let that dampen their summer plans,” said vice president of strategy at BIGresearch Phil Rist. “Many people will choose to stay closer to home to celebrate or take advantage of their community celebrations, but some still feel this holiday is definitely worth the drive.”

In general, the uncertainty about gas prices seems to have the most impact on consumers’ spending decisions. Nearly 73 percent of respondents said they believe that gas prices will be higher by July 4. On average, consumers expect the price for gas to rise to $3.38.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2007 Independence Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, 42.1 percent of consumers said increased gas prices will impact their spending for the July 4th holiday, slightly lower than the 46.8 percent who said they were impacted last year.

Independence Day falls on a Wednesday this year, adding an additional challenge for retailers that plan special July 4 promotions.

When it comes to consumers’ Fourth of July plans, 61.1 percent will have a cookout/barbecue or picnic, 42.5 percent will attend fireworks or another type of community celebration and 9.7 percent will attend a parade.

While many said they are currently driving less (40 percent) and taking fewer shopping trips (41.9 percent) because of fluctuating gas prices, one in 10 consumers (11.3 percent) will travel or go on vacation for the holiday. In addition, 17.3 percent of shoppers said they will purchase additional patriotic merchandise to celebrate Independence Day.

“Retailers will make sure stores are packed with patriotic-themed apparel and other items such as sparklers and flags,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Americans will celebrate Independence Day surrounded by family, food and fun.”

A roll of the dice

Red Hats and More’s best selling game, Bunco, is gaining popularity throughout the country, with 27 million women playing regularly nationwide.

Red Hats and More (www.redhatsandmore.com) is the No. 1 online retailer of Red Hat Society products, with sales of more than $1 million. The company sells more Bunco games than anything else on its site.

Bunco takes absolutely no skill and a lot of luck — it’s literally a roll of the dice. And it’s been around since the 1800s.

Red Hatters throughout the country meet weekly or monthly to play Bunco. According to Procter & Gamble, which sponsored last year’s World Bunco Championships in Las Vegas, more than 27 million women play the game regularly.

In its third year, Red Hats and More products range from dresses, hats, purses and jewelry to photo albums, books and CDs, games, dishes, flowers and tea party accessories. It now has a photo gallery of customers in their outfits, a weekly newsletter and a weekly blog with product and chapter news and insights.

The Red Hat Society is one of the fastest-growing women’s movement in the United States. It invites and encourages women 50 and older to get out into their communities and have a good time in the signature outfit — a red hat and purple dress.

Pet lovers

It’s “Bark at Briargate” time. Bring your dogs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 30 to the East parking lot near Champps at The Promenade Shops at Briargate.

Visit with 40 pet-related vendors, including vets, pet suppliers, groomers, trainers, artists, adoption agencies, hotels and hospitals.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.