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Adding Towels to the Grocery List

Trader Joe’s offers kitchenTrader Joe’s offers kitchen towels that supposedly absorb 10 times their weight in liquid.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Milk, eggs and kitchen towels? Check. Aspirin, Kleenex and sheets? Double check.
     While these are not the typical shopping lists most consumers carry into grocery and drug stores, they could be, as some home textiles - seemingly intended as impulse purchases - are popping up at these retail channels, just not a whole lot.
     Drug and grocery stores account for a small part of overall home textiles sales in the country. But the size of these retailers - like drug chains with thousands of stores - and the frequency that consumers visit these stores for a huge range of products makes them a channel worth considering.
     Logically, grocery stores often carry kitchen textiles. Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix, a chain of 1,048 supermarkets in five southeastern states, said that "in general, our stores do not carry many textiles, and the ones we do carry are mainly for the kitchen. We maintain a limited selection for customer convenience."
     According to the NPD Group's Consumer Tracking Service, combined grocery and drug stores represent 1% of total home textiles unit sales in 2011, with only slight growth over 2010, coming from the grocery segment.
     The survey found that drug stores are showing a shift in product assortment - to more kitchen and dining products, and less bath. In 2011, bath accounted for three-quarters of home fashions unit sales, and kitchen and dining accounted for one in five units sold.
The Reallé CollectionThe Reallé Collection of microfiber sheet sets sold at Rite Aid come with four pillow cases, one fitted and one flat sheet.
     Additionally, NPD reported, the distribution of category groups (bed, bath, kitchen and dining, window treatments) within grocery stores is relatively unchanged compared to 2010. Bath products account for just over half of the home fashions unit sales in grocery, while kitchen and dining represent about a third.
     Visits to grocery stores in Brooklyn found a slim selection of kitchen towels, usually just one style and sometimes only a single product was left on the shelf.
     The Red Hook location of Fairway, which has 10 locations in the New York City metro area, offers a set of three 16-inch-by-19-inch kitchen towels for $5.99, made in China. Trader Joe's, which has 365 stores in 31 states, carries kitchen towels in its Court Street location that are made of 100% viscose and purportedly absorb 10 times their weight in liquid. The 14-by-10 towels are made in Germany and priced at $3.99 for two.
     A search for home textiles at the big drug store chains turned up a large selection of pet beds and novelty pillows, and at a Rite Aid location on 5th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, sheet sets and pillows.
     With perhaps a surprising name, the Reallé Collection are six-piece microfiber sheet sets that come with four pillow cases, one fitted and one flat sheet. The sets are made in China to U.S. specifications for SFD Manufacturers and come with a two-year warranty, according to the label, which also states the sheets
CVS stocksCVS stocks pet beds in two sizes and a range of colors.
have the "hand feel and texture of 400 thread count" sheets, but the actual thread count is not printed. The sets come in about nine solid colors and full, queen and king sizes. It appears the sheets sold elsewhere for $39, $49, and $59, as those prices are visible inside the clear plastic packaging, but Rite Aid lists the prices on its shelves as $24.99 for all three sizes. An internet search did not turn up other retailers.
     The sheet sets may be less expensive at other locations: on the "I heart Rite Aid" website, which appears to be for fans of the retailer, one consumer claims to have purchased Reallé sheets sets for $19.99.
     Alongside the sheet sets are American Dream standard-size pillows for $6.99. Labeled non-allergenic and made with 100% high-loft polyester fiber, they come with a one-year warranty.
     Rite Aid, according to its website, is the largest drugstore chain on the East Coast and the third largest drugstore chain in the United States. It has approximately 4,700 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
     At the Court Street, Brooklyn location of CVS Caremark, which operates 7,300 retail stores in the United States and Puerto Rico,
Rite Aid’s American DreamRite Aid’s American Dream pillows are $6.99 each.
there are pet beds in two sizes in a range of colors. The 21-inch-by-21-inch pet bed is $7.99 and the larger 27-by-36 pet bed is $14.99.
     Also available are play pillows for children, Happy Nappers and Pillow Pets, including cuddly ladybugs and fluffy zebras, for $19.99. And there are a couple of decorative pillows, including one with a fall leaf design for $7.99, possibly leftover from a previous promotion.
     CVS, like several retailers discussed here, did not return requests for comment. Other retailers said they did not wish to talk about their home textiles.
     Online, drug stores sell a wider range of home textiles than in their brick-and-mortar locations. A significant portion is aimed at medical use, such as memory foam pillows from Serta and Homedics, and Priva bed-in-a-bag for $60.99, a jersey sheet set for a hospital bed, with flat, fitted sheet, standard pillow case and cotton thermal blanket, found on CVS.com.
     Walgreens.com stocks several kinds of kitchen towels, including an 11-inch-by-11-inch dish cloth and 25-by-15 dishtowel set from China for $1. Hometex 14-by-17 cotton towels are made in Pakistan and come in a pack of eight for $5.99 Shamwow towels, which the manufacturer claims holds 12 times its weight in liquid, come in a pack of two for $7.99.
     Walgreens.com also offers blankets, including flannel receiving blankets for $24.99 and a Sunbeam Fleece Heated Throw Blanket in assorted colors for $36.99. It has three heat settings and 3-hour auto-off. There are also fleece throws ranging from $4.99 to $7.99
     The online site had medical support pillows ranging in price from $14.99 to $84.99 as well as over 20 styles of $19.99 play pillows. It carries Sobakawa buckwheat pillows to relieve back and neck pain for $19.99 to
Fairway sells microfiberFairway sells microfiber kitchen towels in a set of three.
$29.99. The online retailer also carries mattress pads from Homedics and Hudson Medical in sizes ranging from full to California King.
     Not only do drug stores and to some extent, grocery stores, saturate the wider retailer landscape with more stores than many other kinds of retailers, but consumers shop there with more frequency to pick up everyday food staples and household necessities and important items like medication.
     Marketing and promotions are generally more intense at drug and grocery stores than other retailers of home textiles. Drug and grocery stores offer reward programs, which track purchases and offer points or discounts toward future purchases. Many distribute weekly shopping circulars that promote items on sale. They offer two-for-one and other bulk deals to draw shoppers in.
     Rite Aid's pre-Valentine's Day shopping circular promoted Pillow Pet Pee Wees at buy one get the second half off with use of Rite Aid's Wellness+ card.
     Consumers on the way to the drug or grocery store may not be thinking "kitchen towel" or "pillow" when running through their shopping lists, yet those items may still end up in the shopping bag. What retailers say they carry for customer convenience can translate into a home textile impulse buy.

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