Title:
APPARATUS FOR RETAIL CATEGORY MANAGEMENT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retail merchandising apparatus affording assured automatic product rotation, labor-savings associated with reduced stocking times and the elimination for the need to manually rotate product. The apparatus also provides greatly enhanced permanent brand-identification, brand exposure and distinction from competitor's in the grocery aisle due to the product always being in an upright position throughout the loading and dispensing process and the superior graphic presence presented on the apparatus.



Inventors:
Mann, David F. (Snellville, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/456085
Publication Date:
01/11/2007
Filing Date:
07/06/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
211/59.2
International Classes:
A47F1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090026160Casket Display Apparatuses, Systems, and MethodsJanuary, 2009Wright et al.
20020079275Undeliverable mail organizer and methodJune, 2002Smale
20070000854Display with folding shelvesJanuary, 2007Virvo
20080277362Portable sports equipment rackNovember, 2008White
20100012604Stand handJanuary, 2010Reeves
20070080124Adjustable wine shelfApril, 2007Frentzel
20040069662Cassette for holding disks of multiple form factorsApril, 2004Buitron et al.
20090078662Yoga mat storage racksMarch, 2009Boehm Clifton
20080251478Wine Bottle Rotation SystemOctober, 2008Jaskowski
20060201896Utility hookSeptember, 2006Webb
20020100738Telecommunications equipment rack having hemmed upright supports for improved structural stiffnessAugust, 2002Walter et al.



Primary Examiner:
RODDEN, JOSHUA E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
E.J. ASBURY III, LLC (Marietta, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf, comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon, the tracks comprising: a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top; a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto; wherein the apparatus has a pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track along the first tract and to the rear thereof, and wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track; whereby product loaded onto the first track is forced, by the pusher means, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the product is supported by the first and second tracks in an upright positioned.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the product is dispensed in an upright position.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein each the track comprises a laterally spaced pair of upstanding sidewalls and a floor connecting the sidewalls.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the floor is wider than the product in an upright orientation, and the sidewalls define a space therebetween wider than the product in an upright orientation.

6. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the drop aperture is in the floor.

7. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the drop aperture of the first track is adjacent the rear of the apparatus.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a loading door is opened to gain access to the first track and to load product thereon.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a pusher support member supports the pusher means, and wherein the pusher support member is retracted to disengaged the pusher means and to load product onto the first track, and then reinstalled to engage the pusher means, and force product to the rear of the first track.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track rearwardly along the first tract comprises a spring pusher.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the spring pusher further comprises a coil spring pusher.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second track has adjacent the front end thereof means for displaying the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the angle of inclination of the second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track varies along the length of the second dispensing track.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is supported on the retail shelf by a cantilever mount at the rear of the apparatus.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a plurality of upright product may be stacked one atop another on the first horizontal loading and storage track at the top of the apparatus; wherein the pusher means forces the stacked upright product positioned on the first track along the first track and to the rear thereof, and whereby the stacked product passes, under the influence of gravity, to the second track, where the lowermost product is then urged by gravity along the second track, each stacked product then successively passing down the second track, from the lowermost stacked product to the uppermost stacked product, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

16. A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf, comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon, the tracks comprising: a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top; a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto; wherein the apparatus has a pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track along the first tract and to the rear thereof, and wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track and wherein the second track has adjacent the front end thereof a generally horizontal section which slows forward product movement at the front end thereof without terminating the forward movement and displays the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation; and whereby product loaded onto the first track is forced, by the pusher means, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

17. A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing of upright product on a retail shelf, comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting upright product thereon, the tracks comprising: a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top; a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto; the first and second track comprising a laterally spaced pair of upstanding sidewalls and a floor connecting the sidewalls, the floor being wider than the product in an upright orientation, the sidewalls defining a space therebetween wider than the product in an upright orientation; and wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track; whereby product loaded onto the first track is manually forced to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the second track has adjacent the front end thereof a generally horizontal section which slows forward product movement at the front end thereof without terminating the forward movement and displays the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation.

19. A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf, comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon, the tracks comprising: a first downwardly and rearwardly inclined loading and storage track at the top, the first track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto; a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto; and wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track; whereby product loaded onto the first track is urged by gravity along the first track, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the angle of inclination of the second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track varies along the length of the second dispensing track.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/696,885, filed on Jul. 6, 2005, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to apparatuses and methods of product presentation in retail marketing. More particularly, the present invention relates to an apparatus and method for presentation of product to the consumer, ensure rotation of product, and the efficient use of display space to achieve the maximum product count within a given volume.

2. Description of the Related Art

Labor and their associated costs are greatly responsible for a reduction in profits by most retail channels of trade, including the grocery or supermarket trade channel. Some consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories are more labor-intensive than others, due to a variety of factors, for example: sales volume, number of stock keeping units (SKU's) available, space allocation per SKU, package size/shape/stack-ability, and whether the product is single, double, triple-stacked or higher, to handle inventory requirements based on sales volume.

When a SKU is double or even triple-stacked to meet inventory requirements as dictated by sales volume, this can greatly increase the time and therefore labor required to fully stock each SKU, due to the difficulty associated with the SKU package itself, for example, the package size with smaller being more challenging, the package's ability to inter-connect with the package it's resting on top of and the number of facings per SKU, with a greater number of facings making product merchandising easier.

Labor involves not only the manual physical task of fully stocking the shelf with product as needed, but also what's known in the industry as fronting; i.e., the daily activity of pulling product from the back of the shelf, after the front has sold down, to the front of the shelf to improve shop-ability for the consumer, and give the aesthetic appearance the shelf is full of product, which also improves brand awareness.

Most items sold in a retail grocery environment, including almost all food, beverages, medicines, batteries and film, have a product freshness date, or expiration date, alerting consumers and retail store personnel when a product should be sold by, consumed by, or used by, to meet quality, effectiveness and safety standards set forth by the CPG manufacturer. Product freshness is important to brand-marketers of consumer-packaged-goods, ensuring optimum freshness, effectiveness & safety therefore enhancing consumer loyalty for the brand.

Proper product rotation is vital, yet very labor-intensive, to ensuring product freshness. Product rotation for most product categories currently involves the manual removal of the older product from the back of the shelf, after the product in front has sold down, and replacing it with the newer fresher product, then restocking the older product at the front of the shelf so the older product is sold first. The shelf life of each SKU varies widely by product category; whereas a loaf of bread my have a week or less to sell before going out-of-date, some product categories have a shelf life of up to two years, or more, for example: bottled water 2-years, alkaline batteries 7-years, etc.

There is a direct correlation as to the importance of product rotation and the shelf life of the product in question, while also factoring the velocity of sales for that item. For example, a high-volume SKU like bottled water which has a two-year shelf life, doesn't require the diligence of product rotation that an SKU like pre-washed and shredded packaged lettuce would, due to the highly perishable nature and relatively slower sales of the packaged lettuce.

The vast majority of all SKU's in the grocery channel are warehouse delivered to each store by the retailer's own distribution system. The SKU's typically come from a warehouse owned/operated by the retailer who orders product in bulk from the manufacturer, allowing individual retail stores to order product from the retailer run warehouse as needed. Upon receipt at the store, retailer personnel are responsible for merchandising, rotating & fronting the product as dictated by sales.

On the other hand, direct-store-delivered (DSD) items, are manufactured, warehoused, ordered & distributed to each individual retail outlet, not the retailer's warehouse, entirely by the CPG manufacturer's personnel. Upon receipt at the retail store, additional CPG manufacturer personnel are directly responsible for merchandising, rotating & fronting their products in each retail outlet on a daily basis. This gives DSD manufacturers & distributors of consumer-packaged-goods almost complete control over every aspect of the daily ordering, distribution, merchandising and execution of promotional activity. In an ideal implementation, sales will increase, out-of-stock's and out-of-date's will be reduced, or eliminated as a result of the additional attention devoted to the basic principles of in-store marketing, merchandising execution and category management by CPG company personnel. The benefits to DSD goods go beyond that typically afforded to warehouse delivered SKU's where retailer personnel are responsible for these activities. Some examples of common DSD product categories are soft drinks, potato chips, bread, beer and milk.

Consumer product companies, of all product categories, are constantly developing new products for introduction, which must be worked into existing retail shelf real-estate. The overwhelming variety of products available to the consumer, thus making it very difficult for any one CPG company to stand out from their competitor's in the aisle. Millions of dollars are spent annually by CPG companies, to help their products stand out from the competition on the shelf, for example, unique product packaging shapes, logo's and color schemes. Product packaging is often the only method of brand-identification utilized by CPG companies, which becomes much less effective during the clutter and disorganization associated with sell down.

Graphics such as floor graphics, shelf strips, aisle blades, shelf talkers and headers are commonly used for brand-identification, to increase brand-exposure, to draw attention to promotional efforts and to help distinguish the brand from the competition in the grocery aisle. Unfortunately, all of these methods are temporary and are only as effective as the level of execution obtained in the field, by retailer personnel for warehouse delivered products. Manufacturer's of DSD products find these type of temporary materials more effective as a general rule, because their own personnel are responsible for the execution of these materials and must follow strict company guidelines for their execution in each retail outlet.

According, there is a need in the art wherein both Retailer's and CPG manufacturer's would be interested in an apparatus that would reduce labor cost's associated with stocking, fronting and product rotation, also assuring product rotation was fool-proof to significantly reduce, or eliminate, out-of-date product, also eliminating the need to front product. There is also a need in the art to provide a billboard effect for product graphic presentation, which will enhance consumer awareness. It is thus to such an apparatus for product presentation and rotation that the present invention is primarily directed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The disadvantages of the prior art are overcome by the present invention which, in one aspect, is a front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf. The apparatus comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon, the tracks comprising a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top, and a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track. The second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto, wherein the apparatus has a pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track along the first tract and to the rear thereof, and wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track. Whereby product loaded onto the first track is forced, by the pusher means, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing. The product is supported by the first and second tracks in an upright position and is dispensed in an upright position.

Each the track comprises a laterally spaced pair of upstanding sidewalls and a floor connecting the sidewalls. The floor is wider than the product in an upright orientation, and the sidewalls define a space therebetween wider than the product in an upright orientation. The drop aperture is in the floor of the first track is adjacent the rear of the apparatus. A loading door at the front of the apparatus is opened to gain access to the first track and to load product thereon.

A pusher support member supports the pusher means, and the pusher support member is retracted to disengaged the pusher means and to load product onto the first track, and then reinstalled to engage the pusher means, and force product to the rear of the first track. The pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track rearwardly along the first tract comprises a spring pusher. The spring pusher further comprises a coil spring pusher.

The second track has adjacent the front end thereof means for displaying the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation. The angle of inclination of the second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track may vary along the length of the second dispensing track. The apparatus may be supported on the retail shelf by a cantilever mount at the rear of the apparatus.

A plurality of upright product may be stacked, one atop another on the first horizontal loading and storage track at the top of the apparatus. Wherein the pusher means forces the stacked upright product positioned on the first track along the first track and to the rear thereof. And the stacked product passes, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, where the lowermost product is then urged by gravity along the second track. Each stacked product then successively passes down the second track, from the lowermost stacked product to the uppermost stacked product, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf. The apparatus comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon, the tracks comprising a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top, and a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track. The second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto, and wherein the apparatus has a pusher means for forcing product positioned on the first track along the first tract and to the rear thereof. And wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track and wherein the second track has adjacent the front end thereof a generally horizontal section which slows forward product movement at the front end thereof without terminating the forward movement. The generally horizontal section displaying the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation. Whereby product loaded onto the first track is forced, by the pusher means, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing.

A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing of upright product on a retail shelf, comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting upright product thereon. The tracks comprising a first horizontal loading and storage track at the top, and a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto. The first and second track comprising a laterally spaced pair of upstanding sidewalls and a floor connecting the sidewalls. The floor being wider than the product in an upright orientation, and the sidewalls defining a space therebetween wider than the product in an upright orientation. Wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof enabling the passage of product from the first track onto the second track; whereby product loaded onto the first track is manually forced to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing. The second track may also have adjacent the front end thereof a generally horizontal section which slows forward product movement at the front end thereof without terminating the forward product movement and displays the forward product thereon in a substantially upright orientation.

A front-loading and front-dispensing drop rotation apparatus for product display and dispensing on a retail shelf, the apparatus comprising a pair of vertically aligned tracks for supporting product thereon. The tracks comprising a first downwardly and rearwardly inclined loading and storage track at the top, the first track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto. And a second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track at the bottom, beneath the first track, the second track being inclined for fostering sliding movement of product relative thereto. And wherein the first track defines a drop aperture adjacent the rear end thereof which enables the passage of product from the first track onto the second track. Whereby product loaded onto the first track is urged by gravity along the first track, to the rear of the first track, the product then passing, under the influence of gravity, through the drop aperture to the second track, the product then urged by gravity along the second track, to the front of the apparatus for display and dispensing. The angle of inclination of the second upwardly and rearwardly inclined dispensing track may vary along the length of the second dispensing track.

These and other aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments taken in conjunction with the following drawings. As would be obvious to one skilled in the art, many variations and modifications of the invention may be effected without departing from the spirit and scope of the novel concepts of the disclosure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of the apparatus for product display and dispensing, and particularly illustrating the apparatus as positioned on a retail shelf with product loaded in the upper and lower tracks.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating product movement from the upper shelf to the lower shelf, the presentation of the product for dispensing, the action of the coil spring pusher, and the coil spring pusher mounting plate positioned above the product on the upper track.

FIG. 3 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating the product loading door opened, and the coil spring pusher mounting plate removed from the apparatus, facilitating the loading of product.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating the coil spring pusher mounting plate positioned below the product on the upper track.

FIG. 5 is a side view of an apparatus for product display and dispensing, illustrating manual product movement, and a cantilever mount of the apparatus to a retail shelf upright.

FIG. 6 is a side view of an apparatus for product display and dispensing, illustrating using gravity feed to move product on both the upper and the lower shelf.

FIG. 7 is a side-perspective view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating the product loading door, and the upper and lower graphic display locations.

FIG. 8 is a side view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating stacked product on the upper track, and the movement from the upper track to lower track of the stacked product.

FIG. 9 is a top view of the apparatus of FIG. 1, illustrating adjacent cartridges of product within the same apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention disclosed herein presents a retail merchandising apparatus affording assured automatic product rotation, labor-savings associated with reduced stocking times and the elimination for the need to manually rotate product. The present invention also provides greatly enhanced permanent brand-identification, brand exposure and distinction from competitor's in the grocery aisle due to the product always being in an upright position throughout the loading and dispensing process and the superior graphic presence presented on the apparatus.

The apparatus presented herein speeds the loading process for small packaged items that must be double or even triple-stacked on the shelf to gain enough inventory capacity to meet demand; for example baby food, which significantly reducing labor costs. The apparatus eliminates the labor-intensive task of manually rotating product or fronting product, after sell-down. The product is automatically rotated assuring fool-proof product rotation and constant up-front inventory, at all times without the added labor expense of fronting. The apparatus maintains the same inventory capacity realized prior to its use, in roughly the same square dimensions previously allocated, as each apparatus is formed to snugly match the circumference of the product in question and the additional height & width required is minimal. The apparatus reduces or eliminates the clutter/disorganization associated with many product categories after sell-down occurs, which can lead to lost sales because of reduced shoppability and diminished brand exposure to the consumer. And finally, the apparatus allows small products, which may be double or even triple-stacked and in glass packaging, to be merchandised on the very top retail shelf, which ordinarily would be unthinkable because of the likelihood of an accident occurring.

With reference to the figures in which like numerals represent like elements throughout, FIG. 1 is a front view of one embodiment of the apparatus 10 for retail merchandising. As depicted in FIG. 1, in a first embodiment the invention includes a front loading and front dispensing apparatus 10 including at least two vertically aligned tracks 20, 30. As further depicted in FIG. 2, the apparatus has a first upwardly inclined, front-to-back, dispensing/loading track 20, and a second loading track 30 positioned directly above the first track 20 that is completely horizontal, which is used for loading product 40 only, either single-stacked, double-stacked or higher in an upright product orientation. The product 40 is positioned in the apparatus 10 between a first side wall 32, a second side wall 34 and a floor 36 connecting the first and second side walls. The side walls 34, 36, are spaced apart a distance, and the floor 36 width, closely matches the width of the particular product 40 to be dispensed by the apparatus with a minimum of clearance. The close engagement of the product 40 aids in ensuring the product remains in an upright position and positively feeds through the apparatus 10.

As further depicted in FIG. 2, the first track 20 is angled in a manner to facilitate the sliding gravity-feeding of product 40 in an upright orientation that is single-stacked only, with the lowest position on the track being in the front, closest to the consumer, and the highest point of the first track 20 being at its furthermost rear point. The second track 30, is directly above the first, and is completely horizontal from front-to-back, and will accommodate product that is single-stacked, double-stacked or possibly higher, in an upright orientation.

As further depicted in FIGS. 1-2, the second track 30 utilizes a coil-spring pusher 50 to push product 40, once loaded, towards the rear of the second track 30, and away from the consumer, in an upright orientation throughout. At the furthermost rear point of the second track, there is an opening 60 in the floor large enough for product 40 from the second uppermost track 30 to drop thru the opening 60 by the force of gravity, while remaining in an upright position throughout its descent onto the first track 20 below. When on the first tract 20, the product under the continued force of gravity slides towards the consumer in an upright orientation. The movement of product 40 from the uppermost second loading track 30, to the first dispensing/loading track 20 below, is initiated by the consumer removing product from the front of the first dispensing and loading track 20.

As further depicted in FIG. 2, the remaining product 40 directly behind that being removed on the first track 20, gravity-feeds and slides forward towards the consumer. The product 40 nestled in the opening 60 descends, one unit at a time, as the rearmost product 40 from the first track 20 moves forward towards the consumer under the influence of gravity by one position for each product 40 removed by the consumer. Concurrently, the product on the second track, under the influence of the coil-spring pusher 50, moves away from the consumer by one position as product 40 is pushed into the opening 60. As product from the upper track 30 is pushed into the drop opening 60, the product descends and lodges between the first track 20 and second track 30 nestled on top of the uppermost product 40 on the first track. The progression of product 40 continues until all the product from the second uppermost loading track 30 has been completely emptied onto the first dispensing and loading track 20 below. The product 40 remains in the upright position throughout the transition from the second track 30 onto the first track 20.

As depicted in FIG. 3, the coil spring pusher 50 is attached to a base plate 70. When loading the apparatus 10 with product, the base plate 70 may be removed from the apparatus 10 to disengage the pusher 50 and allow loading product onto the upper track 30. A door 80 at the front of the apparatus 10 is opened to facilitate removal of the pusher base plate 70 and to facilitate loading of product onto upper track 30. Product is loaded onto upper track 30 and manually pushed to the rear, furthest end of the track. The loaded product will drop through the opening 60 from the upper track 30 onto the lower track 20 as the apparatus is filled. On the lower track 20, the product 40 will slide down the lower track 20, to the front of the apparatus and be displayed to the consumer. As the lower track 20 is filled, product 40 will rest adjacent on to another up the incline of the track. When the lower track 20 is completely filled with product 40, no further product may drop onto the lower track 20 from the upper track 30, and product 40 will accumulate adjacent one another on the upper track 30. When the upper track 30 is filled with product, the pusher base plate 70 is reinstalled in the apparatus, wherein the coil spring pusher is compressed and urges the product 40 on the upper track 30 to the rear of the apparatus 10.

As depicted in FIG. 4, and in an alternative embodiment to the invention of FIG. 3, the coil spring pusher 50 is mounted within the apparatus. In this embodiment, the coil spring pusher 50 is manually retracted, and held in that position, for loading of product onto the upper track 30. In another alternative embodiment of the present invention, the coil spring pusher 50 may be pulled back toward the merchandising personnel loading the upper track 30 and locked in that retracted position temporarily. This provides the merchandiser with the ability to use both hands to load the upper track 30 completely, before releasing the spring pusher 50 after loading has been completed. The spring pusher 50 then urges the freshly loaded product 40 toward the rear of upper track 30 as depicted in FIGS. 1-3. In the embodiment above, a coil spring pusher has been shown, as will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, various forms of pusher means may be utilized including, spring pushers, coil spring pushers, cantilevered springs, elastic members, or other means as are known to those skilled in the art.

As depicted in FIG. 5, in another alternative embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus does not utilize a mechanical pusher to urge the product 40 on the upper track 30 to the rear of the unit. In this embodiment, the product 40 is loaded onto the upper track 30 manually, until the lower track 20, and upper track 30 are both full. As product 40 is dispensed from the apparatus, new product slides down the lower track 20, and is displayed to the consumer. The product 40 resting on the upper track 30 is stationary, and is readily available for manually loading the lower track 20 with fresh product 40.

As further depicted in FIG. 5, in another alternative embodiment of the present invention, the apparatus 10 may not rest on a horizontal shelf support, but may instead be cantilevered from a vertical shelf component. A mounting hook 120 is present at the rear of the apparatus 10 which engages a complimentary bracket 130 affixed, or integral with, the shelving system. In this embodiment, horizontal shelves are not required further saving vertical space for additional product display.

As further depicted in FIG. 5, in another alternative embodiment of the present invention, the first lower dispensing and loading track 20 may be angled in a manner other than a straight and direct incline from front to back. Portions of the lower track 20 may be inclined at a higher angle than other portions of the track. For example, the rear one-third of the lower track 20 may be angled at twenty (20) degrees, with the front two-thirds angled at only ten (10) degrees. In another alternative embodiment, the front third of the lower track 20 is inclined at an angle of only five (5) degrees, whereas the back two-thirds of the same track 20 might be at a twelve (12) degree incline from front to back. The lower angle at the front of the track will slow down the product as it gravity-feeds and slides towards the consumer. In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the frontmost portion of the lower track 20 may be horizontal, or may be inclined downward, in an angle opposing that of the rest of the track 20. The front horizontal or opposingly angled portion of the lower track 20 will bring of the product 40 to rest, and present a single unit of the product 40 to the consumer in an upright position, or a tilted position where the product label may be more easily viewed. In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the angle of the upper track 30 may be varied to aid in moving the to and through the opening 60. In all embodiments, the varying track angles will reduce the overall vertical height requirement to gravity feed product on the lower track 20 from the back to the front of the apparatus 10.

As depicted in FIG. 6, in another alternative embodiment of the present invention, the upper inclined track 140 is angled downward, from front to rear, with the highest portion of the track 140 at the front of the apparatus 10, and the lowest portion at the rear of the apparatus 10. Product 40 positioned on the upper track 30 is urged by gravity to slide down the upper inclined track 140 to the rear of the apparatus 10, where the product 40 will drop through the opening 60 onto the lower track 20. In this embodiment, no spring pusher, or other pusher means is required to feed the product 40 from the upper inclined track 140 to the lower track 20. In another alternative embodiment, the upper inclined track 140 is angled downward, and a spring pusher 50, are both utilized to feed product down the upper track 30 to the rear of the apparatus.

As depicted in FIG. 7, in another embodiment of the present invention, the front fagade, of the apparatus 10, has a surface area 100 just below the dispensing opening on the first track 20, which allows graphic placement that will identify the product and provide additional product or promotional information as deemed relevant. A second graphic placement area 90 is available on the product loading door 80. Each graphic area 90, 100 vary in width depending on the apparatus being a two-wide or three-wide cartridge unit. The graphic areas 90, 100 are used to attract consumer attention at the point-of-purchase. The front facade of the apparatus 10, has graphic channels that accommodate graphic inserts, with the flexibility to have a separate insert for each of the two cartridges, or one large graphic for both cartridges.

As depicted in FIG. 8, in another embodiment of the present invention product 40 may be stacked, one atop another, on the upper track 30. As product 40 is dispensed at the front of the apparatus 10, product moves down the lower track 20, and stacked product drops from the upper track 30 to the lower track 20. The stacked product drops onto the lower track 20 in unison, but travels down the lower track 20 singularly, with the lowermost product 40 first, followed by the next upper product 40 unit. In this manner, the capacity of the apparatus is increased by the additional product stored on the upper track 30.

As depicted in FIG. 9, the apparatus may comprise multiple cartridges, or lanes, of product 40 positioned horizontally, or side-by-side, within the same apparatus 10. As a general retail rule for most product categories, each SKU is typically allocated two, or three facings each, based on the sales volume for each item and space-to-sales allocation. The apparatus 10 may incorporate multiple facings within the same unit. For example, an apparatus 10 with three cartridges would have three sets of vertically aligned tracks side-by-side-by-side, three coil-spring pusher systems, three “drop-openings”, and a front facade that'd accommodate either three separate graphic inserts, representing one SKU per lane, or one large graphic insert representing the same SKU in all lanes. In practice, apparatus would be available in two cartridge wide or three cartridge wide configurations, since most SKU's have two or three facings each, as dictated by sales volume. In operation the multiple cartridge SKU's can be used to merchandise one SKU per cartridge if necessary.

While there has been shown a preferred embodiment of the present invention, it is to be understood that certain changes may be made in the forms and arrangement of the elements and steps of the method for shoreline reclamation without departing from the underlying spirit and scope of the invention.