IN THE TRENCHES: Smart merchandising key to strong produce sales
by Ron Pelger | March 24, 2010
Since the early 18th century, the manner in which goods were arranged was
found to be very important to attract people and entice them into making
purchases. This visual merchandising principle is not new, as it is still
practiced even today throughout the retail industry all over the world -
especially in supermarkets.
Success in the supermarket business today requires superior skills, smart
planning and hard work. The art of retail selling demands an understanding
and knowledge of the subject. There is no better way to learn retail produce
merchandising than on-the-job experience, which involves actually handling,
displaying and selling produce.
Supermarket retailers have a great number of ways to increase sales, and
most operators turn to clever merchandising methods to accomplish it. But,
there is more to merchandising than just placing items on a display. First of
all, it is necessary to develop a special ambiance to attract shoppers and
entice them to buy your product. The displays should draw attention and
make customers see items they may not have noticed while in the store.
There are a number of factors that influence customers into wanting to shop
at a specific supermarket. In fact, 90 percent of consumers judge the
freshness, quality, variety and cleanliness of the produce department as
major reasons when determining where they want to do their regular
shopping. The most important factor in the success of a produce department
is the impression it gives shoppers. Good, skilled merchandising is the most
Have you ever wondered why customers walk by a produce display without
buying anything or even giving it a second glance? Often times, people get
turned off because a display is poorly designed, cumbersome, messy or
empty. The message these displays send is that product must be inferior and
the produce department must be substandard.
Many supermarket retailers seem to struggle with ways to get shoppers to
buy more than just a couple of items in the produce departments of their
stores. They try different approaches but just can't seem to capture the
volume sales to meet budgeted expectations. Without a compelling reason,
customers will not spend much time in the department, which of course
means missed sales opportunities. Hence, it's not how much produce is sold
but rather how much wasn't sold.
Selling produce is a special art. It is also an expression and a philosophy.
There are a number of ways to sell produce, with various types of displays
applied throughout the department. Many of these displays are large and
filled with an abundance of various fruits and vegetables.
One popular selling method is known as a waterfall display, which consists of
product flowing off a table or case and into the original shipping boxes. This
merchandising style is designed to create eye appeal and attract customers to
the display, thereby encouraging them to buy generous amounts.
Visual impact is a major part of merchandising, and produce has an ideal
advantage in this area. Customers are highly influenced by the many colors of
different items neatly presented throughout the department. Color catches
the customers' eyes and influences their shopping habits.
That is why it is necessary to use color contrast when displaying specific
items so that they blend into one another like a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
The department then becomes a colorful piece of art, with the goal of
increasing customer attention.
The expression and appearance of produce displays can have a major impact
on sales. Here are six very simple guidelines when displaying produce:
Family groupings -- Keep category items together to make it easier for
customers, for example all apples, all tomatoes or all peppers. Scattering
product of the same category in several different locations will confuse
customers who may even miss making specific purchases.
Tie-in displays -- Set up a secondary display elsewhere to create impulse
sales, for example, grape tomatoes in front of salad mixes, lemons alongside
asparagus or broccoli, or red boiling potatoes with green beans.
Accessibility -- Displays should never be overloaded, which could possibly
cause an accident. Customers should be able to reach product easily from all
angles. Never build over-extended waterfall displays.
Neatness -- Produce should be neatly stacked on displays. Every waterfall or
wing display should be orderly and squared off professionally.
Keep it clean -- Displays should always be clean and free of debris. Only
clean boxes should be used for waterfall and auxiliary displays.
Stock it -- Keep it full. An appearance of abundance makes the produce more
appealing. It only takes a split second for customers to walk away from an
empty display. Remember, you can't sell from an empty wagon. Keep displays
full. When customers were asked in a survey why they didn't buy items they
intended to buy, 45 percent said the display was out of stock.
Fresh ideas are always good for keeping regular visual changes in the
produce department. There is nothing worse than having customers get
bored from seeing the same display on every shopping trip. Make sure to re-
merchandise major display locations, especially at the entrance to the
produce department. It will introduce new interest to customers and bring
them back to the store often.
(Ron Pelger is the owner of RONPROCON, a consulting firm for the produce
industry, and a member of the FreshXperts consortium of produce
professionals. He can be reached by phone at 775/853-7056, by e-mail at
email@example.com, or check his web site at www.power-