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Let the contest begin. The 2011 Potato Lover's Month Retail Display Contest is officially open.

Every February for 20 consecutive years, thousands of produce aisles around the country become the Mecca for Idaho potato lovers. Produce managers put their merchandising skills to the test in an attempt to create the top tater display during the Idaho Potato Commission’s Potato Lover’s Month Retail Display Contest.

This year, retailer participation was up almost 10 percent over 2009, and the creativity of many of the entries was over the top. Retailers know that especially in a down economy, large, unique displays attract customers and ultimately increase potato sales. Since potatoes are one of the most profitable items in the produce section, the contest allows retailers to offset some of the margins lost on items that are not performing as well.

"For two decades, the announcement of the IPC’s Potato Lover’s Month Retail Display Contest has generated a flurry of excitement among retailers for two reasons: The promotion pulls customers into the produce aisle during an otherwise typically slow month and there is a significant cash incentive for them," said Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail/international for the IPC. The 2011 contest boasts $150,000 in cash and prizes. As an added incentive, every qualified entrant receives a Coby Snapp digital camcorder, a prize valued at $99.

To enter, stores must create an attention-grabbing display that prominently features the IPC’s Potato Lover’s Month point-of-sale materials and that promotes Idaho potato products (both fresh and dehydrated), Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blends and Molly McButter.

Displays must be in place in the produce section of the store for at least one week during the Jan. 31 to Feb. 25, 2011, contest period.

The contest is open to retail supermarket chains and independents only. Retailers should review the official rules to determine the category that best fits their store.

Retailers can use the downloadable point-of-sale materials or they may create their own display support materials. The IPC also has available other useful resources, including clip art and photos, to help create custom signs.

Entries are limited to one per store. To enter on-line (or to obtain an entry form) and view the complete contest guidelines, retailers must visit www.idahopotato.com/retail, click on “Potato Lover’s Month Display Contest” and follow the directions.