This year is quickly ending and, as I write this column, I recognize that the next time I share with you will be in the New Year. I wish all of you, as well as your families and friends, a very Merry Christmas and a joyous Holiday season! The current year has been an exciting one, and I appreciate that successfully doing business seems more and more difficult with each passing day. Throughout this year, I have used this column to share the wisdom of others in our industry, and I thought it fitting to re-visit some of those columns as this year closes, perhaps, to set a course for a successful 2020! Hopefully, this will serve as a reminder of where our industry found itself during the past year – and where it might be headed in the next.
MERCHANDISING TIP OF THE WEEK. Here are some of the interesting things we’ve shared in the past year:
In a January 2019 Retail Feedback Group (RFG) blog…RFG President Doug Madenburg shared “Delivering a Compelling In-Store Experience: Four Places Where Supermarkets are Missing the Boat.” One of those “places” had to do with the way we approach store conditions each day: “Supermarkets are still geared for the wrong time of day. Think about it. At what time does a supermarket look its best? From my experience, it’s about 11:00am. The problem is that sales and customer volume are highest during the peak time between 3:00pm and 7:00pm. And yet shoppers are considerably less satisfied during these hours than in the morning. Supermarkets need to figure out how to be at their best when in-store traffic is the highest, not the lowest.”
In the “2019 – The Power of Produce” study…an in-depth report prepared by 210 Analytics for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), there were several interesting findings, but one really stood out: “Consumption frequency is the key to growth. The basket size grows 54% when produce is purchased. Importantly, at a household penetration of nearly 100%, finding growth is not about finding more buyers, but about finding ways to expand consumers’ consumption frequency and willingness to try new or less common items with lower household penetration.” In short, expand that Dragon Fruit display!
In an article by Raymond Cocozza…he explained the dilemma many retailers find themselves in by using a simple example: “A merchant might start out by offering just five different SKUs for toothpaste. These SKUs might simply be five different flavors of toothpaste, all the same size, all the same brand. (I paraphrase) … he learns his shoppers like two additional competing brands, so his number grows to 15. Then he finds he needs travel size for each flavor and brand, growing his number to 30. And his customers like a double-pack of those items, which means another 15 SKUs, bringing his total to 45 toothpaste SKUs.” How many categories in our Produce Department have fallen victim to an almost out-of-control proliferation of varieties and SKU counts? Moving forward, we need to curate those offerings to make the shopping experience less stressful for our shoppers!
In a Progressive Grocer article by Kat Martin…interestingly entitled “Change or Die,” Martin begins by issuing a challenge: “Grocers of all sizes need to rethink their business strategy to meet the needs of today’s consumer.” She continues by outlining the state of the grocery industry and ends with this compelling recommendation: “You need to embrace the Theater of Retail. In order to survive, grocers can’t be satisfied with providing a place to complete a chore. They’ll need to direct an experience. Something magical happens when you engage customers this way. Behavior changes in visible, quantifiable ways.”
In a June 2019 “Perishable Pundit” website/blog…Jim Prevor shared interesting thoughts in a presentation with an unusually long title: “To Boost Consumption We Have to Sell Our Best! We Often Promote Our Cheapest!” Prevor explained: “Think about schools. If there is a consensus in the industry, it is surely that we should focus on building consumption among children – the consumers and purchasers of tomorrow. Yet a typical school lunch involves a food cost of less than a dollar. Fruit might cost thirteen cents. No surprise that, operating under these budget constraints, few schools are able to offer the proprietary varieties that typically have the best flavor. If we want children turned onto grapes, isn’t it natural to offer them a variety such as Cotton Candy? Unfortunately, most schools want the cheapest grape they can get.”
In the August edition of The Produce News…Ron Pelger, founder of RonProCon, penned an astonishingly accurate and inspirational article: “Nothing Happens Until You Sell Something.” Mr. Pelger spoke of his history in the produce industry, and how one of his past “bosses” would not let a conservative approach to ordering product for displays be considered. “Those were the fun days! Today is a different time. It’s a time that many of us don’t care for in the way of trying to sell big. A number of companies don’t allow freestanding displays on the floor or a waterfall spillover off a table. Some want limited product displayed because of a strict shrink program. Other companies do not allow displays in the lobby entrance or a few bins of produce items at the outside storefront. We need to put aside these harmful display mandates and get back into selling produce big time again – in the lobby, at the storefront, down the aisle, and wherever a display can be set in place.”
And, finally, from a July 2019 Hartman Group whitepaper… entitled “How the American Meal Has Changed: To Understand Who We Are is to Understand How We Eat” comes this interesting insight: “Meals today are different, because they are no longer the anchors of our day or the building blocks of the daily schedule. There was a time in our history when mealtime was sacred, and you built everything else around it. Today we live in a different day where meals are just kind of getting fit in wherever they can. Rather than organizing their lives around mealtimes, most now organize their lives (and eating) around work and other activities.” Happy Selling…in the remainder of this year and in 2020!