Sometimes during a planning session, the topic of store-wide promotions around a common theme, such as Tropical Days, Harvest Fest, Back to School, etc., is discussed. These types of promotions are always popular and often very successful. However, despite the success, when the discussion turns to promotional collaboration among the departments, the subject is squelched by management as an unworkable idea. This lack of vision is yet another example of “they just don’t get it!”
Cross-merchandising items between departments, especially produce, is a common tactic in every store. It can be overdone at times, but it is an essential tool to spur additional sales. Given this successful strategy, why not take it to the next level and go beyond the simple action of placing displays of one department’s products in another department’s area, and instead promote each other’s products in and out of your respective departments?
The process would involve utilizing signage, intercom announcements, word-of-mouth by employees and any other means available to highlight your products and others in other departments made with your products. Innovative retailers are doing this to reinforce the appeal and sales of many products throughout the store. This program requires good communication across the store and training of personnel on how to convey and explain the messaging to customers. Though the program will require extra effort on the departments, the rewards in terms of sales and enhanced store image are well worth the cost.
In regards to the produce department, the program could work something like this: Imagine it is early summer and a new crop of summer squash is coming in. The squash is at its peak in terms of quality and flavor. Here is an opportunity to promote this abundance in the produce department with large, well-signed displays and descriptions of other products that can be made with the squash from other departments. Examples could include a salad made with squash, grilled squash in the deli or fresh meat and vegetable skewers in the meat department.
This type of promotion allows for a combination of things to happen for the consumer. First, it allows the widest possible variety of ways to purchase the squash. Plus, it provides serving and usage examples for those who don’t know how to use squash, or what it tastes like. Shoppers can purchase another product to try before purchasing the featured commodity. With the wide variety of produce items available, the possibilities are nearly endless. In the deli, think stuffed peppers, fruit salads and grilled asparagus. In the meat department, consider stuffed chicken breasts or pork chops with fruits and vegetables, and chicken breasts with asparagus wrapped in bacon. These examples not only promote items and ideas to shoppers, but showcase the availability of other products within the store. Another idea is to create a picnic basket filled with items from various, or all, store departments.
“Selling produce in other perishables departments will strengthen not only the foodservice areas of the store, but will ultimately reinforce and grow the image and sales of the produce department. ”
One area of opposition to this concept is the jealousy between departments over transferring of product to another. Often the departments feel that the others are stealing product from them. The concern of “getting proper credit” from the other department dominates the process and reduces cooperation.
Progressive, innovative retailers eliminate this drama by developing a system to move product between departments efficiently and fairly. They follow this up with encouragement of all parties to work together and assist each other in the successful collaboration between their operations for mutual benefit. This requires a switch in mindset from one of confrontation to one of cooperation. Any long-held feeling is difficult, but not impossible to change with commitment and effort.
Assisting in promoting other “worlds” in the store may seem counter-productive to the goals of the produce department. Selling produce in other perishables departments will strengthen not only the foodservice areas of the store, but will ultimately reinforce and grow the image and sales of the produce department. If we are to survive in this competitive world, where everyone is trying to take a piece of our business, we will need to explore new areas and concepts to increase our appeal and make our stores more attractive to all consumers while providing solutions to their needs.
Don Harris is a 43-year veteran of the produce industry, with most of that time spent in retail. He worked in every aspect of the industry, from “field-to-fork” in both the conventional and organic arenas. Harris is presently consulting and is director of produce for the Chicago-based food charity organization, Feeding America. Comments can be directed to [email protected].