Collaborating Among Retail Departments

Don Harris - Retail Perspective

Don Harris - Retail PerspectiveSometimes 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