As summer draws to a close, during the Monday morning retail meetings, Management seems resigned to the fact that the balance of the summer will result in slow sales — especially in the produce department. When produce associates point out there is still attractive volume product available for sales generation at the peak of flavor, Management will often counter with the retort, “Everyone is shopping for back-to-school supplies and not food.” As we have seen many times before, Management “just doesn’t get it!”
Produce executives fall into the trap of believing what Management tells them about the lack of potential produce sales during the last few weeks of summer. There are many ways to combat this situation, and two of the better tactics are simple.
The first solution involves utilization of the “local” products available as a “Last Chance” sale. This relates a sense of urgency to the customer as this would be the last time to take advantage of the high-quality, local produce available at very attractive prices until next season/year. This approach has proven to be very successful and has an unusually strong draw to customers who are concerned about where their product comes from and how fresh the produce is in their store.
Drawing attention to the ending of the local produce season is a way to rekindle customers’ interests in local products that represent good value, freshness, and good flavor. Essentially, it is closing the book on that year’s local season by employing the same initial appeal of locally grown product to the customer.
By utilizing the appeal of “End of the Season” and or “Last Chance” sales with your customers, you stimulate and drive sales during the time when conventional thought believes it can’t be done. This marketing approach also offers the customer an additional choice of the freshest produce, at value prices and represented by local produce.
The second technique requires more planning and additional thought to be effective. It involves designing promotional activity that takes advantage of the best values in summer produce and offers the customer “more for their money.” This strategy requires the searching out and negotiating the best possible cost, so you can reflect extremely attractive retail prices for your promotional activity.
The key takeaway is retailers — instead of giving up and conceding the sales to the “back-to-school” category — do something positive to encourage and prolong sales momentum.
Shippers and growers welcome this kind of promotion as they are in their later season varieties and have volume to offer on the declining market. It is in their best interest to offer attractive prices to move this high-quality product at its peak of freshness and flavor rather than sit on inventory as it ages. The successful retailers utilizing this strategy offer the best prices of the entire summer season during this period to stimulate additional sales and to keep overall momentum.
The planning comes in when you need to look at your overall product and price mix to ensure balance to the offerings so these attractive sale prices do not adversely affect your profit targets. Proper preparation will help ease Management’s concern over the “hot” prices and potential for overall profit decline.
In this area, you can borrow from one of Wal-Mart pioneer Sam Walton’s retail philosophies, which was to provide the lifeblood of your organization by driving sales and passing along deals to the customer.
While this may be a paraphrasing of Mr. Walton’s quote, the meaning is the same. What you will have done is offer the customer a recognizable value for these late-season sales and enhance your stores’ image as offering the best possible values on quality produce at all times.
As with many things that we do in retail merchandising of fresh produce, these proposals are not rocket science. They are tried-and-true
techniques utilized by progressive and aggressive retailers to continue the strong sales momentum developed during the first two months of the
The key takeaway is retailers — instead of giving up and conceding the sales to the “back-to-school” category — do something positive to encourage and prolong sales momentum. Not only does such activity improve sales and ultimately the bottomline, it also helps the growers and shippers that provided all this bountiful produce all summer finish their season on a positive note. It’s a rare chance to provide a win/win situation for both sides of the retail equation to combat the challenge and complete the utilization of all the benefits available during the summer selling season.
Don Harris is a 41-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]