At the beginning of a new year, after the celebration of the holiday season, sometimes retail management tends to discount the need for promotional activity preferring to wait for “holiday hangover” to end and better weather to arrive. This tendency again proves that in terms of produce and the first of the year, management “just doesn’t get it”!
While many retailers postpone any promotional activity, some more innovative retailers look upon this first-of-the-year time as an additional opportunity to set the tone for the year. These retailers look for ways to excite the customer and entice them to make purchases in the produce department that reflect their needs at this time of year. Given that produce is a naturally healthy choice, these retailers capitalize on the consumers’ desires to “eat healthy” and make up for their overindulgence during the holiday season.
Many New Year’s resolutions include the ambition to lose weight and eat healthier. This plays right into the strategy of inventive produce retailers who plan promotional activity and display strategy to highlight the health benefits of produce and its ability to assist in any diet and/or development of a healthier lifestyle. By identifying the various ways the commodities available can be combined to provide delicious and nutritious salads as well as other dishes to help any diet, you can have a powerful effect on produce sales to start the year off right.
In addition to the healthy aspect of the produce section, these forward-thinking retailers also incorporate unique themes that contrast with the weather. By utilizing the wide abundance of imported produce available during this time, a retailer can provide the customer with a “visit” to a warmer climate during the winter season. Promotions (such as “June in January”) are often successful as the promotions present fruits normally seen during the summer months. This contrast plays to the customer’s yearning for something different as well as the ability to reflect on a warmer time — even if it’s only in their mind.
By utilizing the wide abundance of imported produce available during this time, a retailer can provide the customer with a “visit” to a warmer climate during the winter season.
Utilizing these “summertime” fresh fruit items stimulates additional sales and drives the entire appeal of the department. It also helps to enhance the reputation of the store as being able to provide anything a customer needs or wants at any time throughout the year. Plus it sets the tone for the produce department as well as the entire store as the place to find things that are exciting and different to purchase.
The successful retailers that utilize this type of strategy are laying the foundation of the entire year’s produce initiative. In not allowing any time to pass before beginning promotional activity allows for produce momentum to begin building from the start of the year and gather speed throughout subsequent months. It is a key aspect to any successful retailer’s drive to push produce sales to new levels as well as the customer’s interest in the department.
This action also has other benefits, including the motivation of the produce department employees to “hit the ground running” on merchandising and strategic placement of items. Additionally, employees will develop a sense of pride in the fact that they are the first in the marketplace to highlight and promote the department. Encouraging this type of activity and enhancing the focus on driving the department forward is absolutely essential to getting the produce department off to a good start in the New Year.
While it might be the safe play to let things settle down after the holidays and begin promotional activity later, the benefits of taking this proactive action, which represents a risk, far outweighs waiting. Not only do you capture the attention of the consumer and kick-start your produce sales, but you also gain an advantage over the competition.
To be successful requires planning and imagination along with store-level direction and employee motivation to make such a strategy a success. Utilizing this type of strategy and seizing the initiative in your marketplace will allow you to be a leader in produce promotion and aggressive merchandising. The payback will be an excellent start to your sales momentum for the year and an improved perception in the eyes of your customers as an innovative produce retailer.
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]