Natural Foods Merchandiser

Top 15 ways to make your front end POP

by Lora Shinn

At checkout, do customers barely glance at your shelves of gum, snacks or magazines? Do you wonder about missed sales as your shoppers pass by front-end displays to unload their carts at the register?

You might need a checkout makeover.

We spoke with two marketing maestros who offered 15 tips for creating fresh, inventive displays that match your carefully chosen product lines.

The key to success is knowing your customer, says John Santos, who worked as a store team leader for Whole Foods for 10 years and is now general manager for the family-owned Cirelli Marketplace in Middleboro, Mass.

Offer magazines and products that click with your store's demographics: Young families need plenty of school-ready, peanut-free foods and natural parenting magazines. Educated professionals appreciate work-friendly, healthy snacks and meals and hard-hitting publications.

Debby Swoboda, a natural foods merchandising expert and founder of in Stuart, Fla., says smart retailers work to build an ongoing relationship with consumers—even if your fresh approaches don't sell the product the first time around, shoppers leave with a new understanding of your focus on natural foods—and them.

Think of this list as a smorgasbord: Take what you like and leave the rest. What works will depend on your shelf, end-cap and display area.

Bulk up. Package a pound of your hottest bulk seller, whether granola, yogurt-covered almonds or trail mix, and offer it near the point of purchase, Swoboda suggests. Even fresh-roasted coffee by the pound can be a profitable impulse buy. At its higher price point, "it's a little bit of a risk," Santos says, "but effective."

Stack it high and watch it fly. Santos suggests creating a display "as high as you can to be overpowering and overwhelming to the customer. Other sensory ways of catching the customer's attention work, too, whether using color, scent or texture," he says.

Sign your stuff. "The No. 1 inhibitor for customers isn't the price," Santos says. "It's not knowing the price." It's integral to ensure point-of-purchase signage is apparent and each piece of merchandise is clearly priced.

Supply supplements. "Many are $10 rings," Santos says, particularly if you tie into the current time of year. Stock immune-enhancing vitamin C during cold and flu season, stress-relieving vitamin B during finals week.

Do the new. Like most shoppers, Swoboda adores novelty. "If I have time, I love to walk down aisles and see things I haven't seen," she says. But if you have a shelf or display near the front dedicated to this week's new products, you'll still reach harried, time-starved customers as they cruise through checkout.

Ring the dinner bell. Place recipe cards along with key ingredients by the register. For example: spaghetti squash, organic tomato sauce, capers and Parmesan displayed with simple cooking instructions. The meal pick-up attracts busy professionals on the way home. It's a no-brain solution to the question, "What's for dinner?"

Get gifty. During the upcoming holiday season, think about which in-store items make great gifts, such as organic chocolates, candies, toys and housewares. Take that pound of best-selling bulk items, package it in attractive cellophane and add a bow. "You can mark it up to cover costs," Swoboda says, and the customers are still relieved because you've saved them shopping stress.

Take advantage of trends. Create vivid, informative displays around new fruits: goji berries, mangosteen and açai. Is "locally grown" the buzz phrase in your community? Create a small display of items grown within 100 miles or within the state. "It's a relationship thing," Swoboda says. "Invite a farmer to come into the store and hand out samples."

Send customers to school. Swoboda suggests thematic informational displays: for example, gluten-free diets. Provide several gluten-free products alongside shopping lists, recipes and Web sites on gluten sensitivity and allergies. Shore up short-term and long-term benefits in your display: This time, they'll try that gluten-free cookie, but next time they'll know where to go to plan a gluten-free meal.

Go solo. Swoboda says one retailer packaged individual slices of banana-nut bread by the checkout and couldn't keep it in stock. "You'll sell a lot more single-serve slices to people on their way out the door," she says. Plus, the individual packages squeeze into smaller spaces.

Synergize snacks. Some snacks cry out to customers, "We belong together." Display duos like chips and dips, crackers and cheese or nut butter, cheese and fruit. Whether for a snack at home or a dinner party, shoppers like those last-minute options, Swoboda says.

Get smart about seasons. Take advantage of eating with the seasons. In the fall, offer cider. Winter brings squash breads, while summer can focus on organic condiments and other picnic must-haves. Take a similar tactic with body care: aloe in summer, lip balms in winter. "Make it a good price point," Santos suggests, so the item becomes a can't-miss.

Show off samples. Offer $5 price-point bakery items packaged for sharing—Santos suggests two-bite brownies in a tub—and make sure to put out samples alongside. "People can take it back to the office," Santos says.

Don't forget the drinks. Place beverage coolers near checkout to spur purchases. Include yerba mate for a pick-me-up, smoothies for sustenance and kid-size juice or milk containers for last-minute lunches. And don't forget the water, Swoboda says. "Water is always a hot seller."

Tie into newsstands. Think about checking this month's consumer magazines and do a tie-in with products mentioned on the front cover. If there are "Five Ways to Fight Fatigue," set out vitamins and minerals, herbs and homeopathics on front shelves, ready to go. Is a delicious dish on the cover? Include ingredients near the magazine and near the checkout.

Lora Shinn is a Seattle-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 52

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