Natural Foods Merchandiser

Attention to detail distinguishes department

Produce Perspectives

Does your produce pop? Is your HABA hot? Does your grocery grab 'em? Ask yourself the following questions about your merchandising practice:

  • Does it hurt the food?
  • Does it show the best face?
  • Is it easy to stock?
  • Is it easy to buy?
  • Does it draw you in?

If you answer yes to the first one, or no to any of the others, then your display needs work. I recommend that you attend the merchandising seminar at Natural Products Expo West, where I will be part of a panel, along with personal care expert Mike Hoffman, grocery expert Chris Buckler and merchandising expert Melanie McIntosh. The seminar will be Thursday, March 23, at 10:30 a.m. You will leave inspired, with a slew of great merchandising ideas to use as soon as you get back to your store.

In the meantime, remember the following mantra: Good merchandising starts the moment someone walks into the store.

Those first steps define the shopping experience, so there should be no doubt in the customer's mind what your store's message is. So what does your store say? Does it make people say, "Wow!" or "Whoa …!" Does it make them want to buy? Good merchandising creates an atmosphere where customers want to linger and browse in each department. The longer they browse, the more they are apt to buy. Customers today want a positive shopping experience, and they will seek out the store that provides it.

For example, I still find produce departments with dirty mirrors. Why build a beautiful display with a mirror that doesn't reflect or enhance the end product? And what's up with moldy or broken baskets as display materials? Over the years I have recommended baskets as a creative and functional display medium, but they need to be cleaned and reviewed on a regular basis. And believe me, your customers notice. A simple investment in new racks and display materials has raised some of my clients' sales by as much as 50 percent.

How about your signs? Are they cleaned as often as they should be? Are they easy to read?

What about your displays? Displays that are only half-full for the first or last two hours of business are unacceptable. Many customers shop the same time and day each week, which means if they shop early or late, your store isn't up to par. Based on that alone, they may not recommend your store to others. Or, even worse, it may be the final straw that sends them somewhere else.

But produce isn't the only department that needs help. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a grocery employee say his endcaps look sparse because he is waiting on an order. Improper ordering costs you sales.

I've walked through HABA departments and been greeted by the pegboard from the back of the shelf simply because the shelves are spaced incorrectly for the product size. Customers should see only product, not pegboard. They want full, attractively displayed shelves that are easy to shop. While they will appreciate that you carry the best product, they still need to be drawn to it. As we all know, customers buy with their eyes.

I hope to see you at Expo West, where we'll have many other ideas to help you merchandise your store to its greatest potential.

I also hope to see you on the Farm Tour this year. Those of you who make the tour a regular part of your Expo experience know that we will head out to an organic farm around noon on Saturday and be back by 5 p.m. And, as always, we've got you covered on the lunch and transportation. For those who have never been on the tour, we'd love to have you join us, but you'd better sign up soon because it often sells out. See you in Anaheim.

Mark Mulcahy runs Organic Options, an organic education and produce consulting firm. Contact him at 707.939.8355 or at [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 3/p. 40

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