May is a month you welcome with open arms. Across the country, the weather’s now warm enough to shed extra spring layers and venture out for a hike, ball game or day in the park—often punctuated by an outdoor meal. Make your store picnic headquarters and help customers keep fresh produce on the menu with a few well-thought-out displays.
This ubiquitous summer picnic fare can get boring quickly. To jazz things up, first help customers start with the right potato. While russets are great for baking, they’re not the best in salads because they are low-moisture potatoes and don’t hold their shape. Highlight tubers with high moisture contents—otherwise known as waxy potatoes. Red, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes all fit into this category and should be at their peak in early summer. Display these varieties with jars of mayonnaise, pickles, mustard and olives. On a busy Saturday, you may even include stalks of celery, which should sell quickly enough to avoid refrigeration.
Stack boxes of penne or bow tie pasta next to an ice table of asparagus and an endcap of cherry tomatoes. Adding spring onions—which contain more water than winter onions, making them less sulfuric and spicy—to your display will show customers how they can give the salad subtle sweetness. Not only is this dish a pleasure for the palate, but the green asparagus, red tomatoes and the sometimes purple onions mix beautifully.
Hamburgers and hot dogs
These two classics don’t have to translate to a nutritional void. Suggest topping them with organic cucumber, tomato and sweet-onion slices. Generate extra sales with a display of these produce items arranged between buns or rolls near the meat department.
Portabella and crimini mushrooms are great on the grill. Both can be added to brochettes along with red peppers, zucchini, red onions, tofu and red and gold potatoes. Cross merchandise your mushrooms with balsamic vinegar or add ethnic flavor with a display of grilling sauces. Imagine a picnic basket filled with grilled portabella sandwiches—you might never go back inside.
Early-season melons offer a healthy dessert option—why not have slices on ice by the register for quick, impulse sales? Or put up a case stack and some recipes for grilled melon slices in the ice cream aisle. If you haven’t had grilled melons and ice cream, you’re missing out. Perlette grapes are some of the first organic grapes to show up on the market. Their sweet, tart flavor is a nice complement to a ripe Brie or even a creamy Havarti. Build a display of grapes, wine, sparkling water, several cracker varieties or baguettes near the cheese counter and you could have the whole town thinking about taking the afternoon off.
Mark Mulcahy is an award-winning retail consultant, educator and organic advocate.