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Natural Foods Merchandiser

5 tips for upgrading your bulk aisles

The bulk aisles give retailers the opportunity to demo, promote seasonal and targeted items, build brand recognition and educate customers about being committed to green. Try these tips to build a better bulk section.

Think bulk is bland? A boring department offering affordable staples to consumers? Think again. The bulk aisles give retailers the opportunity to demo, promote seasonal and targeted items, build brand recognition and educate customers about being committed to green.
“When shopping the grocery aisles, consumers can be lulled into complacency when looking at all of the packages,” says Todd Kluger, vice president of marketing at Richvale, Calif.-based Lundberg Family Farms and a member of the Bulk is Green Council. “However, upon entering the bulk department, they have to become awake and alive because of the choices available, and because they will have to dispense their own food.”

Kluger is right. Consumers get in touch with their purchases when packaging their own items. They watch what others are buying, ask questions about recipes and ingredients, and look for new items. So why not add some additional marketing and sales-building promotions to a very open opportunity?

Try these tips to help you get started.

  1. Use signs. Create signs to promote bulk items, highlight ingredients and attributes like gluten free and fair trade, educate about freshness, share recipes and brand your store as the community’s best bulk destination.
  2. Promote seasonal and new items. Stocking new products and offering promotions on existing ones are smart strategies often overlooked in bulk departments. Try dedicating a bin or two to a “this month only” or “new to you” campaign. Encourage consumers to purchase small trial amounts for sampling and recipes; they might like a featured product enough to buy more during their next visit.
  3. Offer education. Creating an event around bulk products gives you a way to target a particular demographic. Try a promotional and educational event focusing on a popular topic like “Energy Snacks and Quick Meals for Busy Moms” (highlighting bulk soups, chili and trail mixes) or “Fiber for Weight Management” (featuring whole grains and dried fruits). Also, consider holding a workshop like the “ABCs of Shopping the Bulk Aisles,” and be sure to include information on how to use the equipment. Believe it or not, some consumers shy away from the bulk department because they are afraid of operating the feeders and don’t understand the purchase process.
  4. Do demos. Without a doubt, demos increase sales. Did you know that some manufacturers offer paid demos for their bulk items? Check it out. Many consumers are brand loyal and might appreciate knowing they have brand choices even in bulk goods. When demoing bulk items, be sure to provide signage noting the name and bin number of the sampled products to make purchases easy.
  5. Keep it fresh. When a hot new item makes its debut in our industry, it can take time before you can offer packaged products to service the demand. However, cleaning out a bulk bin and filling it with what consumers are clamoring for can happen much more quickly. Bulk items often become available sooner than packaged goods (think dried açaí berries). Also, you can fit a new item into your product mix more efficiently because you won’t have to reset an entire sales section to make room for new SKUs.
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