Natural Foods Merchandiser

Have you asked yourself, 'Where is the wow?'

Produce Perspectives

I was reading a recent issue of The Natural Foods Merchandiser and came across a great article by Debby Swoboda that offered valuable suggestions on merchandising. This got me thinking about what stores could do in their produce departments to get some "wows" when customers walk in.

Hook 'em before they come in
I was in a large natural food store the other day, and it definitely had some wow going on. As a matter of fact, it started before I even stepped foot inside the store. It had at least six tables of produce outside, all beautifully stocked, signed and ready to sell. The store already had me thinking about ripe, luscious melons before I even walked inside. And here's the best part: You can easily do the same thing. Even if you have limited space outside, you can create a seasonal display that will jump-start a customer's shopping experience. If you just can't do something outside, negotiate some space right inside the front door.

The details are in the display I once worked with a client who needed some ideas to boost sales. When I walked into his store, the first things I saw were case stacks of wine. Does that seem like a good way to start a shopping experience? Now, I love to delight my taste buds with a nice glass of vino, but the display had to go. I negotiated with the manager to let us use the space for produce, and was he glad we did.

During the first week of the new display, here's what happened:

Item Usually Sell Special Sales
Strawberry 20 cases/week 65 cases
Pineapple 4-5 cases/week 15 cases
Mangoes 8-10 cases/week 52 cases
Bartlett Pear 4 cases/week 22 cases
Asparagus 8-10 cases/week 46 cases
Kiwi 2-3 cases/week 15 cases

Besides putting an attractive display up front so it's the first thing shoppers see when they walk in, we put the items on sale (which we negotiated at full margin, I might add), and the customers loved it.

Make it easy and enticing
Once people are in your store, there's a good chance they'll buy more if you take them on a produce experience with your displays. Help them by grouping items like avocados, tomatoes and red onions for guacamole. Print out some copies of your favorite guacamole recipe so your customers are even more inspired to pick up the produce you've grouped together.

It's always a good idea to sample a finished product near the display. Odds are if the visual merchandising and recipes haven't convinced customers already, the tasty sample will. And don't forget that all of this good display work and sampling isn't just for this week's bottom line—it's for future sales as well. My friend Allen is a perfect example of this. He went into a store and sampled from a beautiful display of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar, but he didn't buy anything. Was the display a failure? Absolutely not. When he was asked to bring something to a friend's dinner party a few days later, guess what he brought? That's right: a plate of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top, all of which he bought from the store that planted the seed of flavor.

Why merchandising matters
I walked into a new store in Maryland the other day and felt nothing. Sure, it was new, clean and bright, but it was all dressed up and no one was home. Everything you do should make a statement. Walk your store; look at it with fresh eyes. Is there something to make people say "wow" around every corner? If you don't think so, what will your customers think? Taking the time to hone your merchandising vision might just be the next best step you take.

I can't wait to be wowed the next time I'm in your store.

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 XXVIII/number 8/p. 36

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