Independents Drive Sales With New Merchandising

“It’s a matter of in-store engagement. We know our customers better than anyone else, so we looked at the reasons many items weren’t performing at their peak and then used category management to figure out what each customer wanted.” — Steve Henig, VP, corporate merchandising and marketing, Wakefern

LAS VEGAS — In an effort to boost sales in Center Store, Wakefern Food Corp. [2] is engaging in several pilot tests at member-owned ShopRite stores to reinvent their aisles category-by-category, an executive at the Keasbey, N.J.-based cooperative told a workshop session last week at the 30th annual convention of the National Grocers Association here.

After rearranging pet-related food and nonfood items a year ago “to engage customers the way they want to buy,” sales at the test stores rose three times over what they were at stores where the changes had not been made, said Steve Henig, vice president, corporate merchandising and marketing, Wakefern.

As a result, the co-op has launched similar pilots over the past six to eight months in other categories, including baby food and household items, Henig explained. “We are not adding any extra space to those categories — just realigning what we already have,” he said.

It’s a matter of micromanaging to achieve the sales results it wants, Henig said. “We want to make sure what we offer is relevant to today’s shoppers, so we use loyalty cards and other newer tools to micro-manage the information to get customers to buy more.

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“It’s a matter of in-store engagement. We know our customers better than anyone else, so we looked at the reasons many items weren’t performing at their peak and then used category management to figure out what each customer wanted.”

Speaking at the same workshop — on how to increase sales and basket size — Andy Knoblauch, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Coborn’s Inc. [4], St. Cloud, Minn., said his company tries to boost sales through a program called One More Item (OMI), in which it encourages store personnel to develop sales-boosting programs by offering cash prizes.

One winning store used unique displays and cross-merchandising to increase sales by 1.24 items per customer per week, he noted.

Coborn’s is moving into a second phase of OMI, at the stores’ request, by sending out shippers every week with special items, like coffee-brewing machines, around which to build merchandising programs, Knoblauch said.

Event Merchandising at The Markets

Kevin Weatherill, president and chief executive officer of The Markets, Bellingham, Wash., said his company seeks to boost sales by using event merchandising to encourage customers to buy several items at a time to duplicate the products on display.

“We focus on making the shopping experience more fun and interesting by trying to slow customers down at displays with foods we make ourselves — nothing packaged — so if they want to re-create it at home, they have to buy between four and eight ingredients from around the store,” Weatherill said.

Kevin Weatherill
Kevin Weatherill

The stores also display bottles of wine priced at $7 at the checkstands that sell four or five cases a week, he noted.

Events that The Markets has devised to boost sales include the following, Weatherill said:

• Market Q, for which the company purchased wood smokers and sold barbecued items on the stores’ parking lots. “Barbecues are man bait,” he pointed out.

• A Taste of Italy — or Latin America or Asia — with extensive in-store sampling. “And when you add recipes, you can sell a lot of center-store foods,’ he added.

• Fat Tuesday Bayou Bash, featuring New Orleans-style foods.

• A Tunnel of Love in the floral department, including a sign that read, “A single rose says I’m cheap.”

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• A Bunny Hall of Fame for Easter featuring Bugs and other famous bunnies — with space for customers to stick their heads for photographs — as part of an effort to draw customer attention to the merchandise being offered, he explained.

• Lobstermania, a Memorial Day event, during which the 16-store company sold 17,000 pounds of live lobsters over two days.

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